Humans are social animals. Does the quantity and quality of our social relationships impact our state of health, future risk of disease, and our life span?  Are the effects of relationships via social media the same or different from those of in-person relationships? Please join our presenter Dr. Pathik Wadhwa in a discussion that will touch on the biological and behavioral science behind social relationships, both in-person and virtual.

Former Head of School, Meredy Benson Rice, now the Director of Teaching and Learning spoke about her personal journey as an educator and how students experience education at Oak Grove School as part of the 2015 Do Lecture Series.

If you were not able to join us for this timely Parent Education event, or would like to review, we have provided this recording of  parenting expert Dolly Klock’s  special presentation on the challenge of finding a balance between screen life and real life. The recording includes attending parents’ Q&A.

To make Unplug Day more festive for our students and staff, we are embracing a theme – School Day in 1984. We invite our students to join our staff and dress as if it were the 1980’s! Parent Council will add to our celebration by creating a “1984 Museum” in the Gazebo, where students will see items like VCRs, Reebok high-tops, cassette tapes, and rubix cubes.

Like so many annual events that have been adjusted this year, our annual High School Winter Showcase went virtual.

The 2020 Peace Day Universal Declaration, as set forth by the United Nations, reads: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person.” Rather than holding an all-school event on our campus, as we have done in previous years, over the last week our teachers have been celebrating this year’s Peace Day within the classroom curriculum. Although an anti-bias curriculum is woven throughout everyday learning at Oak Grove, teachers are dedicating more explicit time to anti-bias activities and discussions.

Our anti-bias approach to curriculum aligns with Krishnamurti’s directive to examine our own conditioning. Given the depth and complicated nature of the problem, looking at how we (I) actively engage in image-making, biases, and prejudices, it takes courage and vulnerability to confront these issues in an educational setting.

The idea is not that we rid ourselves of biases, which is likely not possible, but for each of us to understand our own thinking. We must understand our own conditioning, how our own biases, our own image-making, contributes to conflict, to the suffering of others.

For children to grow aware of, even resistant to, conditioning, they must feel safe and understood. They must be able to ask practical and perennial questions alike, engage in rigorous intellectual explorations, and nurture the awareness of being sensitive to the world outside them, as well as the world within. Once we understand our own thinking, we are able to see how that thinking can unconsciously guide our actions.

As eloquently stated by John Lewis, “We in the movement decided to actualize our belief that the hatred we experienced was not based on any truth, but was actually an illusion in the minds of those who hated us.” Without justice there can be no peace.

See what Krishnamurti has said about image-making.

Our first Parent Education workshop in the series of the year looked a little different, but the content was equally  impactful. Organized and facilitated by High School history teacher Will Hornblower, Parent Education Workshops have been an incredible resource, and have recently been made available to the greater community.

On Thursday, May 28, 2020, the Ojai Chautauqua formed a panel to discuss this question in front of a live streaming audience.

In the words of the Agora Foundation: These are unprecedented times, and it’s unclear whether the worst is behind us. A vast majority of schools, at every educational level, have ceased on-site programs for the remainder of the school year. Many schools are also hesitant to set any definite plans for fall 2020, with so much still uncertain. In the meantime, most public and private institutions have moved to online learning and alternative approaches, with varying levels of success.

What is the best thinking in online learning, and where are schools finding success? How are institutions looking at structural change in order to stay viable and effective? How are leaders thinking about the future intersection of K-12 and higher education? How will fields that have in-person practicum requirements fulfill their training? What are schools that rely on international students planning to do next school year? Will job training reorient to high-demand fields on a national scale?

Panelists:

Jodi Grass – Head of Oak Grove School
Erika Beck – President of CSU Channel Islands
Paul Lazenby – Director of Mother of Divine Grace School
Tiffany Morse – Superintendent of Ojai Unified School District
Moderator: Tom Krause, Board President of the Agora Foundation

Ojai Chautauqua (external link)

It is the end of the semester and a time when our students share what they have been working on in class. In core academic subjects, learning might be expressed through presentations, reports, fairs, project engagements, and tests. In the arts, learning is shared through performances and exhibitions.

At Oak Grove, performing, presenting, or displaying art are simply aspects of the process of learning, not the end purpose. Beginning in preschool, art and music are fundamental aspects of every school day. The art curriculum is focused on functional knowledge, engagement, and personal creative expression. Understanding music is focused on genres like euro-classical, jazz, contemporary, rock, funk, etcetera, while practicing tempo, rhythm, beat, pitch, movement, and the principles of composition. Students explore the many fields of art including crafts, ceramics, fine art, and photography.

Students don’t take required prerequisites or compete to participate in music and art. Regardless of skill or experience, students are stretched beyond their natural inclination and given the opportunity to participate in all art forms. This gives students the chance to more fully express themselves and become more integrated.

Self-understanding is at the core of the school’s philosophy. Art and music are a fundamental way to deepen self-reflection and offer new forms of creative expression. Communicating through the paintbrush, song lyric, or somatically can add to one’s agency.

When it is time to share what has been learned in the arts, we watch in awe. Dancers, who have never taken a single dance class before this past September, amaze us with their vulnerability and graceful synchronistic choreography. Artists, using many media forms, display Hatch/Hanson/Rosulek-inspired delicate ceramics, abstracted landscape photography, and color scale paintings. Woodworkers, having just learned how to use power and hand tools, showcase live-edge wooden tables, sculpture, skate ramp, and park benches. Journalists, some with English as a second language, fill an eight-page newspaper with deeply personal reflections and relevant investigative reporting. Every student has the opportunity to be a musician, an athlete, an artist, a scholar, while not being limited by any or all of these narrow concepts of identity.

— Jodi Grass, Head of School

“To me, the true artist is one who lives completely, harmoniously, who does not divide his art from living, whose very life is that expression, whether it be a picture, music, or his behavior; who has not divorced his expression on a canvas or in music or in stone from his daily conduct, daily living. That demands the highest intelligence, highest harmony. To me the true artist is the man who has that harmony. He may express it on canvas, or he may talk, or he may paint; or he may not express it at all, he may feel it. But all this demands that exquisite poise, that intensity of awareness, and therefore his expression is not divorced from the daily continuity of living.”

— J. Krishnamurti

The nature of the conversation was argumentative, but there was a sense of affection between us. The vibrant voice on the other end of the phone was persistently posing questions, “What is the self?” “How are the students going to ask these questions?” “What is the point of understanding a self that doesn’t, in fact, exist?”

This particular conversation went on for 90 minutes or so. I held the phone to my ear as I paced around the lobby of the Georgia World Congress Center during the National Association of Independent Schools conference in Atlanta. It was March of 2018. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the last conversation I had with Steve Worden, long-time donor and friend to Oak Grove School, friend to me.

In May of 2018, we received a certified letter from Steve’s lawyer, notifying us of his death.

I first spoke with Steve in 2011. He called to inquire about purchasing books through our publishing company. For the next several years, we spoke regularly (every five weeks or so). Most of our conversations would go on for more than an hour, sometimes more than two hours. Our conversations were heated and intense. He received the KFA and OGS printed publications and would share many criticisms and questions about what he read. Steve was an incredibly intelligent man and had deep concerns about humanity. Krishnamurti and David Bohm each had a profound impact on Steve’s understanding of things, and he wanted to make sure the school was integrating these teachings within the program.

Steve had no digital footprint, and we never met in person. Early on in our conversations, he began referring to me as “sir.” He explained that this would ensure a sense of depersonalization to our communications. In cooperation, I too referred to Steve as “sir” – when I could remember.

We would talk, and often disagree, about something he read or a Krishnamurti talk he heard. Most notably, Steve expressed concern that Oak Grove was not providing enough time or space for students, parents, and staff to ask the deepest questions. He expressed frustration about that in nearly every phone call.  

Although he worked to depersonalize our connection, the humanness came through. Often our phone conversations would begin or end with Steve saying something like, “Did your husband stay safe during that recent fire?” or “Take care of your daughters,” or “Be careful when you drive up north.”

When Steve died, he bequeathed Oak Grove the sum total of his estate, which included his ashes. To honor Steve, we built the Reflective Classroom in his memory. This classroom will serve all members of the community as a place for reflective practices, including dialogue, meditation, journal writing, mindfulness, and silence.

This past week, the Oak Grove School Board held a modest dedication of the completed classroom. Afterward, each class, one at a time, had an opportunity to visit. As they waited to enter, Jacqueline Valle shared how students and adults will enter the classroom — in silence, shoeless, and without electronics, food, or drinks. Once inside, I had the opportunity to sit with the students and explain the intention of the space, answer their questions, and share my gratitude for Steve and the other people who made the space possible. 

Students from preschool through 12th grade expressed a feeling of peacefulness and calmness as they sat in the room. Some asked if they could visit when they feel sad or overwhelmed. One high school student even asked if he could do his homework in the classroom. There were also questions about why we chose that location or how the windows were installed. There was an overwhelming shared feeling of happiness and gratitude. 

Thank you, Sir. 

— Jodi Grass, Head of School