tlcp – orchid fest the learning and creativity culture evolving at ois
Our eighth consecutive Teacher Learning and Creativity Program (TLCP) was organised in October (18th to 20th), just before the second session of this year began. For about a week the staff members were together to learn from one another and learn about the nature of learning. One of our friends conceived and designed the program with care; the content was simple and evolving naturally as the days went by. The TLCP dovetailed with the overall and organic growth of the organisation. During the program, there were moments when one felt that our learning community would rise to new possibilities and to new paradigms in education.
In the pre-technology days, we explored and learnt about the capacities intrinsic in us. A deeply interactive relationship with the surroundings makes us interdependently alive with the environment.
Why is the learning quality, underlined by humility, emphasised for a good school difficult to come about? Is it possible for subject experts to remain learners? If the quality of learning is essential in adults to bring about the proper learning environment for students should not an institution attempt to “simplify” its experts. Is it not necessary for an institution to “disturb” and “provoke” the experts to remain learners? Contrarily, should it continue only with its affair of building the skills, concepts, and expertise of students and not educate them about what it is to live holistically and beautifully?
For the first few years, our school focussed upon building the usual base for efficient and effective communication, in a career-oriented manner with focus on development of knowledge, concepts, and skills. From the fourth academic year, we started raising the more essential and basic questions about education.
It was necessary for us to understand what the word education meant to us. This understanding should influence what kind of school we wanted to be. The management and educational processes would have to emerge from this understanding. These strategic needs led naturally to the conception of our Teacher Learning Program (TLP); TLP aims to bring about among the staff and teachers such a culture which can aspire to work for the educational objectives of the school. The program kept-on evolving in scope, content, and subtlety over the last seven occasions. We called the eighth program as Teacher Learning and Creativity Program (TLCP) based on a suggestion of one of our mentors.
Presently, we are attempting to re-orient our educational approach towards developing conceptual understanding rather than being examination oriented. An increasing number of faculty members are trying out the more progressive methods of learning and teaching on more occasions than earlier. Our students have begun to ask interesting questions. The need to explore deeper aspects of education influences the contribution of more number of our teachers these days. We wanted to understand what learning is and how the process of learning can be central to the school.
Teachers and students of Classes 7 and 8 were staying in the hall of our swimming pool complex for 3 nights and two days with the bare minimum amenities as part of their Nature Camp. They discussed and decided the content of the camp and the schedule for it together. The content of the Nature Camp included buying vegetables, cooking, sweeping, playing, singing together, and cleaning the cowshed, making articles out of waste paper, making boutique items like earrings, bracelets using plywood and a host of other activities. What they learnt during these days was “experiential” in nature and should enable their subtler learning abilities in the time to come. The TLCP is over more than eight weeks behind us and we solemnised the sixth OrchidFest a few days ago! (On 21st December.)
Orchidfest is the cultural festival of our school in which students display what they have learnt in the school during the year to their parents. Orchidfest represents and reflects the cultural state and content of the community to a fair extent. Most of the items presented emerge from the routine processes of the school. A few may require many rehearsals and hence may not represent the cultural index of the school. What we practise to present or show is obviously not ours! What we present by our being, without rehearsal, is natural, and is ours. It is what we are.
OrchidFest, dinner, an examination or a match on the games field have something in common. They have a component of being the end of a process. However, is it necessary to measure the outcome of such beautiful processes! It is a difficult question to answer. Our society generally believes that the approach of judging even the cultural programs improves the content and quality of presentations. Is this so? Does evaluating or judging improve affairs? Alternatively, does an evaluation-free context bring about better involvement from the participants and thereby improve their performance? The good schools, like KFI schools, have experienced that evaluation and judgment prevents proper learning environment from being. Our little experience also confirms that children are happily involved when the environment is free from fear and evaluation. We draw from the teachings of J. Krishnamurti and learn from the KFI schools. The outcome of the OrchidFest confirms our understanding!
We had not done even a proper run through of our program, let alone the dress rehearsal. We had not done even one full rehearsal of the program with the planned light and sound arrangements. Some children and staff may have been anxious about the outcome and concerned about how the guests will receive it. We were asking some basic questions about the entire process culminating in the OrchidFest, and hence could not consider or meet the expectation of parents in the proper light. The manner of celebrating cultural programs has evolved in our school beautifully in tune with school culture and other facets like the Teacher Learning Programs and other educational programs.
Some of us work passionately, with clearer objectives, more energy, and more technology but in the process, we lose sight of what we are failing to achieve. The failures are in the domain of the intangible aims of education. The result of the long years of “education” that humanity has undergone is clearly disappointing. Our children and we are no happier. We do not understand the world any better than we did although we know a lot about it. The reason for this debacle and fiasco is not the intent, energy, or technology. What are the reasons for this great failure of human civilisation? It is worthwhile to recall a few features of our festival. Orchidfest is a content oriented, non-ostentatious, simple, and colourful festival in which most children enjoy and celebrate their childhood while learning to express their capacities. Children who are relatively “tight” at the time of joining the school, due to their home environment or the culture of their previous school, also learn to “open up”. Our school emphasizes on natural and simple expressions rather than competition oriented “performance”. There is no ranking of the programs. We do not present any awards or rewards of any kind to the participants.
Much of the program content emerges from the items presented by children in the Kalaprakash sessions held on alternate Saturday evenings. Kalaprakash is a non-judgemental platform of errors where children express and present their talents without any fear of making a “mistake”. It is an opportunity for exploratory and unique self-expression!
The other major source for the OrchidFest is the assemblies, which a different class arranges every week, for one week at a time. We repeat a few of the interesting assembly presentations during the OrchidFest, maybe with a little improvisation. With the cultural program over and children away for a short break, the campus is quiet this morning. Staff members will use the day to put the articles used in the festival back in their respective places. We want to bring back the school to “working order” for the next academic session after the short break! We will also review how we can improve OrchidFest.
The cultural program reflected that our children are learning to express individually and collectively to a much better extent than what it was in the past! Most of the children were involved in the role they took up and enjoyed it. It seemed that they were not depending on feedback from the audience. This observation applies to teachers as well. Of course, there was the glow of satisfaction in teachers when the expression of “their children” was expressive enough!
We, the staff and students of the school, are learning in this beautiful ambiance. Our children and teachers are engrossed in many little activities around the campus. Children and teachers use the wide learning contexts provided, including classrooms, hostels, arts room, music room, and many others more intensively. In most of these contexts involvement and engagement of students seems to be improving. Community members appear to be happy. Is happiness the springboard for learning and harmony? Contrarily, is it the other way round? This may be a difficult question to answer. However, it surely is an interesting question to explore for oneself!