Dinggggg…the familiar sound of the Tibetan singing bowl summoning my class to their special spots in the community circle in our classroom. This is a sound my students have grown not only accustomed to, but have grown so very fond of. We use the healing tones to bring our noise levels down, to draw our attention back, to initiate meditation sessions and to bring our community circles to an open and a close. If you are unfamiliar with the benefits and uses of a Tibetan singing bowl, check out “Good Vibrations,” (http://www.newageteacher.com/good-vibrations/). It’s a wonderful alternative to turning out the lights, saying freeze, or clapping out a pattern and has the added benefit of its healing and relaxing properties. Besides, the students ASK for it!
I have touched on our community circles previously in, “Community Is Key,” (http://www.newageteacher.com/community-is-key/), but felt it was well worth re-visiting as the outcomes never cease to amaze me. Every community circle we engage in, in our class, is filled with purpose and intention, is unique from the last and contains so much valuable insight and beauty. Whether or not you’re feeling connected or disconnected to your class (teachers reading this know that both are realistic possibilities), community circles can dramatically enhance any scenario.
Our community circles were very basic when we first began; with the intention of building trust and a sacred space for our classroom family. Sometimes we would simply just go around the circle and give a thumbs up, a thumbs neutral, or a thumbs down to describe how we felt about our current day. If students wished to justify their action, space was held for them to do so, if not, that was always respected too. We still engage in this particular practice from time to time when we don’t have a specific theme to discuss that day. This process has built trust and has allowed kids to know that it’s ok to be authentic and that not every day is going to be a ‘thumbs up’ day.
I have personally found that my own involvement in community circle is fundamental to the process. My students ask me to share my own thoughts and experiences and to exhibit my own vulnerability, just as they do, in order to really complete that connection amongst us. And to be honest, while learning significantly more about my students through community, I also continue to learn extensively about myself.
Last week, our community circle was based on the theme of inclusivity as a follow-up to our school’s assembly. Honestly, it’s moments like these that I am reminded of our humanness and our oneness in the universe, regardless of age or experience. My students, at the ages of 9 and 10, spoke candidly of their experiences with exclusion – from situations of being left out due to age, to gender, ability, cultural backgrounds and differing belief systems.
One little girl, half giggling, half serious, shared a story of being left out of a sport game because she was too short. Now, I know I can hide behind this virtual writing barrier, but if you saw me, you would see that I am a whopping 4 feet 10 inches tall (…and a half…but I usually get some eye rolls over this part). My student and I were able to connect on this point, share a little laugh and discuss our strengths and joys of being petite, which allowed her to release some of the hurt she was feeling from being excluded. Her body language and facial expressions eased up and it was evident that she felt more included in the world.
Another little boy in my class admitted that although he is of Sikh background, his family had made the decision that he would not wear a turban. With some hesitance, he explained that he had experienced exclusion from some of his Sikh peers who had made different choices than his family. He was so brave to share that story with his classmates. Sometimes we see our kids as just kids, but they are so much more than that. They are humans, souls, living and growing and learning from life’s challenges and triumphs – just – like – us. If we don’t take time to create these types of safe and non-judgemental environments for children to share their experiences and emotions, then the experiences and emotions remained buried, only to re-surface later on in their journey. What comes to the surface always needs to be addressed. Kids, like us, have the innate desire to share these experiences, be heard, feel acknowledged and know that there are others who share those commonalities.
Through the unfolding of this community circle, we were able to explore the idea that we are born the way we are born. When you think about it, it makes ZERO sense to exclude another human being based on age, gender, culture, or WHATEVER. That is who they are, not who they chose to be. It’s just that simple. Have I solved all future wars with this statement? No. But, hopefully community has helped the individuals in my class to see one another a bit more clearly; to see a person’s soul, not their shell. Perhaps these students will bring with them, this understanding, into their homes, sports and futures. Will those things come full circle? It’s a start.