Silence and solitude now have meaning; they are no longer a space to be filled with activity or words but a time to listen and rest in peace in an ever-increasing sense of being loved.
Barry, 1991, p14
- As you would for any new programme in the school or parish community, introduce the concept to the rest of the community before you trial the meditation with children. Talk about your anticipated outcomes and the meditation concepts at a staff meeting or community gathering. It is much easier to introduce this to children if other adults in the community are supportive.
- Choose a time in the day where there will be minimal interruptions. The beginning of the day when children may be arriving late for class is not ideal. Perhaps immediately after morning tea or lunch, or in the parish immediately after Sunday worship provided a quiet space is available.
- Ask another adult to support you and debrief with you - organise a time when there will be no interruptions by phone or school intercom system. Arrange a large sign for the corridor outside your room: ‘Christian Meditation’. State times.
- If the children are restless in the first days of your meditation do not stop during the meditation to attend to these issues. Afterwards, gently respond to any questions the children may have and allow them to tell you what would help maintain the quiet. If a child is likely to cough, speak with him /her beforehand and arrange for him/her to sit near the door and step just outside the door if needed. Stress the need to stay within sight of the door and to move back inside as soon as possible.
- In a school situation, once your trial of the programme is going well, ask the Principal about you giving a short talk on this form of prayer to the School Board and Parents’ organisations.
- In a classroom there are physical constraints of desks and chairs. It may be practical to meditate at their desk. Students should be asked to clear their desks of clutter and to sit with their backs straight against their chair. It is appropriate to ask children to remove their shoes. By doing this they feel that something special is about to happen. As students become more familiar with their meditation time the teacher might explain the significance of removing shoes.
- Explain to the students that the time of meditation is a ‘gift’ to them and they need to respect other people’s space. Students must be made aware of the need for stillness and silence. Suggest softly closing eyes as children tend to squeeze their eyes.
- Some students may find the task of being silent and still very difficult. It may be best when starting out to explain to students who might be experiencing this type of difficulty to simply put their heads on their desk and close their eyes and rest. Once a routine is established these students usually start to feel less awkward and begin to engage with the process.
- As a rule of thumb, meditation time can be related to a child’s chronological age, for example, age 5 aim for 5 minutes of silence, age 6 aim for 6 minutes and so on.
- Ideally it would be wonderful if a school developed an area suitable for meditation, for example a sacred space, chapel or prayer room, where the atmosphere has already been created. If this is not the case or not possible, teachers can do much in their own classrooms to create a prayerful atmosphere.
- Quiet, relaxing music can be played prior to the commencement of meditation time. This signals to the children that the stillness and silence is about to commence. Music shouldn’t be played during the silent time. Silence needs to be just that, silent, free of noise.
- The teacher as the leader of the contemplative process needs to practise the exercises before introducing the process to students. The experience of actually doing the exercises will help the teacher to empathise with the children and enable the teacher to pre-empt potential problems by finding solutions from their own experience.
- The trust and respect that a teacher builds up with his or her class is one of the pointers to success in teaching meditation to children. If students feel safe, comfortable, and trust their teacher the experience of teaching meditation to children will be positive.
- Minimise distractions. A mental audit of what may cause a distraction, for example a noisy fan which would be best turned off because the clicking sound will become annoying and a distraction, is best done prior to the meditation period. Teachers become very good at recognising potential distractions.
- If things do go wrong at first, don’t give up Re-assess the situation and try again on a different day or a different time in the day.
- Teaching students for a few moments before starting to meditate to be aware of their breathing is a very good way to help create the right atmosphere and to allow students to become quiet.
The Responsibility of the Teacher
The responsibility of the teacher is to provide a positive experience for their students. Teachers always have a duty of care for their students.
It is therefore not recommended that the teacher meditates with their class. Rather the role of the teacher is to facilitate the prayer experience for the class.
It is our experience that children like to know that the teacher is actively supervising and ensuring their safety at all times. If two adults are in the room, eg. a teacher aide, then it might be possible for the teacher to also meditate with their class.
In the case of more mature students it may also be appropriate for the teacher to meditate with the class.