Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Principal Learner of Silver Oaks

From a student I grew up to become a teacher and then to be a Principal.
For sometime I thought being Principal is all about being the Principal teacher.
Then I grew up to be a Principal content developer, curriculum designer and finally designer of a learning environment.

I thought it would end there until I realized that a Principal has to be the Principal Learner in the school. None of the other roles would be fruitful if I don’t become a focussed learner.

The books I read, workshops I attend, research I do may have brought me so far but the learner in me is not allowing me to pause or rest !

This thing called ‘zest’  learning is infectious.  

 Hey Columbus, I now know what triggered you to explore !

Its not travel bug..a bug that bites you when you want to explore !

The learning bug seems to be bugging me incessantly.
I heard about this wonderful person called ‘Kerry Bolger’ and his school             in Melbourne through a dear friend and guide ‘Marcia’.
For 2 years  I knew him through mails and one odd phone conversations.

Marcia, I and Kerry were to lead an IB workshop on Sustainability as International mindedness- at Bangalore in November 2010.

He could not make it.

Two years later, One fine day of a November morning I landed in Melbourne, to see and learn from this passionate educator.
When the flight landed in Melbourne, little did I realize that the                    Principal Learner of Silver Oaks opened a new lesson.

With it’s colonial charm and natural beauty, Melbourne appeared to be more beautiful –thanks to the warm, vibrant and energetic hospitality of Kerry Bolger. 

Cornish College’ is not just a school. It is the conviction of many parents and a Church group who actually funded the school to be built in a 100 acre campus. A grandfather and father of students in Cornish donated a lakh dollars because he loved what the school did to his children and grandchildren!

The beautiful people of the school were not just the students, the teachers too ! The lovely lady in the kindergarten wing proudly shared her                                ‘Reggio Emilia’s approach of Environment as the third teacher’.   
IBPYP was in the hearts and minds of every teacher and every inch of the boards and walls. I cant forget the passion of a teacher who designed a global content for her 8th graders.

How a school can make sustainability as the philosophy of education, I could see it in it’s physical and learning spaces. That a school can become your life system is evident in the way Kerry talked about it. Brick by brick, he built it.

It was not just the school, he took us on a tour of Melbourne. As the car raced on heavenly roads of Melbourne, it was difficult to choose between sights and the conversations. Well, I am a smart student, my eyes were on the enchanting sights and mind on the enlightening conversations.

Little did I realize that I would be revising a valuable lesson of life from Kerry. The difference between playing the host and ‘being the host’! It comes from his heart !

Serene Saturday lunch at his stately home, Heather’s handmade delicacies       ( I could actually taste the warmth from her heart) and the delightful company of Marcia who flew in for the weekend from Singapore- are like the gifts we get when study well.

The Principal Learner lands in Sydney

Opera House, Harbor Bridge and Darling Harbor – might have lit stars in my eyes if I had gone there as a tourist.

I may sound boring and too righteous if I say that Sydney had other attractions to me. Sydney Centre for Innovative Learning is the result of an intellectual evolution of a school- Northern Beaches Christian School.

I am not sure if Dutch or Britishers have drawn any map to reach Australia, 100s of years ago! But I certainly made a map and used compass points to reach SCIL.

In one web explorations, I stumbled upon their website in the last week of August’12. I don’t think I ever logged out from their website and blogs after that.

I wore my cognitive lens and used my mental telescope to study the evolution of NBCS as SCIL. I learnt, inferred and concluded- that I have to see SCIL.

I mailed to Anne Knock, Director at SCIL and then my VISA came through- no, not from Australian embassy – from Anne.

The 2 days at SCIL & NBCS was like a revelation to me.                                                 
A visionary Principal Stephen Harris, founded the Research Centre !

I am not aware of any such growth of a school except for physical expansion !

That a group of school educators can develop such standards and practices, that they can innovate and experiment and create a research centre to generate models of education, and that they can evolve as pedagogical training centres for other schools – is a great lesson I learnt.

The value of the amazing physical and virtual spaces they created for learning was evident in the students.
The school and centre are the designs of educators who are visionaries. People who teach and work in schools are doing research and creating a knowledge pool.                                                 
The needs and solutions – both are with them..                                              Unlike a researcher who has to look for areas and people for research  
- They have the students, spaces and people to Innovate, experiment, interpret and refine

Meeting and talking to educators like Stephen Harris  Anne Knock  Steve Collis  Mark & Mark was like reading volumes of books which are yet to be written on the future of education.                                      
 Oh Thank god, I could read them before the launch of the book!


For the last 8 years that I have been with Silver Oaks, I know how much of our spirits and work went into setting high standards of learning.

People, practices and policies are congruently woven into the learning mosaic. Having reached thus far, I had to learn more , help others learn more and show the excitement of learning !

Thank you Stephen Harris  and Anne Knock    -
Silver Oaks Centre for Research and Design in Cognitive Learning
is formally opening on 22nd Dec’12 .                    
You have been the inspiration behind this.

2000 students, 160 teachers, another 150 teachers in our training projects and our new team at Silver Oaks Bangalore will explore the joy in cognitive learning !

So what if Thanksgiving Day was a few weeks ago- any time is good time and more so, at this time it is the best time to thank people who made me learn many lessons -

Dhanunjaya                    My boss, friend, support and learner 

Marcia Behrenbruch   My Mentor and guide and a dear friend

Mario Gauci                     A dear friend and guide

Kerry Bolger                    A role model  (As Marcia says My brother from   another mother)

Kingshuk Nag                  A well wisher, friend, guide and philosopher

Raghunathan                   A very dear friend and guide

Meena Raghunathan     A dear friend and support


Padma  Jayalakshmi  Anu  Neelima Sridevi Rachna  Sunitha Sangeeta  Shobha  Treeza  Ratna  and Srinivas – my friends and sources of support without whose help I cannot be a good learner.
I would probably be a Principal and not a Principal Learner without their support.

 All my dear friends at school who are also learning along with me and the students 



Murty –     My partner for life, mentor and boss at home, who prefers to have me fussing around him all the time but is considerate enough to recognize my learning needs

Ramya-       My  daughter who is more my friend and support 

Shyamala-  My sister who takes all the responsibility of looking after my mom, and does not allow me to feel guilty for not doing enough for my mom

My Mother-  Who would prefer to have me by her side  but grudgingly allows me to do what I want to do and yet take pride in my work
Swarna & Geeta My extended family

Mary – My housekeeper who proves the saying that “behind every successful woman..there is a loyal housekeeper”

Manju &  Liz  who see only the best in me..who will always be there for me  




Unknown said...

your learning is contagious... your passion is contagious... your smile is contagious.... your friendship is contagious.... Seeta Murthy is contagious....
Thankful to you for the change in me...
A lot to learn through the Silver Oaks Center for Research and Design in Cognitive Learning.

padma said...

I am proud to be one of team memeber in Silver Oaks to get exposed to new ideas and chance to learn more and more.

Katyayini A. said...

I believe that I have been bitten by the same bug and trust me, I am not complaining! I love to explore and the latest in my explorations happens to be innovations in education. Ever since my daughters started to going for formal schooling I have been exploring about various methodologies of teaching across the globe like Montessori, Reggio Emelia, and Waldorf etc. I have been fascinated by all the unique features of these methodologies. After your description of the unique learning environment at NBCS, I was curious to know more about it and browsed through their blog, website and found many interesting things. I chanced upon the following videos
and thought we are not far behind the world leaders in innovative learning. I plan to go through the research papers of SCIL, some works of Charles Leadbeater during the summer vacation (can’t wait!)!

DeviRao said...

I fully agree with Katyayini on the concept of the same bug bitten to me also...I love to learn and for me learning is never ending..Indeed I wanted to explore in Summer taking ..Thomas Jefferson High Washington DC the best school of America..and explore further as to what is it that is making this school on the top of the chart...Now I started carving for more information and listening to the speech..may it be Mr. Pranab Mukerjee the President of India or Mr. Obama the president of US and reading more books...I wanted to explore some new techniques for education and be a part of Work-shop leader..Well..If given a chance...So now that I got a platform I am going towards my goals...reaching higher echelon in life..Thank you mam you are a great inspiration for me."Why crawl when I can fly"...a True Leader is the one who motivates me from behind ..that is Ms.Seeta Murty mam.DeviRao