Supporting our Teachers to Flourish with Neohumanist Education Philosophy
By: Sue Attrill & Ann Donoghoe (Deputy & Principal, The River School)</h4
The River School has had a 25-year history of supporting teachers to embody Neohumanist practices. “When I first began as a teacher at The River School, I was supported to learn about Neohumanism and how to choose teaching content linked to those ideals. I also learnt personal practices such as meditation and yoga, to model and support children’s development from a deep personal interaction.” This was the experience of our current Deputy, Sue Attrill, when she was first employed as a teacher at The River School in 1999.
Today, The River School continues to employ a variety of pathways to support its staff in understanding and embracing the core pillars of Neohumanism as both personal and educative practises. Over the years, our Australian education system has become more complex and demanding in its compliance requirements, necessitating us to become more creative in how we promote Neohumanism as our core philosophy and foundation of all learning. Adding “Neohumanist Education for Life” to our school trading name has ensured the focus and discussion is on Neohumanism and is the starting point for all interested and new school families.
Our leadership team plans ongoing interaction with key researchers and philosophers regarding Neohumanist Education. Our school has a close relationship with Dr. Marcus Bussey, an early member of Ananda Marga Education. Marcus has taken on a mentoring role with staff and regularly joins professional development days and meetings to assist us in deepening our understanding of Neohumanism. He encourages us to make sure our own practices in meditation and yoga permeate everything we do and that we continually seek ways to improve. Marcus has also led parent forums in the last two years to further develop our parents’ understanding of the importance of a Neohumanist education for their children.
Last year, some of our teachers and leaders committed to undertake teacher training offered by the Neohumanist College of Asheville. This was a deeply enriching experience for all who participated. The rich content and discussion assisted us to further align pedagogy and practice in meaningful ways, and provided a wealth of material to share with all staff and families. A section of our website now has a public area specifically dedicated to Neohumanist Education: https://riverschool.com.au/neohumanist-education-articles.
Learning from the teachers at the Neohumanist College of Asheville strengthened our understanding of how to develop content that aligned with Neohumanist Education while satisfying the requirements of the Australian Curriculum. All teaching units at The River School begin with a Neohumanist worldview which forms the foundation for the learning intention. Some of the units currently being taught across the year levels are Stories in the Stars — Celestial Creation Stories; Listening to Country; Council of All Creatures; Guardians of our forests and waterways.
An example of a Neohumanist worldview is – History on a micro scale defines us as individuals. History on a macro scale defines us as part of a whole. As living beings, we are united by a connected consciousness, which has been brought about by the millions of actions and events that continue to shape us individually and as a whole. It is anticipated this macro approach will produce a more complete picture through which students will be able to critically view the relevance of history, the significance of themselves as connected to the whole and an understanding that their actions, thoughts and words will ripple out into the future.
Our journey at The River School is continually evolving. We prioritise the importance of making sure that all aspects of Neohumanist education – both personal spiritual practice and spiritual pedagogy and curriculum, are kept alive in the school. We witness the ripple effect of our teachings as our students graduate and take their Neohumanist understandings and practices into the world.
Liam Devlin (past student) “The River School’s dedication to social justice has been an aspect of the school culture that has had a major influence on my development … it has been a driving force behind me developing an understanding of the impact of my actions on others and (led to) a commitment I have made to tread more gently in the world.”
Brosie Cauley (past student) “I felt that teachers always listened to me and valued my opinion. Mindfulness and meditation are things I still use. The River School legacy for me is to be a kind, deep thinker, to live ethically not just for me but for the planet
We have many ways of embedding spiritual practice and pedagogy threads through our day, our relationships, our planning, and our interactions with our community. Creating loving relationships with students, families and staff radiates out to the wider community through Café nights and whole school events, creating a strong sense of belonging and connection. We begin every staff meeting with meditation and every Professional Development Day with yoga and meditation.
We engage in daily practices in our classrooms that strengthen spiritual development including morning circle, yoga, meditation, virtue study and the ‘getting of wisdom’ through discussion and reflection. We foster a love of learning using children’s natural curiosity and enhance this with an inquiry-based curriculum.
We work hard to maintain a strong relationship with the community. We are well known for our River Café, selling delicious sentient food including the original, much-loved chickpea/ vegetarian curry, falafel wraps and spring rolls. We also participate in many community events such as recycling week, environment day and service opportunities to support those in need.
We are committed to the future of The River School, as a key player in promoting Neohumanist Education. We continually explore ways to evolve our spiritual practices ensuring our children are educated in an environment that supports the whole child – spiritually, mentally, and physically.
**Who We Are
The River School is located in the town of Maleny in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland in Queensland. It has around 120 children in primary school from prep to year six, plus an early childhood centre with pre-kindergarten and a forest (river) kindergarten. The school employs approximately 50 staff, which includes 16 qualified teachers and speciality staff. The school is nestled within 5 acres of rainforest with classroom buildings, playing fields, a gym, art shed, a music room, a Japanese learning room, a meditation hall, gardens and a running creek.