The Annual Teachers’ Conference held at The Valley School, Bangalore between 15 and 17 Oct, 1999, was an occasion for the coming together of teachers from the various KFI centres. As colleagues, friends and fellow travellers, we talked, shared our concerns and recharged our ‘batteries’. After the last guest had departed and the dust had settled, I looked back at the three days to ponder over the essential concerns and questions that had emerged during the various morning sessions of the conference*.
We had spoken of the profound vision that underlies these schools, the shared essence that makes for a feeling of being‘one school’; we also discussed the responsibility that schools bear in bringing about a regeneration in society, and how this is founded on certain subtle and crucial factors that must come into play within ourselves, and in the classroom and the community. An honest consideration of our actuality, against the backdrop of these larger concerns, inevitably brings to mind questions that are disturbing as well invigorating.
‘From ancient times, man has sought something beyond the materialistic world, something immeasurable, something sacred. It is the intent of these schools to enquire into this...’, states Krishnamurti. For him a school is a ‘sacred place’ where deep religious enquiry can be pursued. We began by asking whether, as part of the field of education, we can nurture silence 60 and attention, and a quality of penetration that awakens intelligence? Can we leave tradition aside and traverse virgin territory?
This however entails that as individuals we are prepared to question our received ideals, convictions and habitual modes of thinking. What is the quality of mind that can put aside assumptions, opinions and ideas about oneself, and truly look at things afresh? Is it at all possible for us to try and see what it means, in life and in our classrooms, to be tentative and exploratory, rather than hard and emphatic?
As teachers we come to our classrooms day after day with our burden of knowledge tucked under our arms or carried in our heads. If we stick to our precious identities and ideas, would not the atmosphere of the classroom be defined largely by our authoritative presence—however subtle it may be? If we cannot see ‘what is’ and face our own limitations and biases, we cannot possibly have the right feel for what is actually happening in the classroom.
The teachers whom students respond to most freely are those who are willing to say, “I don’t know... I am also learning”. Then knowledge or the lack of it is no longer a threat to personal selfhood. There is no reinforcing of a false centre. Only in the relationship of learning together between teacher and student is there a release of creative energy. Then learning has an integral quality.
Krishnamurti had tried hard to convey the feeling that all these schools are ‘one school’. We do not become one school by creating a common authority at the top. We may become one school only through a meeting of minds. Living, working and questioning together, a oneness, a feeling of learning together can grow from grassroots upwards.
But, as we know, this is easier said than done. We speak of the awakening of intelligence and the flowering of goodness as the intent of our schools. Rather than be superficially stimulated by these ‘ideas’ and try out methodologies to ‘make it happen’ for students, can we begin by looking into the mirror ourselves? Do we have the desire to be honest? Can we be non-aggressive and non-invasive in our approach to ourselves and others? We often make unreasonable demands on others for support of our views, when we quarrel with another teacher, or for justifying why we have been harsh with children; or for making the unspoken statement that ‘there is no other way of handling children’. And so with our preconceived bundle of views and opinions, we actively interfere in everything around us.
Can we understand where such reactions and responses spring from? Is there a deep-seated dependency in us—on the approval of others, on a feeling of power and personal achievement? Are we secure enough in ourselves not to have the need to prove ourselves or take self-righteous stands? Perhaps it is in discovering the capacity to be alone, independent and non-divisive, that we begin to learn to live together and a measure of wholeness enters into our relationships.
At the conference we reminded ourselves that we are not concerned only with the classroom, or the school community, but also with the world at large. The children link us to the world. Through them we are answerable to society and the world. We must see schools as being at the heart of society, for schools are responsible for shaping the new generation. Is not the degeneration which is now evident in society linked to a lack of the right kind of schools?
What would give shape and substance to the right kind of schools? Our concerns today need to be global in nature. Can we grow in the awareness that the deterioration of the planet, the wars that ravage human societies, and the anguish of every human being is our concern? Can I, as a teacher and a human being, see that every thought and feeling, every action is consequential? Could this be the wellspring and the touchstone for the creation of the right kind of school?
The teachers’ gathering takes place every year. We come together from all over the country, meet old friends and make new ones. We may exult in the stimulus provided by the change in routine and penetrating inquiry. For some of us the questions asked are as vital as life and death, and continue to throb in themind even after we get back to our own routines.
And we may then ask, do we carry within ourselves the awareness that the intent of the schools is the same as the ‘intent’ of our own lives. Have we from time immemorial been searching for ‘something beyond the materialistic world, something sacred...’?
* The afternoons were devoted to a series of parallel academicsessions in which issues of curriculum and teaching methods werediscussed intensively over the three days. The broad groupingswere: Science, Mathematics, Languages, Junior School, SocialSciences and Art. Reports for each of these have been sent to thevarious KFI schools.
WHY are those tears in your eyes, my child?
How horrid of them to be always scolding you for nothing!
You have stained your fingers and face with ink while writing—is that why they call you dirty?
O, fie! Would they dare to call the full moon dirty
because it has smudged its face with ink?
For every little trifle they blame you, my child. They
are ready to find fault for nothing.
You tore your clothes while playing—is that why
they call you untidy?
O, fie! What would they call an autumn morning
that smiles through its ragged clouds?
[From ‘Crescent Moon’ Rabindranath Tagore]