'Academic excellence is absolutely necessary, but a school includes much more than that...' J Krishnamurti
One of the great challenges of providing a Krishnamurti education within the context of an independent tuition-based school (especially here in America), is balancing accountability for academic excellence with all that is entailed in what he considered to be 'much more than that'. As most people familiar with his teachings know, Krishnamurti did not leave a blueprint or methodology for teaching and this has been, over the years, both freeing and sometimes frustrating to a number of teachers working in these schools. Freeing, in that teachers have been able to go about developing curriculum and choosing teaching strategies in a fairly autonomous way; frustrating in that sometimes teachers have requested more guidelines, more advice, more clarity on what exactly and how exactly they are supposed to be ensuring that 'academic excellence' is a reality and still include 'much more than that'. Parents and students often request more clarity on this point, too.
In the 2008—2009 school year Oak Grove School faculty took on the challenge of exploring whether we could come up with a framework, one with enough fluidity not to be considered a method, but which could help current as well as incoming teachers at the school develop or choose their curriculum and classroom practices with the context of a Krishnamurti school.
Our first challenge was to find out where to begin such an effort? Well, obviously it needed to start with the teachers themselves, creating many opportunities for dialogue and discussion. So we sat down together - teachers across the grade levels in small groups - and after reviewing the intent and philosophy of the School (as written by Krishnamurti himself), we began to brainstorm answers to the question: What are the expected school-wide learning objectives? Our initial lists included hundreds of answers! So then began the work of grouping, narrowing and getting more specific, till we eventually got down to about ten to twelve.
Our next challenge was: What do we call these objectives? We wanted language that indicated an approach rather than a method, language that inherently conjured up openness and fluidity. We wanted this framework, for lack of a better word, to be akin to something like the water cycle; the cycle itself - evaporation, condensation, precipitation - is constant but the water passing through it is forever fresh and changing. We bandied about terms like practices, objectives, goals and tossed them all out feeling that they sounded too concrete. Finally, someone said, “What about arts?” and everyone seemed to simultaneously have an “aha” moment!
In the end we developed a document called The Art of Living and Learning.
The Art of Living and Learning
Oak Grove students learn to use their minds, their bodies, and their hearts well because the overarching themes expressed in the Art of Living and Learning are embedded in the school's culture, curriculum, classroom practice, and expectations of student learning. Oak Grove School is a living, learning community and therefore these 'arts' should not be perceived as fixed but dynamic in nature and in a constant state of review.
- The Art of Inquiry (observation, questioning, fact-finding, research, self-reflection)
- The Art of Communication (speaking, writing, listening)
- The Art of Academia (knowledge and application of academic standards, conventions, and disciplines in core subject areas)
- The Art of Engagement (attention, self-direction, self-motivation, self-regulation, meta-cognition or learning how one learns, examining one's own thinking)
- The Art of Aesthetics (sensitivity and appreciation of beauty in all forms of life and the arts, finding the artist within, artistic expression)
- The Art of Caring and Relationship:
- Self (self-understanding and awareness, making healthy choices)
- Others (self-reflection and awareness in relationship, non-violent communication, service to the common good)
- Local and Global Communities (service and citizenship)
- The Environment (sensitivity and mindful stewardship)
Our current challenge is for teachers to determine what these arts look like at various grade levels and/or subject areas. What does inquiry look like to a preschool student, for example, or to a middle school student studying a science, or a high school student studying American history? Then, what specific teaching strategies can be applied to a curriculum in order to ensure exposure to these arts? How do our extracurricular offerings support these arts? How does our own behavior, teaching style, relationship with the students influence the arts? And finally, how will we know if students are making progress toward the ultimate aims of the arts?
There are many more questions! But this continues to be an exciting and inspiring process for our faculty as we go deeper into this exploration.