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.”
“First Dialogue with Teachers at Rishi Valley”