I walk into school every morning down a path strewn with differently-coloured flowers in the different seasons of the year. A yellow golden carpet when the copper pod tree is in bloom, a bright red when the gulmohar tree is blossoming and a fragrant white when the maramalli flowers gently waft down in the morning breeze. And when I cross the wild badam tree, I can see red bugs scurrying about, in pairs and sometimes in groups, going about their business. I stop a while to see them before I move on towards the school building.

The banyan tree is like the good friend who waits patiently everyday in the morning at the gate to greet you. Its awe-inspiring presence gives me the sense of it being all-pervading, and yet grounded. And if I am quiet and observant enough, I have sometimes seen a mongoose scampering about its roots or a pitta bird sitting on its lower branches. My feet sometimes also take me to the ‘tiled area’, a quiet space of green foliage where I sit under a tree, looking at the blue skies through the swaying tree branches. The sights and sounds of the school resonate with immense beauty and serenity. The ambience that emanates from them is both uplifting and humbling for anyone who is part of it.

It is peaceful, before the day takes over, before the children arrive and before I get into my work. There is beauty all around me, and in this moment of quietude. It calms me, even as my senses come alive and alert, filling me with energy and a sense of purpose for the day. I have often found that this quiet allows for meaningful reflection and thinking. I cherish this time when I am not immersed in any task or work, a time when I am with myself.

The school is a beautiful space. Beauty that goes beyond the trees and the other small creatures that live in it. I see this beauty reflected in the conversations I have with my colleagues, in the disagreements and discussions, in the many experiences in school that help me understand my own responses to people and situations. I say this because I have felt it helps me appreciate others, to accept different ideas and opinions, to question and observe in the realm of relationship. I see the same in my interactions with students while trying to understand something, be it in the class or outside, when we come upon an idea or a thought and learn to examine it, understand it, together. Affection and respect seem to be the qualities that are essential to help build this ‘beautiful’ relationship between teachers or between teachers and students.

In my journey as a teacher in the school, I have often wondered, is it the natural beauty of the school campus, or the intangible beauty of its space that makes the school what it is? What gives the school its character? Perhaps it’s a combination of the two, for without one the other would hold no meaning. And if that be true, how can we nurture these two aspects of beauty to create vibrant and meaningful learning spaces in our schools?