During a Veteran’s Day chapel, an ex-marine spoke about the silence he experienced as part of holding the enemy line. Knowing rifles were pointed at him, he stood for hours in silence and faithfully performed his duty. In that silence, his mind had time to reflect on his goals, his fears—his life. In the quiet, his mind was free to ponder “important” things.
As I heard his testimony, it made me wonder, Do we give time in our classrooms for silence? I mean, should we purposefully plan times for reflective thought and processing?
Scripture is very clear that silence is important to God. In Psalm 37:7, the Psalmist reminds us to “Be silent in the LORD’s presence and wait patiently for him.” Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.”
While there isn’t a lot of research about the use of silence in schools, Jaworski and Sachdev conducted some important research which concluded that the use of silence as a part of a teacher’s pedagogy actually “enabled students to gain access, organize, and absorb new material.”
A few years ago, Edutopia published an article titled “The Value of Silence in Schools,” in which author Dana Weeks states, “Silence is an essential element of pedagogical practice that supports ideas of continual growth, possibility, and functional care of students.”
Additionally, Fred Rogers may have expressed it best when he said, “I wonder what some people are afraid might happen in the silence? Some of us must have forgotten how nourishing silence can be.” Mr. Rogers may be right. We live in a world of constant communication and bombardment of stimuli. I would think that our students may feel uncomfortable with silence. Yet, God says, “Be still… be silent.” Interesting.
Possibilities for Christian Classrooms
If you search the web, you will find plenty of ideas regarding ways to quieten students. That’s not reflective silence. The kind of silence I am encouraging is the silence that teachers carve out of their day to allow students to think and process their own learning, lives, and most importantly, their relationship with God. Wouldn’t this be the ultimate biblical integration?
As I think of ways to incorporate silence into a Christian school day, may I suggest starting with planning? Teachers must be intentional about planning for times of silence. I really appreciate Curriculum Trak’s helpful “Faith Integration” tab in the lesson planner, because it gives teachers some ideas for authentic biblical integration in every subject. Many of their ideas could be used in silent reflection, which may enhance true biblical integration.
Some teachers arrange their classrooms in such a way as to provide an actual location for quiet and reflection. I really enjoyed seeing pictures of creative spaces for introspection and solace in the Leeds Anglican Diocese Church School (Creating and Developing Reflective Spaces in Church Schools). Honestly, I’ve never thought of creating such a place at school before. I do know that, personally, when I want to spend some quiet time with God, I go to a specific chair in my home. In that place, I am able to be silent, read my bible, and listen to God.
Since the start of the pandemic, students have been more isolated than ever before, but were they silent? Often, their alone time was filled with computer screens and iPhones. Their bodies may have been quiet, but their minds were occupied. Dana Weeks reminds us that providing time for students to reflect on their learning allows for deep thought which educators know can be transformative. It may be time for educators to lesson the technology used in classrooms to allow time for purposeful, silent, screen-free thought.
The topic of silence has certainly given me some food for thought. I believe that silence can strengthen the internal discipline of deep thinking. For Christians, this is called meditation. Taking time to silently reflect on our personal learning, whether secular or biblical, seems to invite growth.
Silence does have a place in classrooms. I say that we, as educators, should plan for it, but shhhh! Don’t let students know that in the quiet they may learn something profound!