Everyday, after break (11am) the children have "Reflection Time" session. All the children sit in a circle. The teacher lights some candles and places them in the middle of the circle and switches the lights off. It is really relaxing! During the session the teacher usually discusses what's happening in the news, a faith issue or children share their concerns or worries. It is amazing how mature some of these children are.
The teacher asked whether I would mind leading the "Reflection Time" session and I could use it as an opportunity to talk about Sikhi. So I happily agreed. After the children came in from their break, they sat down in a circle and I sat on a chair. I explained that I was going to explain about my faith and that they can ask me questions as well.
I started with saying, "Okay, let's start with me asking you all a question. I look different from you and that's why today when you walked into the classroom some of you looked at me and were surprised. So, what makes me look different to you?" All the children excitedly put their hands up. (It's amazing how some children who are eager to answer try and stretch their arms upwards and make a sound like they are about to explode or something! Waheguru). One girl answered, "You have that thing around your head." "Very good. But does anyone know what this (pointing at the Dastaar) is called?" I said. There were only one or two children who knew that it was called "turban". So I got all the children to repeat the word "turban" and asked them again what I was wearing on my head and they all said "a turban".
Then I asked the children, "There is something else that makes me look different you. Can anyone think what that is." One boy answered "You have a beard." "Very good. Do you think I cut my beard or hair?" They all said, "No."
I explained that many people across the world from different cultures and religions wear turbans for different reasons. Turbans are worn in different styles according to the culture and they come in different colours. It was explained that 99% of the people who wear turbans in the UK are followers of the Sikh religion.
Its difficult to explain something new to children (even adults!) of another culture, so it can be helpful to share comparisons. So, when explaining who Guru Nanak Dev jee is to the children, I said, "Jesus founded the Christian religion. Muhammad founded the Muslim religion. Just as these special people found these religions, which special person sent by God founded the Sikh religion?" No one had heard of Guru Nanak Dev jee but most of the children knew that Sikhs came from India. So I got all the children to repeat "Guru Nanak" (slowly so that they can learn to pronounce it correctly).
It was mentioned how God sent Guru Nanak jee with a special message of how people should live truthful lives and remember God. We then went through the three golden rules given by Guru Nanak Dev jee:- 1) Working and living honestly, 2) Sharing with others, and 3) Always remembering and thanking God. I would stop and ask the children questions to see how much they had learnt and I was surprised that they remembered most of what had been told.
As the session was coming to an end (it was only 15 minutes or so), I asked if anyone had any questions for me. Everyone's arms went up wanting to ask questions.
To be continued...