ETC at Ananda Shiila, India

December 2004
By Didi Anandarama
Ananda Shiila is in the countryside outside Ranchi in the state of Jarkhand. It is the place where the sage Bhrigu spent his last days in meditation on a rock at the river that passes through. In those days the area was a lush jungle and the tall forest trees still remind us of those days.
Avadhutika Ananda Giita was telling us a story of when she was in Ananda Marga LFT training and came to do service with the local tribal people. She said that in those days about 40 years ago when they arrived with a jeep, it was for the first time that the local people had seen a jeep. And the story goes that the local people thought it must be an animal and brought straw for it to eat.In this still lush and peaceful nature the over 200 participants of the ETC were in a relaxed and joyful mood. The opening was presided over by the Minister of Education of Jarkhand state and performance of local cultural dances.
The weeklong ETC covered many topics such as an ‘Overview of NHE’ crystallizing its four pillars: philosophy, principles, pedagogy and teacher. The strength of NHE lies in its philosophical base, on which the guiding principles influence the emerging pedagogy and necessary personal educational development of the teacher.Workshops were given on:
-Classroom management that advocated rotating class leaders such as ‘discipline minister’, ‘health minister’, etc. who would help the class with particular tasks.
-Art and craft activities that enhance the classroom teaching using inexpensive material in a creative way.
-Teaching charts and teaching devises that can be easily prepared and used to support the topic to be taught.
-Discipline in the classroom from the field of experience with lots of practical tips.
-Meditation and Yoga with children with practical demonstration of how to conduct a class
-Public Relations – its definition and clear application.
-Demonstration of a “Conversation” (see below ) in a group of eight on the question: “How can we work towards implementing NHE in our school?”
Practical activity:
-How to paint beautifying designs on school walls with the help of children
-First Aid for children
-Sharing of original rhymes and original stories
-Cultural programmes
Resolutions of ETC:
-Art syllabus from Kindergarten to class 12 to be prepared by Avtk. Ananda Carushila’ Ac.
-NHE Introductory course to be translated into Hindi by Avtk. Ananda Sucita Ac.
-Decentralized ETCs in various places in Delhi Sector.
-STUVOL researched and booklets to be prepared by Avtk. Ananda Rama Ac.
Homework for participants until December 2005: 
-Focus on one creative skill to take up to study and practice as one’s personal development.
-To take up one intellectual skill to study as one’s professional improvement.
-To improve the school facilities through garbage management and creative designs.
-To improve the teaching with practical teaching tools such as charts etc.
-To submit evidence of above study in a portfolio with pictures, papers and written feedback.
Participants also agreed to submit their original work such as rhymes, stories, games, activities, workshops, presentations in written form at the next ETC 2005.
Conversation Meeting
Conversation Meetings are conversations in a small group with the purpose of initiating an open dialogue with all present on a particular question relevant to all. It has been found that in a small group of 8, the participants feel at ease to open up without hesitation to contribute their thoughts and ideas on issues that affect their lives. This simple process leads to constructive actions supported by deeper understanding.Conversation ProcessThe organizer will invite 8 persons informing them of the topic, which can be put as a question such as “How can we improve our school?” The host will set the time of beginning and ending. The Conversation Meeting should not go more than 90 minutes.At the assembly, the host will post the rules:
Acceptance : suspend judgment as best as you can
Listen: with respect
Curiosity: seek to understand rather than persuade.
Diversity: invite and honour all points of view.
Sincerity: speak what has personal heart and meaning.
Brevity: go for honesty and depth but don’t go on and on.
Round 1: Each person, one after the other speaks briefly to the topic, others do not give feedback or response at this time but listen attentively. An object can be passed around which the speaker will hold while talking. This gives a reminder that the attention is now on that speaker and when he or she is finished he or she will pass on the object.Round 2: Now each person deepens their own comments or speaks to what has meaning now in the group. Again the conversation is going from one to the next while the others only listen without responding directly to the speakers.Dialogue: After the second round the host will open up the conversation. The host or another person may serve as facilitator if there is domination, contention, or lack of focus. The facilitator can stimulate the group to go deeper with questions such as:
-What happened that led you to this point of view?
-How does this affect you personally?
-I’m curious, can you say more about that …
-Here’s what I heard … is that what you mean?Final round: with talking object each person says briefly what was meaningful to them and how they wish this to lead into practical outcome