Every year we have 2 ETCs (Education Training Camps) at Baan Unrak School. Sometimes we conduct them ourselves and sometimes we have people from outside conduct them. Three times we had Gurukula seminars here led by Didi Ananda Rama. This time we decided that those who went to visit the River School in Australia would be the ones to give the seminar. The seminar was held from 27th April to 7th May.
The first day we had a review of last year; what we had achieved of our personal goals as teachers and our goals for the school. It started with each teacher’s self assessment. After that we divided into smaller groups and each group chose one of the fields assessed and created new ideas and strategies. These will be used in our action plan for the next term.
In the afternoon we had an open space activity that we actually learned to do at the Sweden conference. Each teacher chose an interest and putting them all together we again grouped according to similarities of interests. Out of this came the idea to set up the weekly teacher meetings in such a way that there would be time to develop one’s interests. Some of the interests were computer, music, drawing, understanding the child and horoscopes. The second day started with showing slides of the River School that I had prepared from Kindy 1 to grade 3. Then a kindy class was demonstrated for us all by Waranya. In the afternoon I demonstrated an English class with story telling, using NHE principles and station learning. Stations was something much used at the River School. Our demonstration classes were using ideas we had brought with us from Vistara and River School. The last hour of this day we did an art activity we got from grade 6, River School.
The 4 next days Janaki did various activities we had brought back from Australia, from classroom observations there and from the Gurukula Conference. First she showed slides from Grade 4 to 7. There was great joy among us to see the teacher and students of grade 6 at the River School in a class that was given by Janaki making kratongs (part of a Thai culture Festival). In the Gurukula Conference in Australia we worked in groups creating lesson plans. The same we did again here. We have created a curriculum for Baan Unrak School already. So we worked in groups creating lesson plans on a curriculum theme from the grade each of us teach. As in the conference in Australia we had to first determine what is Neohumanism and include it as a goal in every subject we teach. Later we had a workshop on Gardner and reviewed our lesson plans to see if Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences were included in our planning. Finally each group had to also work on the lesson plan they had created as if they were the students now having to learn about the theme. Each group then presented their work to us all. There were lots of great ideas and we had much fun.
Another activity was to brainstorm all the values we could think of and see where each value could fit into the Yamas and Niyamas; then finally we created a set of values to be posted in each class and to be worked on by teacher and students through out the school year. This was again an activity created from ideas we got in Australia. Janaki also shared with us how she has taught the Ramayana and Mahabharata to grade 5 last year, integrating the morals in the story into other activities and projects done with the grade 5 students during the year. We also looked at clips from a Mahabharata film to understand the deep morals taught in the epic.
Each day of our seminar started with 20 minutes of yoga and a 20 minute circle of songs, kiirtan and meditation. Each day two teachers signed up to lead the yoga using what they had learned in our earlier seminars. We sang many songs together during the week, more than ever.
A perceived obstacle at the beginning of the seminar was that the Thai government donated some money to all schools this year supposedly wanting to give every child a free education. With the money we were supposed to buy the government curriculum text and exercise books. This would absolutely kill our own curriculum. Luckily we were able to sort this out and for the last few days before the students arrived for the new term we used the time to create lesson plans around our own curriculum themes pursuing NHE goals, and then we will be using the money for buying books and other materials related to our own curriculum themes. All by Grace.