Teachers of a school are colleagues in a special sense of the word. Together they create that elusive thing that has been called the ‘hidden curriculum’. When a group of teachers is able to create a common vision, not as a static finished product but as a fluid, shared meaning, that meaning permeates the school and gives life to its intent. But when the teacher’s day is packed with clamouring students, piles of paperwork, lessons to prepare, meetings to attend and miracles to perform, will there be time to find the shared meaning?
Recognising the need for the teachers as a group to spend some leisurely time together outside the routine of the school, some schools have annual teachers’ retreats. The intention of a teachers’ retreat is to come together in serious dialogue about ourselves in relationship with each other and with the broad aims of the school. It is also a time to do the vital things that we did not find time for during the year–face our blind spots, open up vexed issues, share nagging concerns. The retreat both demands our energy and energises us for another year of working closely together.
What follows is an intimate description of one such retreat held by the teachers of Brockwood Park School in England.
Brockwood is a place of learning, for exploring the art of living…for the awakening of that intelligence that comes with compassion and love.
Once a year, in January, staff members at Brockwood Park School go on a retreat for one week to reflect on life and work at Brockwood. The Staff Week serves several purposes. We listen together to Krishnamurti tapes and we have a daily dialogue, there is time to go for walks, to do some individualstudy, to give presentations, or to have more informal ‘social’ meetings. We also worktogether in small groups for cooking, washing-up and other jobs that need to bedone. This, we feel, brings us more togetherand new relationships develop.
This year there was an unexpected development at the beginning of our Staff Week. We were at Yewfield in the Lake District and because of bad weather, very strong gale force winds had brought down many trees and power lines, meaning we were without electricity for three days. All of us developed new skills to cope with the situation. We cooked, ate, and washed up by candlelight, we cut wood and the fireplace was kept going from early morning to late at night. It was more difficult to go off on our own–icy cold bedrooms and bathrooms with only cold water–so we spent more time together. We sat around the fire telling stories, playing games and reflecting on the importance of electric appliances in our lives. This triggered the idea to organise a no-electricity day with the students at the beginning of the new term.
The theme we concentrated on this year – Love and Compassion – brought us to a realisation of the urgency for ‘ending’ thingsin our lives and to address the crisis inourselves and in the world. We stayed withthis ‘ending’ from moment to moment andwe saw that only then can something new bepossible. We saw how this affects ourrelationships at Brockwood. As BrockwoodPark Staff we all have our different areas orresponsibilities, which keep us usually verybusy: teaching, maintenance, editing, cooking, organising, cleaning and archiving. These‘responsibilities’ shouldn’t, however, preventus from coming together. The ‘communitybuilding exercise’ during the Staff Weekhelped us to explore different ways to dealwith this.
We can all contribute by having more communication with each other, looking at whether or not we ‘meet’ each other. We can get more involved with the whole of Brockwood. In addition to our weekly dialogue, for example, we could have a regular staff forum where people report on what has been going on in their area of work. We felt strongly that we should give priority to this and several practical proposals were made.
There was an intensity in this being together at Yewfield. All of us were focussed on the same issue, more direct with each other; and that made it possible to move things faster than when we are at Brockwood. The main questions we feel we need to stay with are: “What do we want to bring about in Brockwood Park? Does dialogue bring about change? Is this the way forward to transform humanity? Are we not repeating Krishnamurti’s words? What brings about‘seeing’ rather than ‘talking about’ it? Where does ‘action’ come in?”
At the end of it all, we felt that we had‘matured’ as a group. Sure, we are all getting older but didn’t Krishnamurti say somewhere “when one gets older, the brain can become more active”?!