Tag Archives: holistic education

Cultivating Empathy in Schools

There has been a lot written about the importance of empathy within schools. As an educator, being able to relate and connect with our students is so important because it allows the classroom to become a community; a place where people feel safe and valued. In a classroom or a school which is centred around empathy, students are unafraid to express themselves and try out new things.

empathy2In a 10-part journal series a school Principal, Michelle Hughes, from New York writes about her experiences in cultivating empathy within her students, teachers, and staff. Hughes speaks about the importance of not only cultivating empathy with the students, but with teachers. Here is an excerpt from the first journal entry:

Schools are a microcosm of the universal human experience.  I could choose (and much as I hate to admit it, there are times I wish I had it in me) to disregard the personal lives of staff and make the work of school my only priority.  But that approach would be contrary to the central ethos of the school, and it would no doubt relegate the cultivation of empathy and holistic teaching practice to the fringes of the classroom experience. To teach the whole child, the whole teacher needs to be considered.

 To read the journal entries click on the link below:



Visiting the Rishi Valley School… Part 1

I (Pooja) have just returned from an extraordinary two days at the Rishi Valley School in India.There is simply too much for one blog post, so I will share my experiences over a few blog posts. In this blog, I will focus on the principles which guide the school along with a photos of the campus.

The alternative school is guided by principles of holistic education which aim for the growth of student’s intellectual, emotional, physical, artistic, creative, and spiritual potential. The educational philosophies of the Rishi Valley School include:

  • To educate students so that they are able to explore both the world and their inner being
  • To inculcate a love for nature and respect for all forms of life
  • To create an atmosphere of affection, order and freedom without either fear or license
  • Not to condition the students in any particular belief, either religious, political or social, so that their minds may remain free to ask fundamental questions, enquire and learn. (http://www.rishivalley.org/school/aims.htm)

The philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti established the Rishi Valley School in 1962. There are now Krishnamuti schools across India and the world, but this was the first educational site. The school is located “in a sheltered valley in the interior of rural Andhra Pradesh…about 140 km north-east of Bangalore.” (http://www.rishivalley.org/school/aims.htm) When we first arrived we met with the school principal. He listened to us attentively, and when he spoke it was softly and always with purpose. He said something in that meeting that has stuck with me. He said that although the teachers differed in teaching approach, the important quality was that they approached their teaching from a place of care and love. By walking around the campus, speaking with teachers and students, and observing classes I witnessed this in so many ways. For example, each morning the students gather in an open-air auditorium for an assembly. My experiences with assemblies have usually included announcements, performances, or guest speakers. At the Rishi Valley school, the assembly is dedicated to singing. The students and faculty gather in a circle and sing for half an hour. At the end of the school day, after dinner, we gathered in the auditorium again to watch an absorbing documentary on particle physics called Particle Fever.

The following are a few photos of the campus and school activities. I believe they speak volumes about the principles from which the Rishi Valley School runs.


The Rishi Valley School is a boarding school serving student from grade 4-12. There are approximately 325 students and 60 faculty members who live on campus.


The morning all-school assembly. Students and faculty are seated on the ground.


One of the many outdoor classrooms. My friend, a spoken-word artist, had the opportunity to facilitate a class here (More about that in the next blog!).


The student art gallery. It was common to see students around the campus working on their art; fine art, poetry, and music permeated the student culture.


Walking to class is a meditative experience. The campus is spacious, situated on approximately 360 acres of land. There have been over 200 species of birds identified, with the Indian Government officially declaring the school a bird sanctuary.

To read more about the Rishi Valley School: http://www.rishivalley.org/default.html

Re-blog: Reflections on the Words of J. Krishnamurti

One of my(Pooja) dearest friends  recently started her own blog: www.edumodels.ca. Roopa and I have been best friends for almost twenty years. We are both educators and can discuss our views on education for hours on end. Her most recent post was so beautiful, I decided to re-blog it here. She reflects on book written by  J. Krishnamurti (philosopher/educator): Education and the Significance of Life. I have not yet read this text, but after reading Roopa’s blog post, it is at the top of my reading list.krish

 Below is an excerpt from Roopa’s blog:

 Taking an important step (leap!) back, Krishnamurti pushes us to think fundamentally about the purpose of education, and focuses on the importance of self-knowledge and individual freedom. In a chapter on “The Right Kind of Education” he expands:

 The purpose of education is to cultivate right relationship, not only between individuals, but also between the individual and society; and that is why it is essential that education should, above all, help the individual to understand his/her own psychological process. Intelligence lies in understanding oneself and going above and beyond oneself.

 In addressing the danger of setting ideals for children (whether in educational institutions, or as parents), and in conditioning them, Krishnamurti makes his views clear:

 The right kind of education consists in understanding the child without imposing upon her an ideal of what we think she should be. To enclose her in the framework of an ideal is to encourage her to conform, which breeds fear and produces in her the constant conflict between what she is and what she should be; and all inward conflicts have their outward manifestations in society.. If a child lies for example, of what value is it to put before her the ideal of truth? One has to find out why she is telling lies. To help the child, one has to take time to study and observe her, which demands patience, love and care.

 Krishnamurti’s emphasis on the primary importance of self-understanding; the secondary importance of technique and profession; and the understanding of the individual child, all resonate very strongly with me. In practice, I’m curious as to how this plays out at the Krishnamurti schools; and I will follow up with a post on the schooling Krishnamurti called for later this week!

To read Roopa’s entire blog post as well as her previous posts, click below: