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.

Early in the morning on Wednesday, April 8, three weeks after we first moved the entire school to remote learning, we held our first remote (Zoom) student council meetings. As the High School Student Council advisor, I anticipated their agenda to include big topics like prom and spring showcase which, I believed, would incite difficult conversations with disappointing realities. I considered how I might console and encourage the students.  

When I reviewed the agenda, however, I saw something different. Don’t get me wrong, prom was a discussion item, yet it was framed as “ideas for virtual prom.” Amazingly, our students had already moved to problem-solving. What really caught my heart, however, were items like “ways to support the school” and “ways to support the community.” 

I found out later that similar discussions happened at the Elementary and Middle School Student Council meetings as well. Each group of students initiated plans to help those less fortunate and to support their schoolmates with individual handwritten notes and small gifts that would be sent home. Elementary Student Council members initiated collecting food for those less fortunate. The Middle School Student Council decided to look into the needs of local animals during this crisis. 

As early as April 10, each council had plans for reaching out to every student in the program they represent, and all three student councils were working together to plan a food drive to support the food insecure in our community. Since that time, the students have collected two rounds of food, as well as items needed for animals at the Humane Society. 

On Friday, the High School had a virtual prom. The officers of the HS Student Council sent each student individually curated and personalized invitations along with mini bundt cakes to be enjoyed remotely, but together, during prom. 

Helping others is an essential part of healthy development for children. Children develop compassion through acts of caring and kindness toward others; helping them to build competence and awareness of one’s relationship to others. It helps build self-efficacy in their role as a positive force in the world. Understanding one’s impact, helpful and not, is also a fundamental aspect of our school philosophy.

It is inspiring to witness our students reach beyond their personal disappointments to acknowledge how this crisis might be hurting others.

May 3, 2020
Jodi Grass, Head of School

Today, we welcome five administrators from other California independent schools, including Lick-Wilmerding High School, Presidio Knolls School, Westridge School for Girls, Village Christian School, and Trinity School. They are our Accreditation Visiting Committee, and they will be with us through Wednesday.

Oak Grove has a dual accreditation through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) as well as the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS). If you don’t already know how this works, an independent school, through an in-depth review process, is granted one-, three-, or seven-year accreditation status. The process begins with a 12-month self-study, which is broken into 16 chapters covering all aspects of the school, including curriculum, climate, finances, physical plant, human resources, administration, safety, and so much more. 

This is an amazing opportunity. This process assists us in reviewing what we say we do against what we actually do. Talk about mirrors! Even though seven years is the longest accreditation stretch offered through WASC/CAIS, Oak Grove is currently in our eighth year. We were supposed to be reviewed last year. However, on a glorious Saturday morning in 2018, I was sitting at my kitchen island replying to emails, and in popped a message from CAIS Accreditation Director, Mariana Robles. She explained that there were twice as many schools up for accreditation than usual and, since Oak Grove was in good standing, questioned if we would be open to pushing our self-study one more year. 

This was the quickest email I have ever written; I couldn’t reply fast enough! Within a couple of moments, Mariana replied back with, “Wow! That was a quick response! Thank you, Jodi, for being willing to help.” Ha! 

Beginning in January 2019, we began working intensely on our self-study, which included 93 committee members and a 12-month timeline. The self-study itself included 85 questions to be answered, along with oodles of “evidence” like financial data, enrollment and retention numbers, proof of best practices, curriculum scope and sequence, parent handbook, emergency procedures, teacher guidelines, on and on. 

One of the questions in the Education Program section asks, “Taking into account the future world in which the school anticipates that its students will be living, describe how the curriculum is informed by that vision.” This one is particularly interesting to me. Here’s why. Research strongly suggests that current employers and world leaders are looking for people who can solve complex problems with an ability to negotiate on a global level, often through conflicting cultural, social, and political ideology. People must have the ability to synthesize discordant ideas because the world’s interdependence is rapidly narrowing and these are skills that cannot be performed by a computer.  

Oak Grove’s academic program emphasizes critical and creative thinking to solve complex problems; the ability to collaborate with others, which requires clear communication, flexibility, cultural sensitivity, and deep listening skills. Throughout Oak Grove’s curricular and co-curricular programs, which are outlined in the Arts of Living and Learning, we incorporate a climate of inquiry, self-reflection, understanding through relationship, aesthetics, attention, metacognition, citizenship, and environmental stewardship.

The truth is, however, that Oak Grove is not focused on simply preparing our students for the world they will someday inhabit. We are honoring them as they are today in the world in which they live now. Yet perhaps most importantly, we are preparing our students to change that world for the better – not just for humans, but for all the world’s inhabitants. We already see this with our alums, like the ones highlighted in our many publications and the ones who are now Oak Grove parents and members of the faculty.

Krishnamurti once said, “A school, through its students, should bring a blessing to the world.”  This is a radical idea, and at its core, Oak Grove is a radical school. Aristotle talks about living a eudaimonic life, which is living a life of virtue and excellence, living our highest self. This might be similar to what Krishnamurti referred to as “flowering in goodness.” 

What is most significant about this concept isn’t the benefit to oneself, but how living this way is a benefit to others and therefore initiates an endless cycle of reciprocity. In many ways, in living life in this way, one is bringing a blessing to the world and therefore receiving this blessing.

Let’s enjoy this opportunity to share the vibrant learning of both student and teacher here at Oak Grove against the backdrop of beauty and serenity on our campus. 

Each Kindergarten student is taking a turn sharing a word that sums up their inward feeling. We are seated on meditation pillows on the floor of the Reflective Classroom. Some students have difficulty choosing just one word, “Happy, calm, and silly… well, just happy!” Another shares decisively without hesitation, “Sad.” My heart sinks a little. As we make our way around the circle, one child puts her hands on her heart, looks to the sky, and gently proclaims, “Wind.” Remarkable.

As I make my way through each classroom setting, I am sometimes invited to participate in a lesson, but for the most part, my role is to observe without engagement. I silently sit or move about the room as if hidden. The students indulge this intrusion and often seem happy to see me arrive. After a few moments, however, the students and teachers quickly settle back into the work at hand.

A few months ago, a particularly skilled host in the first grade brought me his chair and a book about sea life. He explained, “I actually like to stand at my desk. You will really enjoy this book.”

This past Friday morning, I watched as the High School Geometry class participated in an applied math lesson on indirect measure. Students fanned out across the east side of the campus to calculate the height of objects too high to measure by hand. Sitting back to enjoy the students’ soft laughter and active engagement was the perfect way to begin the day.

Watching second graders using manipulatives and working in pairs to count by 2s, 5s, and 10s, I witness firsthand the complex integration of academic learning and social development — the negotiation of taking turns, practicing listening, not being included, and not including.

To witness the vibrant learning of both student and teacher against the backdrop of beauty and serenity on our campus never seems ordinary to me.

I want him to be good at academics, otherwise present society will see that he’s destroyed. Right? So, please give me that first. Right? Then, I say to you, make him more… You follow? something much more than becoming a BA, PhD, and all that nonsense. He must have all that nonsense, but make him something much more. Can you? That’s all my question. Help him to become a holistic human being.”

— Krishnamurti
“First Dialogue with Teachers at Rishi Valley”
1985