I came to Auroville more than 30 years ago (1984, to be precise) and since then I’ve been working in the field of education. My very first experience was with small children (less than 3 years) at an informal crèche at Samata’s place (Transformation). At this time there wasn’t yet a well organized crèche and I believe there was other informal ones like that at other places in Auroville.
The second experience was participating in the creation of the present day Kindergarten at Center Field. For many years my focus was to offer the children the possibility of expressing themselves through activities in the fields of music, dance and drama. It was a great period of joy and discovery for everyone (me included) and the memories of this time are very pleasant and rich: together we created stories and the children performed them with or without words, mostly with expressive movement enhanced by music.
As music is the field I feel more connected to, it was just natural that I continued to explore it in the field of education. With the creation of songs for children (by myself and other Aurovilians) that are more in line with the spirit and atmosphere of Auroville, I’ve been doing singing circles with children of different schools like Deepanam and in the past in Nandanam and Udavi School.
At Deepanam, I’ve been developing a more sustainable experience for a few years now. Singing is the best approach to musical education as the human voice is our first and most direct instrument. I believe that the children who are exposed and trained in singing from a tender age have more chances to open their musical talents and capacities. The sessions at Deepanam (with bigger children, say, of 10-11 years old) vary between 45 minutes to one hour. With smaller ones, just half an hour is enough to stimulate and open their musical ear.
During all these years I had more or less motivated groups of children and, of course, this makes a lot of difference. I had good and less good classes, accordingly. It’s a great joy when the children are open and already singing in tune (a first major problem for any music teacher) and the class flows beautifully. I had this experience at Deepanam School with some groups and we did also some nice presentations to their parents and to the general public. It has been a very rewarding experience for me.
Another field that I have been exploring for a few years is modeling with clay. Presently I work in the Art Center of Last School and propose different ways to introduce the material (clay) as a first step towards sculpture. Also here, as with music, it’s the student who gives me the key to deal conveniently with each one (in this case the approach is much more individual than with the group singing classes). It’s very rewarding to witness the concentration and effort that some students are able to attain and the final result of the work – a process which can take many sessions. The joy of the student contemplating his or her “master piece” is the greatest reward.
I’d like to add some words about the approach I’ve been following with my students over these years and, hopefully, contribute with some suggestions to those working in the same field.
In the explorations with smaller kids, at Kindergarten age, I used to prepare an ambiance with suggestive scenic elements (props) in the theme of the proposed drama, to enhance the participation. I would let the action take its natural course (characters were assigned beforehand) and occasionally make some intervention as a participant of the ongoing action. Music was a central element in such dance-dramas almost without words but suggested only with bigger kids and, even so, improvised.
In my singing sessions at Deepanam School, for instance, I aim to help develop the children's listening capacity. I insist very much that without silence music cannot happen. Many times I have to interrupt a song when somebody is distracted and talking or has an attitude that is not attentive and remind them that we can continue only when silence is restored. Sometimes I have to wait quite a bit until this happens: I don’t mind, the singing can resume only when they are ready to follow. The question of singing in tune is, of course, central to music, but this can and must be developed systematically through many exercises, like playing some musical phrases with a flute, for example, and asking them (individually, preferably) to make the sounds with their voices. I have observed a child who before was unable to sing in tune, becoming able to do it in due time, with practice. Nothing is more rewarding to a teacher than to see this happen and it is very important to tell the child about his/her progress in this regard.
In my work as an art teacher at Last School the challenges are different, though one thing remains the same: the need for an atmosphere of quiet and concentration. I work with clay as a basic material (sometimes plaster also) and the work is individual: each student has his/her task mostly well defined and pursues it according to his/her capacity and interest in doing the work. In this process I give all the help required by the student (some are more gifted and experienced than others), for example indicating some flaws in the student’s observation of a given model, or making some suggestions in order to achieve a better result. Because these are individual works, I have also to take into consideration the sensitivities of the student and try not to be seen as invasive while making suggestions.
In whatever the subject, the basic requisite for success for the teacher and the student is the establishment of an atmosphere of mutual respect and confidence. With this established, progress will follow for both.
Jivatman was born in Brazil and came to Auroville in 1984. His interest for education started in Brazil when he worked with children and adolescents in the areas of Theatre, Music, bodily expression and language. Coming to Auroville he continued to be active in these areas (with different emphasis on one or another), first working at the Kindergarten from its beginnings in the eighties , then Miramukhi School, Udavi School (as a singing teacher) and Last School (Art Center) and Deepanam School where presently he continues to teach.
He can be reached at jivatman (at) auroville.org.in.