By Will Hornblower

Across the Oak Grove campus, parents and staff have been discussing strategies to improve the way that adults connect and communicate with children. Over the course of three workshops, we brainstormed ways to help students develop resilience, autonomy, and rapport with adults.

We started by posing a question to a gathering of the entire Oak Grove School staff and teachers: How should we talk to students at Oak Grove? This evolved into the obvious counterpoint: How shouldn’t we talk to students at Oak Grove? The teachers generated some excellent strategies. Here are some that might be of benefit in the home:

“The do’s” of adult-child communication:

Faculty and staff generated some “Do’s and Don’t’s” on how we communicate with children on campus.

  • Body language equals words: show children that you are giving them your full attention by engaging in active listening. Here is a link to some active listening advice for those interested in practicing at home.
  • Use “I” messages to communicate your feelings. Communicate your feelings honestly, and encourage children to communicate their feelings using “I messages” as well.
  • When praising a child, praise the process and not the person or result. Instead of saying, “You are so good at math!“, try saying, “I like the way you tried all kinds of strategies on that math problem until you finally got it.” Here is more information on recent research on the effects of different types of praise in encouraging a growth mindset.

“The do not’s” of adult-child communication:

  • Avoid making assumptions or leaping to conclusions when communicating with children. Often, we are only projecting our own anxiety onto the child. In her wonderful book, Peaceful Parent, Happy KidsDr. Laura Markham writes: “When we are worried, we usually feel an urgent need to take action. That alleviates our own anxiety but doesn’t necessarily give the child what he needs. So the first intervention is always becoming aware of and regulating our own emotions.”
  • Avoid comparisons when your child is within earshot, especially comparisons to siblings. Kids are always interested in what adults have to say about them, and this can shape their own feelings of self-worth.

Strategies for Elementary Students

Every time you talk to a child you are adding a brick to define the relationship that is being built between the two of you. And each message says something to the child about what you think of him. He gradually builds up a picture of how you perceive him as a person. Talk can be constructive to the child and to the relationship or it can be destructive. – Thomas Gordon

Our first parent education workshop discussed communication strategies for younger students to help them develop resilience, autonomy, and executive function. Here are some strategies that we came up with:

Routines and rituals that help to encourage connection and communication:

Calming your child during moments of extreme anxiety or agitation:

Strategies to use when your child is struggling with his/her social or academic life:

Here are some helpful resources that we distributed during the workshop:


Strategies for Secondary Students

As parents, our need is to be needed; as teenagers their need is not to need us. This conflict is real; we experience it daily as we help those we love become independent of us.  – Dr. Haim G. Ginott

Our second parent education workshop discussed communication strategies for older students to help them retain healthy attachments and strong connections with their parents and caregivers:

Routines and rituals that help to encourage connection and communication:

  • Electronics-free times such as meals or even encouraging an entire screen-free day.
  • Sharing common interests and hobbies: sometimes conversations flow better when engaged in a common task like cooking, hiking, or surfing.
  • Game nights and playing music together.
  • Going out on a one-on-one “date night.”
  • Being enthusiastic at child’s sports and performance events.

Approaching difficult conversations such as discussions on sex, substance abuse, or peer conflict

  • Using facts and discussing current research as opposed to voicing opinions. A calm demeanor and positive body language also help to avoid activating a child’s defense response.
  • Using movies, tv shows, or current events as teachable moments or to discuss sensitive issues.
  • Talking about issues in abstract terms or using another person’s experience as opposed to asking personal questions.
  • Do not make assumptions about your child’s views on alcohol, sex, or other sensitive topics.
  • Have a plan for when your child asks you about your own teenage experiences.
  • Choose your moment to have a conversation; don’t “ambush” your child with a difficult conversation.

Strategies around electronics use to avoid miscommunication and to promote connection

Here are some helpful resources that we distributed during the workshop:


Here is a link to a schedule of our upcoming parent education workshops.

From the Head of School

 

The intention of Oak Grove School was established by our founder, J. Krishnamurti. He communicated this intention through dialogues, talks, and written works, most explicitly in Letters to the Schools, which he wrote from 1978 to 1981. Although Krishnamurti shared a great deal on the topic of education, he intentionally did not leave a blueprint, nor did he give any individual or school the authority to interpret his teachings for others.

The purpose of Oak Grove School, as inspired by the teachings of Krishnamurti, is to provide functional knowledge while simultaneously honoring each student’s innate intelligence with the goal of realizing human potential, not only for the individual’s sake, but for the sake of humanity.

Providing an excellent academic program is vital. One must learn to communicate well and be able to deeply explore maths, recognize great works of poetry and art, have a solid concept of world religions, geography, and science, develop skills in organization, use tools (physical and technological), be comfortable with public speaking, create and read music, and explore a somatic understanding of one’s body through sports, yoga, breathing, and dance. One must be able to develop proficiency in exploring the natural world and travel in cultures different from one’s own.

What, however, is required for the honoring of one’s innate intelligence? This aspect of our purpose is a bit more difficult to implement, as the teachings suggest there is no way or method. We approach this, therefore, with openness and inquiry, opportunities for self-reflection, silence, pure observation, physical and psychological space, stretching our comfort zone, exploring our relationship to nature, ourselves, others and the world. All this could be seen as within the realm of self-understanding as a way to awaken the individual child’s perfect intelligence.

Having a school without an explicit blueprint is an awesome challenge, which asks us to actively question and look at how we provide the opportunity to learn functional knowledge while at the same time exploring the intelligence within ourselves. It is a never-ending process of observation and inquiry.

“Education in our schools is not only the acquisition of knowledge but what is far more important – the awakening of intelligence which will then utilize knowledge. It is never the other way round. The awakening of intelligence is our concern in all these schools and the inevitable question then arises: how is this intelligence to be awakened? What is the system, what is the method, what is the practice? This very question implies that one is still functioning in the field of knowledge. The realization that it is a wrong question is the beginning of the awakening of intelligence. The practice, the method, the system in our daily life make for a matter of routine, a repetitive action and so a mechanical mind. The continuous movement of knowledge, however specialized, puts the mind into a groove, into a narrow way of life. To learn to observe and understand this whole structure of knowledge is to begin to awaken intelligence.”

Letters to the Schools, November 1, 1978

From the Head of School

 

On Friday our Junior High and High School students returned from the annual Secondary School camping trip to El Capitán State Beach. Over several days, they surfed and kayaked in the ocean, participated in fireside talent shows, storytelling, and sing-alongs. As I shared here last year when our Seniors returned from India, Oak Grove trips offer our students opportunities to grow and learn in ways not possible in a classroom.

Beginning in Kindergarten, immersive trips enhance learning through direct hands-on experiences that are central to the Oak Grove experience. Kindergarten students practice spending the night at “school,” but still as a family and on the school campus, somewhere familiar and safe. Then in early Elementary, the camp-out moves away to Carpinteria, first with parents, then the following year, without parents. The students practice being with teachers and peers away from home, but geographically close. In Upper Elementary, the focus is on going to places further away with more physically challenging activities: group bike rides, longer hikes, and bouldering. Then they are off to our local forest carrying their own packs, swimming in water holes, and out of cell phone range. In Junior High, students travel by plane to other states to sleep in teepees, to river raft, and study glacier science. By High School, the students are ready to take 6-10 day treks through the forest and Southwest without contacting parents.

Each trip offers new opportunities for the student to engage with nature, learn to pack only the essentials to keep the pack light, respect the natural environment, stay on the trail, pack in and pack out what they bring, stretch beyond their comfort zone and practice survival skills. The trips are increasingly challenging physically and require a deepening psychological preparedness.

These trips, however, are not just for our students. These trips are also for parents.

From the moment of birth our children begin growing away from us. Each moment brings new opportunities for children to gain confidence in their ability to be separate, for parents to trust that the child is capable of separating, and for both to trust that this separation is natural and safe. These trips allow the child and parent an ever-increasing practice in separating.

There are things that cannot be learned conceptually—digging a hole in the wilderness to go to the bathroom, overcoming a fear of water or heights, pushing ourselves physically beyond what our mind believes is possible (just one more step), and, perhaps the most difficult of them all, letting a child grow away from us.

 

From the Head of School

All of the Krishnamurti schools are located on large campuses of great natural beauty, with austere but comfortable classrooms. This is partly because the schools share an emphasis on relationship with and care for the natural world.

Yesterday at the May Gathering, a panel of students presented their experiences attending Oak Grove School, as it relates to its emphasis on a relationship with nature. The students ranged in age from elementary through high school, and included a former student. The panelists were thoughtful and articulate. They spoke eloquently about the importance of keeping Oak Grove’s campus natural and open with just a few rustic buildings. They shared their school experiences exploring the local meadows, ocean, rivers and forest. They spoke about traveling to the Grand Tetons, Zion Park, and India. Their stories were vivid and one could feel the sincerity in their words.

Most profoundly, perhaps, was each student’s ability to articulate our collective responsibility to care for the natural world from which we, as humans, are not separate.

“The death of a tree is beautiful in its ending, unlike man’s. A dead tree in the desert, stripped of its bark, polished by the sun and the wind, all its naked branches open to the heavens, is a wondrous sight. A great redwood, many, many hundreds of years old, is cut down in a few minutes to make fences, seats, and build houses or enrich the soil in the garden. The marvellous giant is gone. Man is pushing deeper and deeper into the forests, destroying them for pasture and houses. The wilds are disappearing. There is a valley, whose surrounding hills are perhaps the oldest on earth, where cheetahs, bears and the deer one once saw have entirely disappeared, for man is everywhere. The beauty of the earth is slowly being destroyed and polluted. Cars and tall buildings are appearing in the most unexpected places. When you lose your relationship with nature and the vast heavens, you lose your relationship with man.”

J. Krishnamurti, Krishnamurti Foundation Trust Bulletin 56, 1989

 

In many cultures, graduation from High School is seen as the most significant threshold moment marking the transition from childhood to adulthood. On June 6, 2018, we were given the opportunity to bear witness to this significant symbolic event for 10 young adults who completed their Oak Grove education. Please enjoy hearing directly from each graduate in the videos below.

Our class of 2018 consisted of ten students. The nine who applied to four-year colleges and universities have collectively been accepted into 37 schools. This is an average of four acceptances per student and this average is not unusual for Oak Grove seniors. The schools (listed below) include major public universities and colleges, independent and public liberal arts colleges, and specialized art schools. While this is impressive, and we joyfully celebrate this accomplishment with our students, it is also important to know that it is not our objective to have all of our graduates go directly from high school to a four-year college.

Class of 2018 college acceptances: Bennington College, Butler University, California College of the Arts, Cal Lutheran, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Long Beach, Chico State University, Case Western Reserve, Colorado College, Colorado Springs College, DePauw University, Goucher College, Humboldt State, Lewis and Clark, LIM College, Northeastern University, Otis College of Art and Design, Pacific University, Portland State, Pratt Institute, San Diego State University, San Francisco State University, Sierra Nevada College, Sonoma State University, Towson University, University of British Columbia, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz, University of Kansas, University of Oklahoma, University of Puget Sound, University of Utah, Willamette University.

Introduction by Jodi Grass, Head of School

Music performance by the 2018 graduating class

Nathan Wu

Ophena De La Rosa

Bryce Brewer

Sydney Stump

Jackson Mitchell

Isabella Xiong

Sycamore Mitchell

McKenna Lynch

Peter Hu

Grace Story

Jennifer Thompson, Senior Advisor

Conferment of Diplomas

 

From the Head of School

At the deepest level of our mission is the notion that if one is intrinsically motivated, not striving for external stature, for fame, for wealth, one would clearly understand the connection between one’s actions and all of life. One would understand there is nowhere else to be, but where one finds oneself now. One would naturally reveal one’s personal talents and thrive. Krishnamurti referred to this idea as “flowering in goodness.”  Here, in this place of completeness, we understand that it is in the ordinary moments that we find the extraordinary.

This idea reminds me of what William Martin writes in the “The Parents’ Tao Te Ching.”

 

“Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

 

Another excerpt states …

 

“If you always compare your children’s abilities to those of great athletes, entertainers, and celebrities, they will lose their own power. If you urge them to acquire and achieve, they will learn to cheat and steal to meet your expectations. Encourage you children’s deepest joys, not their superficial desires. Praise their patience, not their ambition. Do not value the distractions and diversions that masquerade as success. They will learn to hear their own voice instead of the noise of the crowd.”

 

You can find out more about William Martin’s book here.

From the Head of School

A few years ago, we lost a huge oak tree near the Pavilion. Losing this tree was a particular hardship as it provided a perfectly-situated screen to the arc path of the spring sun. Spring is when we have many large assemblies and performances. Without the oak, the glare and heat of the sun becomes extreme for both those on stage and those sitting in the audience. After careful consideration, we decided to plant another oak where the previous one had been. To promote faster growth, we planted a nurse tree next to it. A nurse tree, if you don’t already know, is a larger, faster-growing tree that shelters a small, slower-growing tree. The nurse tree can provide shade, shelter from wind, or protection from animals. Our nurse tree is a Tipu Tipu. This morning, I noticed how tall and strong both trees have become. It almost appears that the oak is leaning or reaching toward its Tipu Tipu nurse. I began thinking about what a lovely metaphor this partnership offers.

During the month of December, even whilst navigating the chaos and trauma caused by the fire, Oak Grove received generous financial gifts from parents, alumni, staff, and our philosophical donors. It is so clear that these financial gifts allow our school to strengthen and grow in a way that would not be possible otherwise. So much of what has been done over the past few years has been possible from these ever-growing gifts.

 

Oak Grove recently received an extraordinary art collection from the estate of David Rodriguez. Mr. Rodriguez was an art teacher at the American International Secondary School in Germany and early on developed a lifelong interest in art. Mr. Rodriguez first heard Krishnamurti speak at Saanen, Switzerland in the mid-1960s. Mark Lee recalls meeting David throughout many decades at various Krishnamurti talks in India, Switzerland, England, and in the United States.

The rather large collection contains fine art, Tibetan antiquities, folk-art, and other artifacts from around the world. Some items are of sentimental value, while others are relatively precious. It was David’s expressed wish that Oak Grove maintain the collection as a whole and requested we not sell or donate any or all of the collection. We are hoping that the collection will serve an educational purpose —  introducing our students to art they may otherwise not have encountered — and at the same time raising profound questions about the role of art in the world, the relationship between art and religious ideas, and practical questions about how art is preserved and displayed.

With this educational purpose in mind, and in considering how to best understand and display the collection, we hired Oak Grove alumna Liza Shapiro, who has her own collections care and management company. Liza graduated from Oak Grove in 2006. Since then, she studied art restoration and art history at Lorenzo De’ Medici, Florence, Italy, Art Conservation at Camberwell College of Art, London, and Museum Studies at University College London.

Liza has broad experience in London’s foremost museums and galleries, including the Victoria and Albert Museum and Tate Modern, where she assisted in the Exhibition and Conservation departments. She also worked at the Redfern Gallery as a studio assistant and at Paul Stolper gallery supporting a Damien Hirst exhibition. Additionally, Liza worked for Lock & Co. as an Exhibition Registrar. Liza has recently relocated to Los Angeles, where she currently manages and cares for private art collections.

Liza has catalogued the collection we received and is working closely with Oak Grove staff to determine the best way to share and protect this generous and thoughtful legacy gift. Some of the less valuable artifacts may be displayed at the campus for students and others to enjoy, while the more precious items will likely be loaned to museums that have the ability to properly care for them while making them available to a larger audience.

A legacy gift of this magnitude has a large impact on a small school like Oak Grove. To honor this gift and the desires of the late Mr. David Rodriguez, we are working to preserve his collection and make it available for many years to come.

 

View this article in the 2016/17 Annual Report.

 

More about David: 
David Evan Rodriguez was born on July 1, 1933, in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Lane Technical High School, where he took art classes in oil and watercolor painting. After enrolling in Saturday classes at the Art Institute of Chicago, he was granted a four-year scholarship, where he completed a BA in Art Education.

Pursuing his interest in teaching, David moved to Berlin in the early ‘70s, where he served as an art teacher at the Berlin American Elementary (Thomas A. Toberts) School and then at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK). David’s eclectic group of friends included the German artist Eberhard Franke, with whom he had a close friendship that spanned decades. When David retired and moved to Florida, the two men kept in touch through many long letters and postcards. Through these letters, one gets a deep sense of David as a human being and friend: kind, loyal, caring, and profoundly intelligent.

David Rodriguez traveled throughout the world, to Europe, North and South America, and India, where he became familiar with J. Krishnamurti, whom he met several times. At one of Krishnamurti’s talks in Switzerland, David met Mark Lee, the first Director of Oak Grove School. After traveling to the Rishi Valley School in India, where he saw Mark once again, David decided to make the trip to Ojai, where he discovered the beauty of Oak Grove School. Feeling a deep connection to Krishnamurti, David believed that the school would be the ideal place to bequeath his extensive art collection so that he could continue to inspire students.

David Rodriguez was an independent, free thinker whose unique art collection includes Asian antiquities, paintings, prints, and many of his own artworks. Oak Grove is deeply grateful to have the opportunity to house his art collection, with hopes to inspire the students and community for many years to come.

Run for the Hills – 5K RUN

Kick off Earth Week, Sunday, April 15, at Oak Grove School. This is a community event to benefit the OVLC hillside restoration efforts.

  • Half mile run for kids at 9:30am
  • 5K campus trail run at 10:00am

This family-friendly event will include numerous schools from the Ojai Valley. The 5K course will span Oak Grove School property.

After completing the run, stay and enjoy our post-race community activities:

Music • Yoga • Food Trucks • Environmental Speakers • Student Booths • Leisure Games • Chalk4Peace • and more

Hosted by the Green Schools Student Collective: Besant Hill School, Thacher School, Oak Grove School.
Proceeds benefiting local hillside restoration efforts by the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy.

 

UPDATE: May 20, 2018

In a follow-up from last month’s Run for the Hills fundraiser, the high school students, as part of the Green Schools Student Collective, along with the help of teachers and volunteers, raised over $4,500. The proceeds will benefit the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy.

This event and the Seed Propagation Project that was initiated earlier in the year are an ongoing effort by our student community to help restore the surrounding hills following the Thomas fire.

Transcript of Speech given by Simone Noble

Good Morning everyone. My name is Simone Noble. My two children attend this school – Jonah is in 8th grade and Danielle is in 5th grade. This is their third year as Oak Grove School students.

Jonah and Danielle may tell you that I annoy them by following them around with a camera … not all the time of course but I do see a value in capturing those moments that may seem ordinary to them, but they will remember as contributing to the rich fabric of their lives. I hope that in this beautiful valley we are creating a life they will look back on as worthwhile … and no matter where they choose to travel or live in the world, they will feel a tug for the soft light, long days, and simplicity of easy friendship. And just in case they don’t, they will have some photographs to remind them.

When we evacuated Ojai just weeks ago, it was an easy choice to take the few photo albums from my own childhood in South Africa. These albums don’t contain any works of art; the glue is peeling and the pictures are of a poor quality by today’s standards. But what they do contain is a legacy of family, and proof that there were happy moments; and parents who loved their kids; and grandparents who were present; and Sunday afternoons just hanging out together.

One of the photographs on those yellowing pages is of my sister and myself as very young children playing in an inflatable kiddie pool. Sitting next to us is a woman in her sixties, smiling with her arms outstretched should either of us need help in the three inches of water.  Her name was Robbie and she was a much older friend of my mother, who had fostered a special friendship with me. She took me swimming to the public pool and I loved spending time in her bachelor apartment because the bedroom and kitchen were in the same room, that overlooked the Atlantic ocean, and I knew no-one else who lived like that. She taught me many things including how to stretch my body and about a country called Switzerland that she would visit each year. She talked about healthy food and the value of eating a baked potato every day. I didn’t realize it at the time but Robbie was also teaching my mom, specifically about yoga and vegetarianism. My parents, as a result, adopted this lifestyle for many years, which was pretty progressive in South Africa in the 70’s. Although their own practices changed eventually, those teachings continue to define my own life. Robbie was not part of my life for very long but I always remembered her and would think of her sporadically.

Some almost 40 years later I was looking to depart from the life we had been living in Cleveland, Ohio, for a new start that felt more authentic to who I was, and the aspirations I had for raising Jonah and Danielle.  In search of some breathing room, I rented a little cottage in Ojai for a month one summer and brought the kids out for a change of scenery and sunshine. I enrolled them in a science and surfing camp that Oak Grove was offering.

To say I was enthralled with the campus would be an understatement. I was captivated by the energy of the school, by the beauty and the softness. I felt held in a way I couldn’t explain walking on this land … and I remember thinking that it would be an absolute dream for the kids to attend school here and then thinking of the impossibility of it all. I won’t bore you with the details of how we got from A to B, other than to say it was not without an enormous amount of compromise, upheaval, and sacrifice that I am forever grateful for. Pragmatically, it made no sense but the pull was so strong that we had to try it out. By the time the next school year started, the kids were enrolled as Oak Grove students.

They had been at the school for about six months when my mom came to visit from Cape Town. When we brought her to the school she pointed to a picture and said, “oh look, that is Krishnamurti.” Confused, I asked her how she possibly would know who Krishnamurti was. I had never heard her mention his name before and I hadn’t read his work until I had discovered Oak Grove, and I consider myself better versed in these matters than my mom. She explained, of course, that Robbie had been a devout follower of Krishnamurti – visiting Switzerland each year and introducing her to yoga and vegetarianism. Until that moment I had never connected those dots. But in an instant it all made sense. A circle closed. A circle closed across space and time. Of course, it made perfect sense that here I was living in Ojai and picking kids up from the school founded by Krishnamurti.

So that is the thing about this school. It has a magic for some of us. Being here is like stepping behind the veil in a way. It doesn’t always make practical sense but it feels perfectly right.  

I sometimes watch my kids walk down the path to their classrooms, passing the pepper tree planted by Krishnamurti and the flowers planted by Jake and the lavender and the gorgeous mulberry tree, and I wonder how much they appreciate and notice, and whether they understand how unusual their school days are. But that doesn’t really matter because they are learning a way of living and engaging in the world that feeds the soul in the ordinary moments just by being present.

So just as when I photograph them in those ordinary moments at home, my hope is that wherever they live one day and whatever career or lifestyle they choose, they will carry with them an intuitive knowing of a way to live that makes sense. The practice of living in the present, and usually ordinary moments.  A slowing down, a deeper listening, a kinder word, a lighter step, an honoring of themselves and others … all in the very present moment. And that is why Jonah and Danielle, are Oak Grove Students.

 

View the 2018 Tea video