Oak Grove School works closely, not only with students, but also parents. This strong sense of community has been present since our founding in 1975 and continues to this day. Parents play an important part in our school. A student remarked a few years ago that for students to do well at Oak Grove a strong partnership between students, parents and the school is necessary. Two aspects of this cooperative work are self-understanding and partnership.
Self-understanding is not easy. The playwright Tennessee Williams, who struggled with this, once cheerfully remarked, “There comes a time, when you look into the mirror, and you realize that what you see, is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors!” One of the most interesting mirrors we have in seeking self-understanding is the mirror of relationship. Krishnamurti put it this way:
Relationship is a mirror in which to see ourselves as we actually are. But most of us are incapable of looking at ourselves as we are in relationship, because we immediately begin to condemn or justify what we see. We judge, we evaluate, we compare, we deny or accept, but we never observe actually what is, and for most people this seems to be the most difficult thing to do; yet this alone is the beginning of self-knowledge.
Oak Grove is not just a school for students; it is a school for all of us—the faculty and staff, students, and parents. We are all learning together. This is where partnership comes in. Good partnership needs a healthy dose of self-understanding. Good partnership needs care, affection, love, attention, kindliness, compassion, awareness and sensitivity.
Awareness implies sensitivity: to be sensitive to nature, to the hills, rivers and the trees around one; ….to be sensitive to the man who is sitting next to you, or to the nervousness of your friend or sister. This sensitivity has in it no choice; it is not critical….If there is affection, a sense of tenderness, kindliness, generosity, then behaviour is dictated by that affection. One of the most difficult things in life is behaviour, that is, conduct: one’s manners, politeness, the way one talks, the way one feels, the way one thinks.
To best ensure that our children flourish in this sensitivity, affection, and watchfulness, a strong partnership between students, parents and teachers is necessary. Even so there are bound to be some bumps on the road now and then; that is after all part of being in relationship. When that happens, it may be helpful to remember what the psychologist Carl Jung said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
I would summarize the notion of self-understanding in partnership as careful and non-judgmental attention and observation in relationship. This gives us insight into our conditioning, and leads to a sense of inward freedom, which brings about order. Krishnamurti would say that with that freedom come great love and responsibility. We need not take him, or anyone for that matter, at his word. We can find out for ourselves, together and individually, through the mirror of relationship and careful observation.
This opens the door to sensitivity, compassion and love. With love —for people, nature, for our world—comes goodness in action. Love also opens the door to the possibility of the sacred. This is the transformation Krishnamurti spoke about. It starts with all of us and through us impacts society and the world. In that sense, what we are doing at our schools is revolutionary.