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A school is a place for learning, and not just for our students. It includes an active learning environment for the adults, too. In addition to an emphasis on inquiry and self-reflection, which in and of itself supports a culture of learning, we also set aside time in our regular schedule for professional development, shared inquiry, and parent education, as well as targeted individual training and development for faculty and staff.

On most Wednesday afternoons, the faculty and staff meet to learn together. Two Wednesdays ago, the entire staff participated in an in-service around Peer Conflict. This past Wednesday, the faculty inquired together around the Intent of the School. On Friday, three of our Early Childhood Program teachers attended a workshop in Santa Monica on Materials and the 100 Languages of Children in the context of learning. Also recently, our K-8th grade teachers attended a Responsive Classroom training. Last month, a group of teachers and high school students attended the first annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth Summit at Thacher on Courage, Conscience, and Coalitions.

There is a significant amount of engagement, sharing, and learning with staff from other schools, too. I talk regularly with the Heads of Schools at many schools in Ojai and several in Santa Barbara; our admissions team talks with other admissions departments, communications with other communications staff, teachers with teachers, and so on. Several of our teachers have made recent visits to observe maths, science, and learning labs at local schools. I spent four days this past week visiting the Waverly School in Pasadena, serving on their accreditation team as part of my HOS duties as a dually accredited independent school. Although the intent is to closely examine the school in all its practices, culture, and governance, to recommend a term for accreditation, it is also an opportunity to take a deep look into how another school operates. Next month, three staff and two students will visit our sister schools outside of London — Brockwood Park School and the Inwoods School for Small Children.

Last Tuesday, parents of our Junior High students met with our High School teachers for a coffee mixer, as a way to get to know one another and to discuss questions about the High School. On Thursday, parents and teachers from Preschool-3rd grade met by the fire in Main House to discuss emergent questions around early childhood development. Upcoming all-school parent education topics include growth mindset, stress, and college.

Krishnamurti was clear about the teacher also being the learner, just as the student is the teacher. He intentionally added the parents into this purpose when founding Oak Grove School. On February 11, 1974, the day the school was officially announced, Krishnamurti said:

“And this school here, we have been discussing with the teachers, with the parents, and with the architects for the last two years. This school is entirely different from the other schools in India and England. Here the parents are involved in it, which is a new kind of experiment because if the children are going to be different then parents must also be different, otherwise there is a contradiction between the child and the parents, and there will be conflict between them. So to avoid all that we thought it would be right that the parents as well as the teachers and the students work together as a family unit.”

» You can also read this article in context: 2017-18 Annual Report

 

One of my most memorable experiences growing up in India was that my twin sister and I would travel to Chennai during the warm days and cool nights in December. It was something we waited for eagerly, as we would get to stay at the beautiful 250-acre land of the Theosophical Society in Adyar wherein my family would attend the international convention that happens every year. Each year the convention has a theme where theosophists and avid learners of various disciplines would converge to hear lectures and have wonderful discussions. For us as children, we would be in this wonderful environment of learning but mostly focused on play and I had no idea that it was subconsciously having a great impact on my inner child. A theme from the convention has stayed with me over the years, “where YOU are, love is not” and I didn’t understand the impact it would have on me in my adult life.

When we came to Oak Grove to explore the school and community, Surya (my son, 11 at that time) and I were resistant as we did not want to leave our lovely home, community, friends in the Bay Area. My husband convinced us to explore the school and then to decide if we wanted to uproot our lives from the known and jump headlong into the unknown. We met with Andy, who embodies many wonderful things of the Oak Grove teacher culture and were very taken in by the honesty and simplicity of this Krishnamurti school. I remember sitting with Surya by the Pavilion and asking him about his thoughts/ feelings going through his mind. After voicing some of the positives and fears of moving to a new school, he said, “My heart says to stay in the Bay Area (because of my friends) but my gut says to come to this school”! I was stunned at the depth of his observation in himself and that he was able to articulate it so succinctly. I told my husband about this and we both knew at that time that this would be the right choice for him/us and applied to the school. Suffice to say, when Surya got accepted, we moved our lives, left all that was familiar and safe to us, and moved to Ojai.

They say (I don’t know who) that nothing good in life comes easy. We went through our struggles of moving, change of jobs, finding a home in Ojai, saying goodbyes to friends and I can say a year later that it has been completely worth it. Surya was welcomed, embraced by the class, teachers and school alike, and made connections with kids that I know will last a lifetime. The growth of the mind, the ease of the heart and the happiness of learning in a relaxed environment is reflected on Surya on most days after school. One day, in the middle of the year, he said, “I did not realize I was so stressed at Independent (his previous school) until I realized I wasn’t feeling the stress anymore.” When asked how he would describe the stress, he said that he felt the class energy was less about strict rules and more focused on learning and creativity. Every child goes through their own struggles (education, social relationship dynamics and peer pressure) in school irrespective of the greatness of the school but to hear that he was not stressed, my husband and I thought this was absolutely worth all the sacrifices we made as a family.

I realized after I moved to Ojai that the convention theme of many years ago, “where YOU are, love is not” would circle back as a theme of being more present and aware of one’s own self in the world of relationships. And that we as a family would get an opportunity to be in an environment to explore that self and be able to reflect and grow.

Oak Grove embraced us, reminded me that there are schools in this world that breed a culture of integrity, kindness, honesty, authenticity and most of all genuine empathy towards fellow human beings. My family and I are grateful for this wonderful experience of the Oak Grove school/community and look forward to the exciting years ahead in Surya’s experiences at the school.

Warmly,

Deepa Pulipati