Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Integral Education and Research (SAFIER), the educational wing of Sri Aurobindo Society, conducted a workshop on ‘Integral Education’ organized by Sri Aurobindo Institute of Education (SAIE), Kolkata, at their premises in Kolkata, from July 17 to 20, 2019, for their primary teachers. There were also two introductory short sessions conducted for the pre-primary and higher secondary teachers. All the sessions were conducted by Shivakumar and Priti Umamahesvaram of SAFIER.The participants undertook a transformational journey through the principles and practice of Integral Education, as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
Day 1: Integral Education – An introduction
In this session we understood:
- the need to educate ourselves in order to educate children
- to educate ourselves, we need to know ourselves and eventually learn to control ourselves
The concept of our personality was absolutely clear through a skit. The skit presented was like holding a mirror in front of us. We could relate absolutely to it. After it, we did an excellent exercise to go through the questionnaire to know ourselves.
Through the skit and questionnaire, it was very easy to know the three parts of us: The Physical, the Mind, the Vital and our Friend deep inside our heart.
We learnt through this session:
- one can understand things easily through drama
- our ‘Antarer Bandhu’ (the Inner friend, our Soul) stays with us always. This feeling is immense
The second day’s session was wonderful and enjoyable with lots of activities. For example, we did some activities with PVC pipes. This session made us realise with full attention, a lot can be done. We, teachers should also be more attentive. When our body consciousness is awakened, we can do a lot! The session was challenging because we had to focus on catching and throwing (not to hurt while throwing) gave the deeper feeling that one has to take care of themselves and others as well). We learnt that our body has the capacity to adjust according to the environment and situations. Strength and awareness of the body increases when it practices ‘stillness’.
Art of Seeing I & II
We were happy to know the difference between ‘seeing’ and ‘looking’. The session gave us an idea of how observant we can be. While seeing one has to connect to the Soul. Drawing without seeing the book and feeling the object with our eyes and inviting its inner self within us was an amazing experience.
We came to know about ourselves, that we can draw a portrait. We also learnt that if one sees something immensely, they can remember it for a long time. Feeling the living being and its Soul and drawing is just touching one’s inner Self through the activity. We discovered the artist within ourselves.
This was a very important session of the workshop, without language, no other subjects can be taught. We understood that so many ideas are within us, we can create a story on a simple topic, our imagination power is so strong. The session was very interesting as we understood how one can develop writing and listening skills through games and activities.
Project Method & Presentations
This session was very effective and helpful. This session gave us good ideas on how a project can be done differently and interestingly. We can enable the students do the projects in a fun way and they will be happy while doing the projects. We also learnt many more aspects that we have to ponder while planning a project. We also gathered that one can collaborate with other subject teachers and that humour, theatre and art can also be a part of project presentation.
Self-Observation & Working on Anger
In this session, we questioned ourselves and analysed the trigger of anger and its milder forms: irritation and annoyance. We found it a wonderful way to control our emotions. This session gave an idea as to how one can get rid of one’s anger and irritation, how to calm oneself and not to put blame on others and introspect one's own emotions and problems. It was a process of knowing oneself better when we went thoroughly through the incident and found or rather realised the cause behind it.
In this session, we forgot everything outside. We got totally involved with the activity of the flame. It was dark and hot and sweaty inside the hall, but we became one with our flame. We were concentrating on our inner flame, our inner self. We learnt to inculcate calmness within us and invoke stillness. In this meditative process, we have learnt to keep ourselves completely detached from all distractions and be one with our inner soul. We also learnt to befriend one of the element of nature- the ‘Fire’.
Integral teaching means creating a comfortable environment for the child to develop freely in a home far away from home. The session taught us how to control ourselves first. When we master this, we can easily bring the students under our control. The session talked about creating an inner and outer environment in order to bring about a blossoming growth in the students. Thus, it is important to be patient and create an inner stillness in order to bring about beauty and harmony in the environment.
Special Session Everyday: Chanting
The chanting sessions were magical. All the mantras that we chanted had a wonderful effect on us. We were feeling calm, still and quiet deep inside. We experienced a soothing feeling throughout the session. Knowing the meanings and concentrating on the pronunciation made the session more meaningful.
The teachers cheerfully participated in all the sessions and displayed their fullest enthusiasm in knowing more about Integral education practices and its implementation. The experiential sessions helped them understand how Integral education can be integrated in their own lives by developing inner stillness and help them be wholesome human beings and teachers too.
The teachers showed eagerness to implement the project system in their classrooms. The pre-primary teachers were keen to apply integral teaching by initiating a physical education programme for children. A Core Group of participants was formed and it was decided to start a series of interactions with the Core Group to bring in more of Integral Education into the education system happening at the schools.