for orchidspeaks; january 2013
We just completed the morning assembly of the last day of the calendar year 2012, with the middle children singing carols enthusiastically. The singing session was a spill over of the OrchidFest solemnised about a week ago. We arranged it as the mike did not work while the children sang on that occasion and we wanted to hear them! The calendar year is about to end while the academic year enters the last quarter. Many questions related to what we did this year arise in one’s mind. What did we learn? What is a school? During review, questions of different kinds come up. There is a feeling that it is good to hold the questions and internalise them rather than seek answers quickly.
What is education if the mind has not been understood to understand the phenomenon of degeneration in ethics? The process of review often requires and sometimes demands a pause.
When we turn the questions inward, and hold them in our being, instead of seeking answers from the known sources, it might influence our being in a different manner. The internalised energy seems to reverberate in our being. It is felt that such a reverberation of questions sifts and sorts aspects our “self”. Our thoughts and felts seem to refine and improve our understanding of matters on a continuing basis. Holding the questions, particularly the emotional and psychological ones, seems to refine, clarify, and re-constitute one’s psychological and perceptual composition. It appears that this regurgitation brings harmony and synchronism between the internal and external worlds of the individual. In other words, better alignment between thought, word, and deed might result in a natural and organic manner.
It is good to ask such questions repeatedly even if one is not a student or a teacher! Merely asking them appears to refresh us and add vitality to the life of a teacher. It is the intensity and seriousness of teachers, which obviously fuels the educational processes of a school and enlivens them. A passionate teacher can change the texture of a school by changing its threads. Threads metaphorically represent the different types of educational ideas and teaching – learning approaches. Change of paradigm implies change of fabric and its texture naturally. However, change of the thread takes time. It appears that the threads of the fabric of our school are undergoing change, improvements, and replacement in bits and pieces. This is an interesting but an excruciating phase of organisational development.
Over the last few years, programs of an increasingly more interesting nature have been organised by teachers of our school. The content of the programs is improving continuously and they are becoming more interesting. The methods of planning, coordinating, implementing, and monitoring are also undergoing a change for the better and smoother functioning. We have not observed conflicts amongst organisers while implementing even big programs. On the contrary, we notice that the community members are coming together. Our community seems to much more harmonious and happy now than any time in the past. There are enough indicators to show that we are on a different type of path in organisational development.
During this calendar year much richer programs were organised than in the first few years. This provided the impetus for our school to move further away from the traditional educational paradigm to a better and more progressive one. Our school community appears to be undoubtedly improving. We are perhaps ready to conceive, design, explore, and try out more interesting teaching-learning processes. The general attitude of the staff and students is positive, energetic, innovative, and cooperative. Operating together, or co-operating, is very necessary for people to live and work together harmoniously and happily.
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.
While observing our school closely, experiencing, and feeling it intimately, there is a beautiful illumination of its processes. Slowly the endless chain of experiences and outcomes begin to connect with each other - one leading to the other. When one watches the processes quietly, one begins to see and realise the importance of experience in education as never before. The word experience suddenly begins to glow and glitters as the word life!
Is experience life? Does the quality of experience determine the quality of our life? It is strange that two different words came up for naming existence! If experience is life, good experiences will lead to good life and vice-versa. Only unfavourable and adverse experiences, maybe endlessly, will lead to a miserable life! If we see this link, it becomes easier to understand what a school.
A school is a place, which offers experiences of the nature that it wants the child to be, to the child. If we want a child to be, happy we must offer her happy experiences. If we want the child to be dull, we must offer it dull experiences. On the contrary, if the children are unhappy in a school, can we infer that the school or the parents did not intend the children to be happy? If the children are dull and non-creative, can we infer that the school or his parents did not intend them to be innovative and creative. Parents and teachers will not accept this inference! They will claim that they love their children a lot and intend that they are creative and happy.
Why did we arrive at a strange paradox like this? Is there a logical fallacy or has a trick been played with words? None of this has happened. Maybe, we have not understood the relationship between intent, process, and outcome clearly and accurately. Maybe we lack the subtle intelligence to understand this because we are not educated for such “things”. The above paradox may be simply revealing a bitter truth of our society. We set out to do the best for our children with the best of intentions but what we do is not designed to achieve what we intended! Our intent is most noble and sublime but we lack the intelligence, subtlety, to conceive, design, layout and roll out processes that will move us towards realising our intent. This inconsistency may be playing a role in other domains where we experience “failure”. We have not critically investigated and examined the prevalent processes in any fundamental respect. Many of us follow the readily available educational processes and methods, without examining or reviewing them for what kind of outcomes may come from them.
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?
We must check whether the processes we conceive and design are likely to achieve the intent we have in mind in a holistic and integral manner. We must see the subtle causal link between intent, processes, and outcome closely and review the outcomes continuously. Many of us appear to be unaware of the relationships involved in this chain because we are not educated for subtle observations. If at an individual level we lack the intelligence to see the deeper links between cause and effect, we will not be able to look at the organisation or society in proper perspective. Instead of improving the right threads, we might improve the wrong threads of our society, which will eventually weaken the fabric of it.
A school like ours needs to learn about what is experience and education. Even if we do not see that experience and life are synonymous, we must understand and learn about how experience influences and determines education. Educators and teachers need to learn and understand what kind of learning contexts and teaching-learning processes are likely to produce what kind of outcomes and whether they will be in tune with their educational intent. We need to pause and attempt to visualise what kind of damage, if any, we might be causing in the process that we have decided. Inability to conceive and look at this aspect, undesirable but un-envisaged, of the outcome is what J. Krishnamurti refers to as a partial way of looking at problems. By adopting a design or solution, whose ill consequences we have not considered fully will draw us into an endless loop of reformation, which produces its own, consequential problems.
Depending on how clear we are about the kind of outcomes different educational processes enable, we need to design interesting experiences for our children in schools. They will then be educated in the “right” manner. What is a school about but this? What kind of experiences need a school provide to children to enable them express beautifully as the Orchids below do? image
Is it possible for a school like Orchid, which explores the teachings of Krishnamurti, to learn about education keenly such that the very exploration shapes and determines its being?