Watch the full conversation here.
AuroBharati invited Ms. Jayashree Ashok, Mr. B. Ashok, and Ms. Reshma Madhusudan from Creative School, Bengaluru for a conversation on a topic close to the heart of most Indians — education. Inspired by the Integral Education teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as well as incorporating wisdom and guidance from several other spiritual masters, Creative School is now in its twelfth year and is spoken of by its founding team as a conscious community and holistic school for children, teachers and parents.
Our one-hour-plus-long conversation brought out many significant aspects which make this school a unique educational institution — perhaps ‘institution’ is not the appropriate word to describe this sacred space that the school team and everyone involved with it is trying to create in a very conscious way. This sacred space for learning and teaching is highly progressive — in the right sense of the word — and simultaneously deeply rooted in the Indian vision of the true aim of life and education, namely, to help the child, the soul-in-evolution, gradually become more aware and conscious of all that he or she is in deeper self. This is spoken of by our rishis as Ātmanam viddhi or Know thyself.
The conversation brought to light significant details about the school’s overall philosophical and pedagogical approach. Jayashree and Reshma shared about the Sacred Classroom, Sacred Curriculum, Co-creating Sacred, and Four-step Learning Process — all of which are at the heart of what goes on at Creative School. Teaching is looked upon as sādhanā at the school, so the inner work of teachers is given a great significance there.
Soul-based education is only possible when teachers are constantly working to get in touch with their psychic being and this takes time and patient inner work. Hence, one of the most significant aspects of Creative School is the emphasis it gives to teachers’ inner work which is considered the most important part of what they do at school.
This is facilitated by making space and time for teachers’ reflection during the work-day (wisdom circles as they are called), as well as offering regular practice time for meditation, prānāyāma, and other inward-turning practices. This is completely in line with the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s guidance according to which the teacher’s influence makes the biggest difference in a child’s learning. The inner state which a teacher brings to his or her classroom sets up the overall learning environment in the classroom.
Jayashree who has authored The Sacred Trilogy shared the seven essential principles or pillars which form the core of Sacred Classroom, which a teacher needs to keep in front of her. These are: 1) Unconditional love and compassion; 2) Being in a state of awareness of themselves and children; 3) Abundance, which implies an inner sense of prosperity, and expansive consciousness which helps them develop faith in the innate ability of the child to learn; 4) Respect, which is bidirectional — both from teachers to children and vice versa, and also children respecting themselves and teachers respecting themselves; 5) Mirroring, which emphasises for the teacher that what they experience in classroom is a reflection of what is inside them, that the inner and outer life are connected, and that bringing inner harmony will result in outer harmony in the environment; 6) Learning from challenges as the path to gradual self-mastery; and 7) Recognising and dropping the ego, which implies that teachers must remember to constantly practice this inner work of becoming aware of the play of ego in them, and consciously and humbly learn to dissolve that and grow in a deeper sense of inner freedom.
Much thought has also been given to creating sufficient time and space for children at Creative School to turn inward and find their inner tuning and harmony which helps them prepare for fully participating in their learning. The Four-step Learning Process which includes Joyful Exploration, Digestion, and Reflection, Mastery, and Wisdom Application facilitates self-paced and self-directed learning with gentle guidance and support from the teachers. Every class begins with an Opening Ceremony which harmonises the inner environment of the children making them ready for the work and a Closing Ceremony that facilitates a silent reflection or assimilation and gratefulness.
The school follows a mixed-age grouping model. The curriculum is holistic and addresses physical, emotional, mental, psychic/spiritual, and social parts of nature. It is not presented in an artificially linear manner, it rather follows the heart of the child. In lower age groupings, a broad-based curriculum is offered, and it gradually becomes more closely aligned with the growing learner’s interest and passion. Teachers closely observe the children’s evolving interests and constantly revamp their curriculum accordingly. Design centers with appropriate learning activities and materials which address each of the four steps of the Four-step learning process are created in each classroom. This ensures that each child feels comfortable and secure to work at his or her own pace, and necessary skills are developed as a result of this organic learning process.
Considerable attention is paid to creating beautiful, harmonious classrooms, bringing in elements from Nature such as flowers. Diyas and incense are also used to bring a sense of sacredness, calm, and peace to the space. Children and teachers collaborate in this work so that they may have a sense of ownership of their workspaces and in the process also develop a keener sense of aesthetics.
We also discussed how the school works with parents to facilitate their growth journeys as conscious individuals and conscious parents. Through Prajña Wisdom Center, the school offers several courses which help parents look within and go through an inner de-conditioning process. This helps them recognise how they may be bringing their baggage, including that of their own schooling experience, when they set their expectations on their children’s academic learning and pace, instead of allowing them to blossom at their own pace and in their unique way.
During the last two years, the Creative School team has been invited to offer teacher training workshops for government school teachers in Karnataka and Odisha. The insights and tools they shared during these workshops — offered to hundreds of teachers in both the states — were highly appreciated by the teachers. The biggest feedback they received was that the teachers felt that this was the first time their work was honoured and their needs for personal fulfillment and conscious growth as individuals were recognised and addressed in the context of their professional work as teachers.