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Can you hear me? Listening for children's spiritual voices in the classroom Dr Kate Adams Reader in Education Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln.

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Presentation on theme: "Can you hear me? Listening for children's spiritual voices in the classroom Dr Kate Adams Reader in Education Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln."— Presentation transcript:

1 Can you hear me? Listening for children's spiritual voices in the classroom Dr Kate Adams Reader in Education Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln

2 Content Children’s spiritual voices The silencing of spiritual voices Hearing the spiritual voices of children from religious and non- religious backgrounds How can we hear children in the context of the legal requirements to promote spiritual development and teach Religious Education – especially AT2 – learning from religion?

3 Children’s spiritual voices 1. The direct voice Sydney, aged 18 months “Lady!” (Hart 2003: 133)

4 Expression through direct questions to adults Answering questions – although sometimes it can be difficult to articulate such responses

5 2. Observing the introspective, ‘quiet’ voices Personal moments which adults observe Often related to awe and wonder - Katie’s feather (Champagne 2001)

6 Combined expressions “I was the water” (Hart 2003, p.47)

7 3. Children’s private spiritual voices Expressed in diaries, art and poetry for example

8 Children of all faiths and none Children of no faith may express their spirituality in similar ways to children of faith We cannot assume that because a child comes from a religious home that they have a confidante in their religious community

9 Primary school children with no faith background are often very comfortable using religious language http://www.youtube.com/w atch?v=6xbuFLFfD4k http://www.youtube.com/w atch?v=6xbuFLFfD4k But all children draw on a wide range of beliefs and ideas in shaping their own

10 The silencing of spiritual voices Contrasting ‘rise’ of the child’s voice in different arenas (Adams 2009) Children in different studies say that they do not share their spiritual experiences for fear of ridicule or dismissal (see Hay and Nye 2006; Scott 2004; Adams, Hyde and Woolley 2008) ‘Suspicion of the spiritual’ (Hay 1985) - cultural attitudes to religious and spiritual experiences – in school and beyond

11 What do children say happens? ‘Well it’s just not cool at our school to talk about dreams’ ‘My mum said it was just my imagination’ ‘My gran believes me but my mum and dad don’t’

12 When we don’t hear… ‘Even though the experience was significant and influential in a person’s life, the story has remained private.’ (Scott 2004 p.68)

13 A city in the sky Matt, an American teacher in his forties, who vividly remembered the time he literally saw another world when he was 9 years old. He said, “It was late spring and there were beautiful cloud formations. The sun was low and the clouds looked red. I was gazing and I saw a whole city in the clouds”. This was not a simple case of seeing pictures in the clouds. Instead, this was an incredibly intricate image which looked like a drawing rather than a photograph. It was a “profound” moment he raced indoors to tell his parents who said “that’s nice, what did it look like?” Matt ran back outside to see if he could still see it, which he could. But his parents remained in the house “and didn’t come out to validate it.” The next morning at school, he shared his experience with the whole class. “And that was the most stupid thing I ever did,” he said. “I told other people. The teacher was very patronising and said “Oh I am sure you didn’t see that”. His peers “roared with laughter”. Matt said that that moment in school was “the moment of socialisation” for him and he no longer told people of personal experiences such as this for fear of a similar response (Adams 2010). (Adams 2010)

14 Sophie’s bedside angel “Oh that’s just your imagination, darling” said her parents. “I don’t tell my mum and dad anything like that any more, they think I am making it up, but I know it’s true.“

15 What can we do? Identify the difficulties relevant to your school. Common issues include: Lack of training in ITE with reference to spiritual development and RE Uncertainty about what spirituality is Fear of the ‘darker’ sides of spirituality emerging Lack of confidence in how to respond

16 What can we do? See the world through children’s eyes Belief in fairies 52.5% (n=21) believed in fairies

17 Recognise that there is not always a need for the child to discuss although discussion can be invaluable A right to privacy Acknowledge that children are trying to make sense of the world – part of their identity Need someone with an open mind who will take them seriously

18 Contradictory messages – the fabricated myths we present to children Opportunities in school for reflection and discovery Staff reflection on their own views Be aware of the influence into adulthood of not being heard

19 Contact details Please contact me if you would like any more information on children’s spirituality Email: kate.adams@bishopg.ac.ukkate.adams@bishopg.ac.uk Department of Education Studies, Bishop Grosseteste University College, Lincoln LN1 3DY

20 References Adams, K. (2010) Unseen Worlds. Looking through the lens of childhood. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Adams, K. (2009) ‘The rise of the child’s voice; the silencing of the spiritual voice’. In Journal of Beliefs & Values, 30:2, 113-122. Adams, K., Hyde, B. and Woolley, R. (2008) The Spiritual Dimension of Childhood. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Champagne, E. (2001) ‘Listening to…listening for…: A theological reflection on spirituality in early childhood.’ In J. Erricker, C. Ota and C. Erricker (eds) Spiritual Education. Cultural, Religious and Social Differences, New Perspectives for the 21 st Century. Brighton: Sussex Academic. Hart, T. (2003) The Secret Spiritual World of Children. Maui: Inner Ocean. Hay, David (1985) ‘Suspicion of the spiritual: teaching religion in a world of secular experience.’ British Journal of Religious Education 7, 3, 40–147. Hay, D., and Nye, R. (2006) The Spirit of the Child (revised edition). London: Jessica Kingsley. Scott, D. (2004) ‘Retrospective spiritual narratives: exploring recalled childhood and adolescent spiritual experiences. International Journal of Children’s Spirituality 9, 1, 67-79. All professional images from Microsoft Clipart.


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