Sai Education in Human Values (UK)
Welcome to the June 2005 issue of the email newsletter.
Please don't forget the SSEHV National Day on Saturday September 17th. To reserve your place, please contact Pamela Nash (+44 (0) 1784 244494). More information about the event is available at www.ssehv.org.uk.
If you have any feedback about this newsletter, or if you'd like to share your experiences of SSEHV, please write to us.
63 children returned to their primary school in Milton Keynes over the half-term holiday for four days at the end of May to take part in an SSEHV Values Alive Event.
Daily activities included an hour's SSEHV class, followed by arts and crafts, cookery, music, drama sports, circle time and other fun lessons and pass-times. Each activity related to the theme of the day. Over the four days, the themes were :
is a challenge, meet it !
Each lunchtime, the children ate quietly for the first ten minutes. "They actually commented how wonderful and relaxing it was to eat in silence. Some even said that their food tasted better," writes Nirasha Ramlugan, the organiser of the event, who is a teacher at the school. The Headmaster, who kindly provided the school's facilities free of charge for the event, is keen to continue with this practice during term-time.
The event, which was the second of its kind to take place in the school, was reported by the Milton Keynes Citizen.
"From the point of view of us volunteers, it was an unforgettable experience," says Nirasha. "At the end of the camp, all the volunteers experienced a great sense of fulfilment, and the children were asking to have another one next year. The verbal feedback we had from parents was extremely favourable, and one teacher who was observing during three days said she was amazed at the difference in atmosphere with the children. All in all, a great success!"
Catherine Mostyn Scott, the teacher who was observing the event, has described her impressions in the article following below.
Catherine Mostyn Scott
the celebrated herd in the poem, they were not 40 children conducting
themselves like one, but every child was conducting itself like 40."
A normal lunchtime at our school always puts me in mind of Dickens' description in A Christmas Carol - children shouting, running in and out of the hall, shovelling food into their mouths I could go on.
So had I done the right thing to take advantage of the school's being open during the holiday to catch up on some work? I needed a calm atmosphere, and I wasn't sure that a large number of the school's more notorious pupils attending the summer holiday camp was going to be conducive to that.
On the first morning I popped in to say "hello" to some of the students in my Year 7 class. In a crowded classroom of 29 children, 11 and 12 year olds were sitting calmly - smiling - making colourful toys using straws. Outside were other, younger children busy baking butterfly cup cakes. Later, they passed me on their way to an outdoor activity - where was the pushing, quarrelling and banging of doors? These young people were walking happily and in a civilised way to the door.
On the second day, I joined lunchtime. Never before have I seen the pupils sitting quietly, chatting pleasantly to each other, and remaining in their seats. What pervaded the hall was a whole atmosphere of calm enjoyment - students were enjoying their food and enjoying each others' company; not only that - adults, too, were enjoying being with the young people. Several children said it was the first time they'd tasted their food properly, let alone enjoyed it.
I was enjoying being in school so much, I made sure that, next day, I joined everybody for assembly. Once again, where was the jostle, the underhand messing about, talking behind hands etc? And where were the cross-looking adults telling everybody to "Be quiet, or we'll practise during break"? The students sat, absorbed and still, as they watched their friends and a volunteer act out a story with a message. At the end of the story, they calmly thought about the relevance of that message to their own lives.
The frowns were replaced by smiles; running wildly replaced by walking calmly; aggression by peace. Back at school, I asked the Year 7s who had attended what they had thought - their feelings were summed up by Whitney who said, "I really want to come back next year. I shall be too old to come as a student so I'm coming back as a volunteer."
want to come back next year, too - to soak up some of the peace, calm
and cheeriness that befalls our school at this time of year.
Here is the feedback from one participant at a recent SSEHV Parenting Workshop:
"The course was valuable as I was made aware of lots of shortcomings and ways and means of improving these. I enjoyed the course. Discussions on values were great and I am trying my best to put them into practice. I would certainly recommend the course to others."
All SSEHV courses are free to attend, although a refundable photocopying deposit of £10 may be required at registration. Details of all our training courses, together with contact information and dates can be found on our website at www.ssehv.org.uk, in the Training section.
SSEHV courses are:
Parenting Workshop, Pinner, Middlesex
Intenstive Parenting Workshop, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Intensive Foundation Course, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Parenting Workshop, Southsea, Hampshire
If there is no course scheduled in your area but you would like there to be one, we can arrange one as long as there are a minimum of ten people who would like to attend. Please contact Pamela Nash for more information.
The following Values Alive Events are currently recruiting volunteers:
- 27th July - Four day Values Alive Event, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
- 30th July - Five day Values Alive Event, Wembley, North West London
If you would like to volunteer at any of the above events, please contact the relevant co-ordinator named above for each event. Opportunities are available to both SSEHV trained and non-trained volunteers. If you can attend for the duration of an event, that is preferable, but it is not a requirement. If you just want to come for a day to see how it feels, that's fine too.
Accommodation can usually be arranged free of charge for volunteers travelling long distances - please discuss with the event co-ordinator. Volunteers' children are invited to join in the event too. New volunteers may be required to attend a briefing meeting before the start of an event. Help will be provided with formalities such as police checking, and all relevant information and support will be provided.
If you would like your child or children to attend one of the Events, please contact the relevant co-ordinator for further information.
Miss Partridge's Secret Sadness
Jayshree and Marino were very good friends. They had spotted each other on their very first day at primary school, when they were still very small. Marino had lent Jayshree a purple pencil to colour in a flower on her picture when no one in the class would share. Marino was planning to use it in her own picture, but she wanted very much to be Jayshree's friend so she went up to her, even though she was shy, and said, "You can use my purple pencil if you like." Jayshree understood that this was not just a pencil that was being offered - it was a gift of friendship too. She gratefully accepted and the two girls became inseparable.
Jayshree and Marino sat next to each other in every class. If Jayshree arrived in the classroom first she would save a seat for Marino. If someone else tried to sit there, she would push them away, saying, "That's Marino's seat!" Marino would do the same for Jayshree.
When pens or scissors or coloured paper were given out by the teacher, Marino would make sure that she got two of the best of everything, one for herself and one for Jayshree. Jayshree would do the same for Marino.
When it was lunchtime, the two girls sat together and ate their packed lunches. Jayshree would give Marino some of her orange and some of her chocolate biscuit and Marino would give Jayshree some of her crisps and some of her banana. No one else was allowed anything of anything.
Jayshree and Marino were quite happy together. As long as neither of them was away sick from school, they didn't need anyone else. They didn't even like anyone else very much, at least, not as much as they liked each other. In fact, some of the other children they found quite annoying and stupid and they used to laugh about them. One little boy in particular used to really get on their nerves. His name was Adam. He never seemed to know the right answers to any questions that the teacher asked, although he often thought he did and would put his hand up and say something which was altogether wrong. Sometimes he would ask questions that seemed to be about something totally different to the topic under discussion. All this used to make Jayshree and Marino roll their eyes and giggle. Sometimes they used to laugh loudly, just so that Adam would know that they thought he was stupid.
One day a new teacher arrived in school. Although she was quite strict and serious in class, she had a softness and a kindness about her that the children could sense, and they all liked her for it. Everyone wanted her to notice them and like them the most. But Miss Partridge seemed to love everyone equally. Even when she was cross with someone's behaviour, it didn't seem to change the fact that she cared about that person and their well-being.
Jayshree and Marino liked Miss Partridge very much. They talked about her all the time and tried to do nice things for her. They offered to give her some of the best bits of their packed lunches but she always thanked them sweetly and declined.
One rainy break-time they spent the whole half hour drawing a picture of her together. At the top of the picture Jayshree wrote in her best handwriting, "We love you, Miss Partridge." At the bottom, Marino wrote as neatly as she could, "You are very kind."
They were very excited to give Miss Partridge their picture, as they were sure she would be extremely pleased. At the start of the next lesson Jayshree and Marino were waiting outside the classroom door to make their presentation before Miss Partridge could even enter the room. She took the picture, looked at it and smiled at the two artists who had created it. "That's lovely, girls, thank you. It's certainly true that kindness opens the doors of other people's hearts. Now take your seats quickly or we'll be starting the lesson late."
Jayshree and Marino were pleased that Miss Partridge liked their picture but they also felt a little disappointed that she hadn't been more overcome by their generous act, and that she had placed it carefully in the drawer of her desk instead of showing it to the whole class and pinning it on the wall as they had hoped.
The next day was sunny and Miss Partridge was in the play ground at lunch time watching over the children as they played. Jayshree and Marino were excited because it meant they could spend a long time talking to her. They liked to try to find out things about her personal life, such as how old she was and if she had a boyfriend. Although it was wonderful chatting to her, somehow, Miss Partridge always seemed to manage not to tell them any real information, no matter how hard they tried to wheedle it out of her.
After a short while, Adam came up to speak to Miss Partridge too. He also liked to talk to her because she didn't seem to think he was stupid like some other people did. On the contrary, she appeared to think that his many questions were the sign of an inquisitive and creative mind. She would tell him, "You've got a powerful imagination, Adam. That's a wonderful thing to have."
Jayshree and Marino were irritated that Adam was there as they wanted Miss Partridge all to themselves.
"What do you want?" asked Marino in an unkind voice.
Adam took no notice. "Miss Partridge, will it rain tomorrow?" he asked.
Jayshree made a loud squirting noise, as if she just couldn't help herself from laughing at such a stupid question.
"I don't know, Adam." said Miss Partridge. "Why do you ask?"
"If it rained every day for a year, would the water come up to the windows? Would everyone have to ride around in boats instead of cars?"
Jayshree and Marino couldn't contain themselves. They laughed as if they were going to split into two. They wanted Miss Partridge to laugh with them, but she was just looking at them as if she couldn't understand the joke.
"Yes, Adam," said Miss Partridge. "If the rain was heavy there probably would be a flood and the water would come up very high, perhaps even higher than the windows, and the cars would probably be submerged and we wouldn't be able to use them. Life would be very difficult and the farmers wouldn't be able to grow their crops."
Jayshree and Marino had stopped laughing now.
"However I don't think that's going to happen. The nature of weather is that it keeps changing, so it couldn't really rain for a whole year."
Adam nodded sagely and went away to think about this information by himself.
Miss Partridge watched him go. "Can I tell you a secret, girls?" she asked after a while.
"Oh yes please!" Jayshree and Marino were very keen to hear Miss Partridge's secret.
"Most of the time I'm a very happy person," she began in a whisper. "Seeing all you lovely children every day gives me a lot of joy. But sometimes I feel very sad. I have a secret sadness."
"What is it?" whispered Jayshree.
"Can we help?" asked Marino.
"Yes, I think maybe you can. Whenever I see a child that is upset or lonely it makes me feel very sad. I don't show it, but inside I want to cry. Whenever I see someone being mean to someone else it makes me feel so unhappy. When I get to feeling this way the only thing that makes me feel happy again is to see an act of kindness. Unless someone is kind to the hurt child and makes them feel better again, I can't stop feeling sad."
Miss Partridge paused. Jayshree and Marino thought about what she had said. They realised that perhaps they had been unwittingly contributing to Miss Partridge's secret sadness, even though they had been trying so hard to make her feel happy so that she would love them. They thought about how many times they had been mean to Adam and to other children, and they started to regret it very much. They decided then and there to try to make Miss Partridge happy from now on by always being nice to others - at least while she was watching.
"Do you think you can help me?" asked Miss Partridge, looking at each of them in turn.
"Yes" said Jayshree.
"Yes" said Marino. "We'll be kind to people that are upset so that you can feel happy again."
"Oh thank you so much!" said Miss Partridge. "But please remember, this is our secret. I'm relying on you to keep it just between us three."
"You can rely on us!" said Marino with conviction.
"It's our secret!" agreed Jayshree.
"Why don't you go and give Adam that sweet that you offered me a moment ago, Marino?" suggested Miss Partridge.
Marino hesitated for just a moment before agreeing. She went up to Adam and said, "Would you like a sweet? I don't want this one."
Adam looked at her with surprise and then suspicion. It had to be a trick. "What's wrong with it?"
Marino felt like saying "Forget it!" and marching off. But a quick glance at Miss Partridge strengthened her resolve. She had a big secret to keep and she was determined to live up to the responsibility. "There's nothing wrong with it. I just felt bad for laughing at your question. It wasn't a stupid question really."
"Thanks, Marino." Adam took the sweet and smiled at her. For once, Marino didn't find him annoying. He actually seemed quite likeable. "Here, I'd like you to have this," said Adam. He pulled from his pocket a shiny round sticker with a smiley face on it. "Because you made me smile." Marino felt happy inside.
After that day, Jayshree and Marino didn't laugh at Adam or anyone else when they got answers wrong or asked a silly question. They no longer pushed people out of chairs, and if someone said something nasty about a classmate, they would try to think of something nice to say to make that person feel better again so that Miss Partridge wouldn't feel sad. Miss Partridge used to give them a secret wink to show them that they had made her happy. This made them feel very proud and warm inside.
At first they saved all their kind acts for when Miss Partridge was watching. But after a while they found that other people became used to their kindness and behaved differently towards them. People offered them things and said nice things to them. Besides, they found that it felt really nice to be kind, and made them feel happy on the inside. They started to understand what Miss Partridge had meant about feeling sad when someone else was unhappy, and they didn't like to feel that way either. Before long, it was no longer Miss Partridge's secret sadness that made them kind, it was their own secret happiness.
Copyright © 2005 British Institute of Sathya Sai Education (BISSE). BISSE is a non-profit organisation committed to promoting human values in education.
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