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Interiority: Educating for introspection

I eventFriday, 02 December 2022

How much do we know about silence in school? Do we know how to bring calm to our students? Do I transmit peace to them? Is there a ritual for introspection in my classroom?  Are we cultivating it?

Religion has used the word ‘interiority’ as a synonym for spiritual life and prayer; while the notion of personal growth straddles between the psychological, the sapiential and the religious, interiority is associated with self-awareness. It also refers to that inner place where the possibilities of each person remain hidden and unpredictable.  Interiority is our intimate space, not to be confused with the private or the secret.

Intimacy is that which is interior, that which is recognized within oneself, that which belongs to the true self, to the deepest part of oneself. Private, on the other hand, refers to what is simply not shared or what no one else sees but oneself. It is important to make students see this nuance from a young age, since privacy leads to selfishness and intimacy to friendship.

Only silence leads us to our intimacy, to our deepest self, that is, to our inner self, opening us up to the experience of who we are. Silence expands our consciousness, since it makes us enter into it and recognise what is happening within us. It makes us aware of our misconceptions and beliefs, helping us to channel our energies to free ourselves from the outer self with which we identify. It is only through silence that we can clearly become aware of what is happening within us.

Silence is the place that allows us to know our motivations, beliefs, values and ideals; it is the path of truth that leads us to freedom. Have you ever had the experience of the serenity that prevails when we calm down?

Silence calms, soothes, pacifies, unifies; it soothes our physical, mental and psychological restlessness and opens us up to the experience of looking at ourselves and letting ourselves be looked at by God, knowing that we are under the loving gaze of this God who never looks away, since he is part of our being; he is deep within our being. 

As well as living silence individually, we are called to live it as a group, and in this way it becomes a deep source of interpersonal bonding and understanding. It is therefore necessary, in our daily life and with our students, to look for periods of silence and, if possible, spaces where students can share praying in silence with others. It is in this sense that Saint Mary or Marie Eugenie praised silence...

Considering that the great challenge of her life - and therefore of her choices at every moment - was to work to resemble Christ, she compares herself to a painter who has to observe his/her model carefully in order to reproduce it. She invites us to serenity, to distance, to simplification, to calm, to silence so that God may come to give us only what is desirable, only what is lasting...

Is there silence in our classrooms? Silence is the great absentee of pedagogy, as it is not considered to be an instrument of communication, nor as a fundamental experience of the human being. The school does not teach the inherent richness of silence; it focuses its attention on speech and its oral and written articulation, but omits the communicative and expressive value of silence.

Neither the child nor the young person is prepared for silence; for them it is something new, strange and problematic that must be hidden immediately. They are not prepared to live together in silence, nor are they prepared to discover the teaching that silence carries within itself; I am not talking about the external and imposed silence that gives the educator the power to silence the students, as some teachers still do when they sing this nursery rhyme with the students, "The owl. The owl goes shh... goes shh. All silent like the owl that goes shh.” I'm talking about silence, which is absolutely essential for contemplating the world and interiorising it, not imposing it.

Silence and contemplation go hand in hand. Without inner silence, it is not possible to contemplate reality. Contemplation presupposes an attitude of calm and receptivity; it teaches us to see the world and all of reality through the eyes and heart of God, leading us to the transformation of our frames of reference, our points of view, our habits of thought and our metaphysical vision of the world as expressed in the Transformative Education of the Assumption.

Only silence allows us a lucid and transparent contemplation of the other. The other is fundamentally manifested through a face, eyes and facial expression. Have we noticed that in our classrooms, the students and we, as educators, talk and talk, rarely expressing our fears, our anxieties, our illusions...?

If we want to understand and communicate with our students, then we educators must learn to listen to them, to hear their silences, the pains of their soul, the cries of their insecurities and fears. The voice of silence becomes pedagogically necessary in a world so full of noise, in order to arrive at an increasingly humanising dialogue.         

What can we do to work on interiority with our students?

  • Practice the pedagogy of silence and interiority through the daily prayers we do in the classrooms, catechetical meetings, faith education, Eucharist, contacts, guided hours, etc.
  • To become educators who create a climate conducive to the interiorisation of learning.
  • Linking learning to the personal experience of students in the different disciplines.
  • Ensure that in the learning strategies used, the student is always at the centre, the course is never repeated; time must be lived and the experience must be relevant.
  • We can take into account the place, the layout of the tables, the nature, the music.
  • Encourage environments where students seek calm, and perform a ritual at the beginning and end of classes.
  • Be aware of and adjust your own posture and that of your students; authority is exercised through posture.
  • Be aware of your own gestures and movements and capture the student's attention.
  • Pause, control the tone of voice and practice self-observation.

 Finally, the silence that is asked from the students must come from the teacher him/herself; therefore, it is important that when entering the classroom or starting the lesson, the teacher welcomes with a smile, with security and a great deal of inner calm, to take the pulse (state) of the group-class’s predisposition, and its degree of motivation. It is impossible to educate or to influence without a close relationship with each student.


Mario Mendez

Reference person Province 

Central America and Cuba