In a world filled with constant changes and challenges, the power of ritual often goes unnoticed, especially in learning spaces. A simple ritual can hold immense power in fostering a sense of community, belonging, and empowerment in any space. I was reminded of this truth a few years ago when I embarked on a transformative journey with a group of young men from a group home. Through a daily ritual, we discovered the incredible potential rituals hold in shaping our lives.
Each day, I met the young men at the entrance of our learning space with a "password" – a concise affirmation accompanied by a small action as they walked into the space. The goal of this greeting ritual is to create safety, connection, sacredness, power, and an opportunity for celebration. When we first started this ritual, there was initial hesitation and reluctance from the young men. The affirmation, or “password,” part of the greeting ritual was co-created with the young men. Overtime, with trust in the process, we repeated this greeting ritual each time we met at the entrance of the learning space.
Meeting weekly, we continued this ritual, co-creating short affirmations as we entered the room. One week, the unexpected happened. I arrived slightly behind schedule, only to find one of the students waiting at the door with a password of the day that he had created for the group. He was ready to greet us. This incident prompted us to delve into the power of rituals during our session. The young men spoke on how they looked forward to the rituals we had created.They also shared the ways that they started incorporating rituals into their personal lives. Weekly, the young people rotated who created the password and stood at the door to welcome the group.
So, what exactly is a ritual? Rituals are a series of purposeful actions performed to facilitate transitions, connections, healing, and celebrations. These actions, when imbued with intention, transcend routine and become meaningful gestures of love. Rituals offer sacredness and power to our lives, anchoring individuals within a community and lending structure and significance to our existence.
As summer winds down, now is the time many of us prepare to return to classrooms (as teachers, administrators, or students). The classroom is a prime setting where the influence of rituals becomes strikingly apparent. Classrooms have the potential to cultivate a sense of community and belonging among students. Rituals are a tool to help they foster an inclusive and safe environment. According to Harvard Business Review, rituals aid in human adaptation to change and loss, contributing to a culture of safety and inclusion. Moreover, they play a pivotal role in creating trauma-informed and healing-centered learning spaces, providing predictability, hope, connection, safety and power.
Creating effective classroom rituals involves considering three key aspects:
Greeting Rituals: How do students enter the room? Crafting intentional daily practices that involve young people in co-creating sacred moments fosters personal power, belonging, identity, and reverence for the learning environment.
Opening Rituals:What is the practice or practices that are done to help students feel safe, hopeful, grounded, and connected once they're in the space? These intentional practices serve as pillars of support, infusing the classroom with positive energy and assurance.
Closing Rituals: What are some practices that can help facilitate closure and bring hope as the session concludes? These practices mark the end of the journey, leaving students with a sense of accomplishment and anticipation.
In essence, rituals are far more than routine actions. Rituals have the capacity to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, infusing daily life with intention, connection, and power. Through my experiences working in community with others, I've come to understand that rituals truly matter. They hold the potential to shape not only our classroom environments but our lives as a whole.
Let us all recognize the immense power of rituals – the thread that weaves community, healing, identity, and celebration into the fabric of our existence. As educators, mentors, and learners, we have the privilege and responsibility to create spaces where rituals thrive and help to cultivate power within those we touch.
With intention and reverence,
Nia Eubanks-Dixon (founder and director of Creative Praxis)