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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Silence and Reflection


          I teach at a Quaker preschool.  A few weeks ago I attended a conference for Educators New to Quakerism.  I was really inspired by the people I met and the idea that I could be more deliberate in making sure that the Quaker testimonies of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Spirituality are modeled and explored in my classroom.  I believe that our class truly is a community and that within that safe community, children should be nurtured both academically and spiritually.  I am using the word "spiritually" to encompass what I think is most important in everyday life: presence, gratitude, kindness, respect, wonder, and inspiration.
        Although I have always loved  the moment of silence that we have before snack (and the gratitude that is routinely blurted out as soon as the children can stop “thinking inside their own heads”), I decided that next year I would like to add a weekly Meeting For Worship to our class schedule.  Very briefly, a Quaker Meeting For Worship is a silent gathering during which participants have the time and space for reflection and focus on their own “inner light.” Our staff has traditionally been concerned about the time (including transition time) that such a meeting would take up in our very packed and short day, as well as the appropriateness for such small children. Our day is only 2 1/2 hours long (1 hour of that time is spent outside every day) and our kids come either 2, 3, or 5 days. I teach the only class where all of the kids come all five days and my kids are the oldest (they were all 5 by the end of March). At the conference, I learned that the Meeting for Worship can be very flexible and short and I decided that it was appropriate to try it in my class. Although we only had 3 weeks left of school, I decided to at least see how the children responded to extended silence while we were outside.

           This week was our 2nd try at maintaining an extended period of silence. Last week we tried to be silent on a Worship Walk but were interrupted when one little girl tripped over a friend's foot. (they were noticing lots of things...just not where they were going :)  This week we walked to the beautiful rose garden where we were going to paint landscape pictures.  As soon as we got there, we sat together in a circle.  We talked about being silent and I told the kids that during the time we were silent I wanted them to notice things either with their senses or they could notice what was "inside their brain...what they were thinking about."  After 2 minutes, we went around and each shared one thing that we noticed.  I was really pleased that everyone was able to remain quiet and they were all excited to share what  they had noticed (including flowers, birds, planes, breeze, wet ground). 
           I love the idea of the children learning to be comfortable with silence and reflection and I am sure that the practice of a short weekly Meeting for Worship will foster those skills.

UPDATE 5/23/12:
            This is our last week of school so we went on a final walk.  As soon as I mentioned the walk, several children asked if we could "do the silent thing again."  It made my heart very happy that they were so eager to "do the silent thing."  It went really well and I am looking forward to adding a weekly period of silent reflection to my classroom next year.

1 comment:

  1. And wow, do their parents appreciate it too. Imagine a world where everyone was taught this skill at an early age?


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