Yesterday a colleague of mine told me about a relative of hers that teaches Juniors in high school. She has an interesting "activity" that she does with them nearly daily, that she calls Stillness. What does Stillness encompass? Well, it's all in the name. She sets a timer for 5 minutes and in silence, everyone in the room is simply still. They turn off.
I thought about it for a minute and kind of brushed it off, knowing that juniors and 8th graders are different kinds of creatures.
But then, I brought it up with my students and they were very eager to try it. After a couple rules (namely, you can't talk, you can't sleep), I sat down and the five minutes began. Five minutes of silence. In every class the first minute was slightly uncomfortable for most. Most of us have not taught ourselves how to be still. But interestingly, after that initial minute or so, the students settled into "the zone."
As a Christian, I was ashamed that I don't do this more. In 4 blocks of classes throughout the day yesterday, I was able to practice stillness for 20 total minutes. Although it is a little different because I am still in charge of 30 bodies at the time, those 20 minutes lifted so much stress off my back for the day. I used a lot of the time to pray for certain students while they were in my presence. It was a really great experience. Today I'm going to have them reflect and write one their "stillness," and hope they want to do it again. Some may say this simply a time-waster, a perfectly good waste of 5 minutes of "instructional time," but when I was sitting here in this nice little community we've built yesterday in complete silence, I realized that this could be more powerful to some of my students than 30 hours of instructional time.
I challenge you to try 5 minutes of stillness today!
Interestingly enough, this connects quite nicely to the above story. As you know, I give my students 10 minutes to write in class everyday. (If you practice writing everyday, you become better at writing everyday). Well, a little while ago I used the inaugural poem, Praise Song for the Day, as a writing invitation. It was a day I decided to write with my students. It was a rather splotchy piece of work, but after yesterday's Stillness, I thought it would be fitting to post these two together. Here is what I wrote:
As I sit in my classroom and read the line: "all about us is noise," and then "each day we go about our business walking past each other..." I know it is true. I know we don't stop and notice one another. I know we don't really look
We do enough to get by and are on our way.
Them. And Me.
Me, the teacher who wants to make a difference; who is too young and new to be hardened by all of this already.
But do I ever really stop to look and listen past the noise. In their eyes? Do I stop to hear them say something, or do I snap because they are saying something without my permission?
When I smell smoke on their 13 year old breath and see no sleep in their eyes, do I stop and love, or roll my eyes at parents who haven't loved enough?
All about us is noise.
& let the light in.