Children here at Auroville Kindergarten sit in a circle many times a day.
They sit in a circle with their classmates to start the day. They lie in a circle in order to relax their body before going to snack and lunch. They sit in a big circle with all the school children at the end of the snack time. They sit in circle for French, Sanskrit and Tamil activities.
In circles they talk, they sing, they tell stories, they dance, they play, they learn to close their eyes, to control the body. The circle is a very powerful pedagogical moment.
Indigenous communities, ancient civilizations, and many traditions have taught us about the value of the circle moment for human relationships and for life, but it is at school that I am been able to observe the depth of this moment.
The circle is one of the only configurations of a group of people that allows us to look at each individual at the same time, which allows us to listen to everyone without having to turn the body and neck, which allows us to count on how many we are and feel the presence of each. I could stay paragraphs and paragraphs writing and philosophizing about the wholeness of sitting in a circle, but I will try to be more objective in the pedagogical possibilities of the circle I have observed with the children here at school.
First, the circle’s pedagogy begins in its preparation. Every day a different member of the class is listed as the helper of the day and he/she is responsible for setting up the circle. Assembling the circle involves picking up the pillows, learning to count how many people have and how many pillows we need, learn how to draw the circle in a round shape and keep the center in the center. It also involves the decoration of the circle that always has something in its center, flowers, mandala, colors. 🙂
Then sitting in a circle involves a great body control practice, something very valuable for this age group. Children are invited and encouraged to learn to observe and talk with their body: “have you noticed that your legs are dancing?”, “Did you notice that your fingers are nudging your friend?”, “Would you like to ask your spine to be strong and erect? “,” Can you ask your eyes to follow your hands in this activity? ” The importance of a good posture for our health and our emotions deserves another post, but it is very beautiful to see the children literally talking to their body and learning to be more conscious in the movements. The challenge here for educators is not to fall into the tempting place of rigid authority that generates the completely opposite effects on the child’s bodily awareness.
Another central aspect of the circle’s moment is the possibility of self-expression. All children are invited to speak, for some this is an easier task, for other it’s something they love, others are ashamed, but they all have their space and find a moment of expression without being judged, in their own way and in their time. Here in Kindergarten educators often ask who wants to tell a story or sing a song, and they go one by one sharing a bit of themselves with the class. They create amazing tales, they compose songs, they invent dance moves, it’s beautiful to watch.
In a circle, learning to self-express and learning to listen to the others go hand in hand. As one speaks, sings or tells a story, others learn to listen in silence, to wait to speak, to respect differences. Often the educators or the children themselves bring something to show in the circle: a flower, a stone, a doll. The object goes by and being felt from hand to hand, and this is also an exercise of patience, to observe and respect each other’s time.
And then we come to what I think is the central aspect of sitting in a circle: learning to relate. Human relationship is a condition of our life and perhaps our main challenge. How many barriers do we build in our individual and consequently collective relations? How many people we have a hard time looking at the eyes when we talk? In how many situations do we feel invited to speak or do we feel listened to? How many differences cause us discomfort? How many wars did not happened throughout history having these discomforts as roots? We are generations of adults who did not learned how to sit in circles (yes, I am generalizing to facilitate writing) and we are living the consequences of it.
So, for love, let’s sit in circle with the kids, as much as possible! Even if it’s uncortuble for us adults.
Let’s keep looking at each other. ❤