Before I set out on my trip I had a certain expectation of being able to gather simple practices that could be implemented by any teacher at any school without barriers of financial and material resources. My experience and intuition told me that the most powerful solutions are usually the simplest and I have decided to keep my eye on these possibilities.
The practice I share in this post is one of those simple hints that has been extremely powerful in the schools that have adopted it. The good news is: you do not need any recourse. The only resource required is one we all have in abundance, but often forget to use: silence. 🙂
The positive effects of the practice of silence for our health, concentration, self-control, and well-being have already been heavily researched by scientists (more info here). Within a school, a brief shared moment of silence can completely change the quality of the children’s presence and attention, impacting the frequency of conflict and improving learning.
Many schools in the United States, Brazil, and other countries have adopted this practice and were surprised by its effects. I also know multinational corporations, advertising agencies and governments that take a moment of silence before starting a meeting, or in the midst of a meeting in which conflicts arise. If you have questions, try bringing this practice in your own daily life, before meetings and / or meals, for example.
At the Inkiri School in Piracanga (Bahia), the day begins and ends with a circle in which children practice a minute of silence. In fact, 1 1/2 minutes, because they themselves felt that only 60 seconds was not enough.
When it is time for the circle, children already know and self-organize in alphabetical order, which was a logic found and decided among them, to facilitate some dynamics that they have after the circle. The arranging of the circle is already an important moment of practice of organization, dialogue and autonomy between them.
As soon as the circle is organized, one of the children picks up a clock and announces the beginning of the moment silence and the end of the moment of silence. The guardian of the circle changes daily, also in alphabetical order, and the children themselves are aware of, accompany and coordinate this exchange.
During the minute of silence there are some established agreements between the group. The first is that there is an invitation to keep your eyes closed and in proper posture (sitting and upright), but each individual is responsible for taking care of his own practice, according to his own possibilities. Younger children have a harder time keeping their eyes closed and their bodies stable, and that’s okay.
The second agreement comes from the first: if each person is responsible for his or herself, no comments should be made about others. “So-and-so has opened his eyes…” “So-and-so farted…” Comments like these are not welcome and when they emerge after the circle, children are gently reminded (often by themselves) to focus only on themselves and not talk about others.
In my experience at the Inkiri School, I felt that practicing a minute of silence early in the day can really influence the tone of the rest of the day. At the end of the school day, the practice also allowed for an important closure and reduced agitation which meant the children would go to lunch more relaxed.
It is a very simple tool, but it stimulates several deep questions about the development of children, such as the practice of self-control, concentration, autonomy, respect, patience and observation. Although brief enough, a minute of silence is still a form of meditation, and research is not lacking about the benefits of meditation for learning and well-being in schools. If you work with children, I highly recommend testing this out!
How about closing your eyes now and being silent for a minute?