|Meditation in Schools
(Reprinted from Gatherings, London Borough of Redbridge, Autumn 2003)
Meditation in Schools: Calmer Classrooms ed. by Clive Erricker & Jane Erricker
“Meditation works directly with the mind … looking within in order to give out.”
Since the publication of the current National Curriculum, educational pedagogy seems to have acquired a 'modernistic' child-centred approach to teaching and learning. The 'new age' jargon for successful classroom practice is the development of the personal, social, cultural, moral and spiritual facets of the whole child. Whilst the Department of Education and Science can gladly revel in the notion that they have created this 'new age' ideology, most teachers would agree that the child-centred approach has always been as concerned with the inner child as they have with the outer child, and our composite roles as practitioners are a testament to this fact.
However, despite its unjustifiable glory, the current curriculum has raised a number of issues relating to the instructional process and teacher accountability for children's development in this area of learning. Until recently, there were very few teaching resources which effectively supported teacher understanding of PSHE issues thus resulting in a dearth of consistent teaching in this area. Similarly, albeit teachers have now been inundated with a myriad of strategies and teaching materials to support the personal, social, cultural and moral development of children, there are still very few resources with have made any real impact on the spiritual development of the child. This is why I was both enthused and inspired by the contents of Clive and Jane Erricker's Meditation in Schools: Calmer Classrooms.
Both Clive and Jane Erricker are educational practitioners in the areas of religious and scientific education, respectively, and prolific writers in the areas of meditation and children's spirituality. Meditation in Schools is a practical and accessible guide, which offers its readers some background knowledge on the purpose and impact of meditation, and a wealth of strategies which can be easily implemented within the classroom.
The book is divided into four main parts: Part1 - Why Meditation? Part 2 - Meditation in Education, Part 3 - Meditation in the Classroom and Part 4 - Recourses. Each part is then sub-divided into a number of chapters in which a range of teachers and educational writers have made contributions addressing various relevant issues. Part 1 includes the following chapters, for example: Addressing inner needs; A support for everyday life; Meditation for health and well-being; Meditation to develop mindfulness in daily life; and, Different methods of meditation.
Although the individual chapters of the book explore different aspects of meditation, there is a general theme that runs through the book. Meditation is primarily endorsed as a process which can '…equip each young person for the rest of their lives with a simple practice not only to nourish their spirit, but also to alleviate physical and mental stress: self-help to discover a core of inner strength and the freedom of self-reliance.'(Levete, p11)
The book also raises the issues of the religious connotations associated with meditation and successfully affirms the view that, despite its religious background, meditation is fundamentally a self-help tool which is used by people the world over to connect with their inner self. Caroline Mann (Chapter 7, p33) maintains that there is immense potential for the use of meditation in education and that it should be removed from its religious roots and used as a secular practice. And, if meditation is to be removed from its orthodox foundations, it needs a slight image change and the best way to do this is to change the offending brand name 'meditation' to the contemporary term 'stilling'.
Extensive research on the issue has proven that meditation or stilling activities can empower children's learning. Clive Erricker (Chapter 9, p48) defends the view that children are the artists of their own lives and that we as teachers should continue in the quest for developing the receptive minds of young children. He makes a great argument for a change to conventional pedagogy in order for learning to become more about inquiry and reflection, and at the heart of all this lies the enticingly mesmerising process of meditation. Meditation is the vehicle through which we, as teachers, can aid the promotion of children's spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
As a teacher with a class of children of mixed ability and ethnicity, each of whom requires different levels of educational, psychological and physiological support, this book has now become my bible. Easy to read (no jargon or highfaluting lingo) this book has provided me with a multitude of strategies to overcome behaviour problems, lack of confidence, hyperactivity, motor skill problems and a range of other classroom issues. In the short while that I have been using 'stilling' activities with my class, I have noticed my children beginning to take charge of their learning, both emotionally and mentally. There is always an electrifyingly spectacular atmosphere of awe and wonder at the end of each session as the children silently explore their awakened hearts.
You've got to try it to believe that meditation is truly '… aimed to awaken possibility.'
Sameena Bashir, English Coordinator, Fullwood Primary School, Redbridge
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