As I packed my bag for the editors’ meeting this year, a friend bid me goodbye, saying, “It’s going to be a lot of work, so get some rest.” It struck me that while the hours are long and the computer screens blaze into the night during these meetings, the work is very enjoyable. We receive thoughtful articles from a number of teachers describing work of a very high quality. It is easy for ‘outsiders’ to underestimate a teacher’s work, and to assume there’s nothing much to it. At the same time, millions of parents all over the world trust teachers to care for and educate their children. This combination of under-appreciation and responsibility can be quite a challenge to work with, and yet out of it emerges such creativity in daily work. Knowing this, the editors of this Journal have for years cheerfully nudged and nagged teachers to write about their experiences and reflections, for readers from a wider world of education.
This twenty-third issue has the usual variety, with something in the contents to interest just about anybody. There are articles on educational practice, on curriculum, on perennial questions about human nature, and at least two that invite us to take a step back and ask—what are we educating for? And something that happened quite serendipitously this year—a poetry section!
We begin with a talk by Kabir on his quest as an educator—to discover a “…very different movement of learning which is really about the brain becoming extraordinarily sensitive, becoming extraordinarily alert to the movements of thought.” Jeff ’s article is a meditation on our ‘spiritual’ longing for wholeness and the separation of the self from the vast movement of life. We went astray long ago—was it when we invented words, or fire or the wheel?! With humour and irony, he points out the futility of knowledge and organised search and suggests other ways of being in the world. Keerthi examines the ancient human tendency to divide the world into an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. She explores how this plays out in a school environment and how our questions as teachers could break up this seemingly automatic tendency. Renu’s describes a rich theme meeting with parents and teachers as joint caretakers exploring a variety of concerns about our growing adolescents.
Ashton MacSaylor does a thorough analysis of misguided forms of assessment practice in schools in the United States—practices that go against our deepest intentions in caring schools such as ours. Afshan’s piece reminds us how important it is to think about the design of physical spaces for learning. Her suggestions are easy to implement even in already constructed brick-and-mortar buildings. Sumitra writes about the emotional life of a residential school, reflected in the words of its inhabitants. Anantha Jyothi brings to our attention an emotional jewel we often neglect— vulnerability—and urges us to reap its powerful learning potential. Ramanujam gives us a wider perspective on the hotly debated issue of technology in classrooms, rescuing us from the endless yes-or-no dilemma by redefining technology itself. Thejaswi writes about a unique biology mini-course that encompassed history, sociology, philosophy and ethics in one heady, integrated experience.
In the special poetry section, Karen Hesli draws upon the power of poetry to open up our psychological worlds and explore their deepest layers with students. We thought it would be apt to follow this article with quietly illuminating contributions from our very own teacher-poets— O R Rao, Ramesh, Siddhartha and Jeff.
Stephen’s piece on dialogue is a reminder that there is the possibility of listening and awareness in daily living that dissolves the boundaries of the separated self. Shashidhar defines the ‘major’ and the ‘minor’ aims of education, and lays out the paradox of ‘pursuing’ the awakening of intelligence. Following this, the editors have written an imaginary dialogue between two people about creating a school curriculum from scratch. And finally, we carry two book reviews by Venkatesh and Gautama. The first reviews Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and considers its potential for insight into human conditioning. The second invites readers to pick up an unusual story-based book for anyone who works with children, one that explores profound insights and addresses contemporary issues in a conversational, readable tone.
The meetings are nearly done. As the hours progress, we’ve become companions—the editors, the articles and their authors in absentia. The mind swirls with nice turns of phrase, misplaced colons, powerful truths, gems of expression, and the occasional looong sentence that refuses to be split into two. Now it is ready to be placed in your hands, readers.
We hope you enjoy.