Between Us Education

Sound of silence

Positive peer group activity can help create spaces of harmony to bring out one’s true potential.

Recently, it was a privilege to be part an event that demonstrated the power of positive peer pressure and silence. Every adult who attended the event, whether as a parent or teacher, expressed surprise at the outcome. It was a hall filled with 120 students (between 11 and 15 years of age), armed with books and blankets, reading in complete silence. We have heard ourselves echo the thoughts that this generation is a distracted one, lack attention and are restless. The event shed some light on how that belief is perhaps just a symptom of the way we create systems that distract.

The event was called a Read-a-thon, and the idea behind this was to read 100 minutes in complete silence, as a community, for a selected charity. The event was beautifully organised in a way that students read in two blocks of 45 minutes each and another block of 20 minutes.

After every session, they were given five minutes for a snack and restroom break. Initially, I met this idea with much scepticism. How was it even possible to convince a group of students to read in silence? What transpired was like hearing the most exquisite symphony of silence. After the first ten minutes of excitement at the event, and the initial restlessness, students dropped into a natural rhythm. They were completely immersed in their books and expressed surprise that the first session had finished fast. In fact, the adults who participated in the event found it difficult to read and said they were tempted to keep checking their phone for WhatsApp messages.

In my limited perspective, I feel that it worked because it gave students an individual choice (they brought their favourite book) while working as a community. At a community level, it was bringing students to do something together not in a spirit of competition, but for donating to charity. Third, and most importantly, we all have the capacity to tap that silence within us so that we can give complete attention to what we are doing at the moment. The positive peer group activity zeroed in on bringing out that potential in ourselves and the students. It also made one reflect the various ways in which we create systems to increase distractions.

Do we ever allow our students to go deeply into something they find interesting? Look at the way we set up the timetable. We expect our students to switch attention from one subject to another with a speed and anxiety that never allows them to explore anything in-depth. If gadgets are causing distractions at home or the workplace, we need to take some responsibility. We brought the gadgets into the environment and we too are modelling behaviours of inappropriate gadget usage. In many ways, children are just a reflection of our own patterns!

In our homes, schools and workplaces, how do we incorporate this silence, attention and joy in being with what is? Perhaps, if we not only see, but experience that power of silence ourselves, we can work towards creating spaces of harmony and true joy. Enjoy your own journey!

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 4:37:56 AM |

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