How to Develop a Spiritual Atmosphere in the Classroom
How to Develop a Spiritual Atmosphere in the Classroom
At the NHE Summit, Dada Caetanyananda explained the system used at Rainbow School to bring spirituality to the children in a way that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. By means of summary the following is excerpted from one of Dada Caetanayananda’s books.
Introduction It is difficult for the teacher to keep an elevated mind each time she teaches a class. Inspiration does not come on command. The teacher comes from her busy environment; she may have her own hard days or she may just be tired. When entering the classroom she cannot find the energy to feel and share lofty spiritual concepts, and she slowly gives up, saying she can’t do it.
Of course she may just use her own mind and instruct the children with moral lessons, but if she can’t feel what she says, if she can’t experience what she speaks, then the children won’t learn anything; they will just hear and forget.
Since the adult cannot keep on being inspired she has to get her inspiration from the children. The children already exhibit spiritual qualities, they are naturally happy, loving and full of energy; most of all they are simple. Teachers always learn from the children. Every teacher knows that children provide energy. Then why not have the children give the teacher the inspiration she needs?
Children’s behaviour and energy are random. The children speak what they hear, do what adults do around them. They display what they learn at random. The teacher already works on training them with repeated suggestions, reminding them of good intentions, good behaviour and the like. But that teaching does not bring the genuineness of spirituality. That teaching makes a moral classroom; it does not make a spiritual classroom. In a moral classroom the children are behaving more or less orderly; if not, disorder is quickly redressed; a fight is quickly stopped. Most of the children sit quietly waiting for the teacher to begin the entertainment. The children respond to the teacher who presents her lesson.
In a spiritual classroom the children show a definite alertness and curiosity. The children can describe happiness with stories and anecdotes. They generally repeat the stories that the teacher has told, but they also show that they are experiencing them along with their values, beauty, kindness, honesty. Then, one child may just say something that is strikingly beautiful and that already inspires the teacher. That little inspiration lifts the mind of the teacher and triggers some more insights. “I am a magician now,” says little John, “I made them all very happy!”
How to build such a classroom? How to train the children to think spiritually, and let them be a continuous source of inspiration even in difficult days?
There is a teaching style and some steps to follow. The teaching style is as Rainbow School defines it: numerous single concepts, repeated at random, according to the children’s’ flow, with very short sessions, songs, role-plays, stories, games, etc. The style may vary according to the children’s flow with longer sessions for deeper understanding: illustrated stories, discussions, art work. Deeper understanding does not necessarily mean experiencing. A striking comment can be told in a few seconds and trigger a spiritual realisation in the mind of a child. A spiritual realisation always transcends a mundane intellect. Although an intellectual approach is also necessary, longer sessions to make the children ‘understand’ are not enough. It is by the constant repetition of various spiritual comments, and some very short sessions of 10 second stories, 30 second role-plays, etc., spontaneously practiced any time of the day, that we can build a spiritual classroom. A daily half-hour session solely dedicated to a moral / spiritual lesson is clearly not enough. If we are to train the children to live spiritually we have to live every minute in a spiritual flow.
The first step is to train the children to think aesthetically . In this context ‘aesthetic’ does not only mean positive, sentient, and beautiful; it also means spiritual, kindness, altruism, simplicity, candour, immensity… It requires the children to constantly think with an aesthetic purpose for goodness. This is done by the constant reminding of the teacher who gives an aesthetic purpose for every action she and the children do or speak. Without the accomplishment of this first step none of the following steps are possible.
The second step is to help the children to find a truer identity than just their names and gender. The teacher is to train the children to identify themselves with absolute values such as Joy, Love, Beauty, Life, and Truth. It involves centring, imparts self-esteem, and provides a new outlook of one’s potential.
The third step is to connect with the environment. This huge task begins with identifying the universe as one’s own creation. The children are exposed to some mechanisms of the universe, mainly an ecology of Joy, Love, Beauty, Life, and Truth. This is practically done with comments, stories, and discussions, and practically tending to animals, people, plants, and the inanimate.
The fourth step is to learn magic (or Magick). The children learn to perform with a flow of Joy, Love…. They also discover the true meaning of magic. The ecology of Joy, Love…, provides the fundamental mechanisms and motivation. It involves visualisations, concentration, and most important, experiencing an aesthetic motivation.
The fifth step is to impart some morality . The children are to practise moral lessons such as sharing, non-harming, etiquette, etc. The purpose of morality becomes clear when practising magic.
The sixth step is to progressively give the child a mission and a challenge . The challenge is to live in this physical body and still remain one’s true Self. The mission is to do something more wonderful with every passing day, and some day, do something really great for others, for the Divine. The mission is also to merge in one’s divine Self despite all the obstacles of life.
The other steps
The other steps are to bring the child along a journey through the creation, the universe, the animals, plants, humans, and one’s own person. The journey alternates between the inner Self (Joy, Beauty, Love, Life, Truth) and creation.
These steps are described in great detail in the remainder of the book and the other manuals and activity books that Dada Caetanyananda has written.
There was a big portion of the presentation Dada Caetanyananda was not able to convey due to lack of time, that is the Ecology of Joy. The book ‘How to create a spiritual atmosphere in the classroom’ describes some methods to achieve a spiritual atmosphere. But methods are not enough. The teachers just like the children need to have good reasons for doing what they are asked to do. That is what the Ecology of Joy is about. It is neohumanism presented in a very aesthetic way to suit the magical mind of the child. Here is a short introduction by Dada Caetanyananda.
The Ecology of Joy
Speak of the child as the Divine with holy attributes, love, beauty, life, the truth, and joy. Let the child be the Divine who holds all the joy, beauty, life and love in the world. Decide that joy is that mysterious force which makes everything move in this universe. Joy, then, takes on many names, fondness, kindness, strength, but still remains the same essence present everywhere in the world. Every sentient move the child makes is directed by his original Self, a sentient joy, the Divine. Every interaction of the child with his environment brings about changes which results in a diversifying creation. The distribution of the essence of joy, love, beauty, and life, about the child and his actions, varies with the purpose and the amount of joy involved in the actions. The distribution and the exchange of joy, love, life and beauty among living beings makes the ecology of joy.
Practically in the classroom, the ecology of Joy is centred about principles that the teacher must adopt and apply for herself before she decides to have the children follow them. For example:
The child must practice beauty, joy, love, and life as a mean to grow and perform in his society. The child grows by learning. At home and at school he learns to fit in this world, to gain self confidence, and also about reading, arithmetic, etc. He has also to learn about the practice of joy, beauty, and love, which comes as a subject of its own. The performance that is expected from the child (speaking clearly, a sensible logic, politeness, etc), also includes excellence in the practice of joy, love, and life with the people, animals, plants, and the inanimate that constitute his environment.
Dada Caetanyananda is still writing down some of the principles of the Ecology of Joy. These ideas are currently being tested in the classroom with lots of activities. Some more development will be presented in another posting. Kindergarten principals who would like to participate in the study are welcome to contact him at—ctnavtindosat.net.id