To Be Happy
John Lennon – a fairly famous musician from Liverpool and a favourite of mine, was quoted in an interview once saying:
“When I was five years old, my mum told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked the class what we wanted to be when we grew up. I wrote down “happy”. The teacher told me that I didn’t understand the question” – John Lennon
At a basic level, I think, happiness is what we all seek, all of the time. The psychologist, Maslow, of course writes about a hierarchy of ‘needs’ that drive us in our lives – starting with the most important needs; physical/physiological (food, air, warmth…), then safety & security, followed by love, then self-esteem and finally self-actualisation (creativity/purpose…). When you strip all of these right back, though, it boils down to our doing everything we can to create causes and the conditions to be happy (and to bring happiness into the lives of others – something (almost) uniquely human). I sometimes sit and wonder what it is about our education systems that are about creating the conditions for young people to be happy and to find happiness in their lives and I struggle with this – it’s not on the National Curriculum! However, I think, at Avanti House, in a fairly explicit way, we actually do this. At Avanti House we educate the whole child – to nurture confidence, creativity and character; so that our students become happy and fulfilled – more likely to achieve and we do this, through our curriculum and ethos, in a really joined-up way, I think this approach is what makes the vision for the schools of the Avanti Schools Trust compelling and quite unique.
An Avanti education really is about the whole child; it is the whole story. We set about putting a curriculum in place – from 4 – 19 which ensures that all learners make excellent academic progress. At the same time, our emphasis on the six values leads to our students developing a sound character. Our faith activities; a bespoke PRE curriculum, collective worship, meditation, yoga and a daily shared, vegetarian meal complete the three pillars of our school vision. Many people visit the school, almost on a daily basis; parents of prospective students, members of the local community, consultants, other heads and teachers. They frequently reflect and comment on how happy the children in our school clearly are.
Co-location at Pinner
Now our secondary phase is settled at Pinner, for the next two years, our attention turns to managing the sharing of the site in 2016/17 – and our working with the Heads of the two schools involved. One or two parents have been asking about the logistics of this and although they have not entirely been bottomed out, our shared plans are as follows:
From January until July 2016, the DfE have arranged some of the staff and students from the Jubilee Academy will be co-located on the Pinner site – whilst part of their own building undergoes some significant building work. Jubilee and Avanti House students will not come into contact with each other at all. At the former Heathfield site, there is a primary wing, including a laboratory, art space and a hall. Coupled with their own self-contained outside area for play as well as security doors (fob-activated) between the main part of the building (Avanti House) and the Jubilee section, our schools will operate entirely independently of each other for the short time Jubilee are on the site. If the school look to make use of the sports hall, this will obviously be negotiated and movements supervised. The start of our day (7.30am for 8.00am) is considerably earlier than the majority of schools, including Jubilee – we now have to talk about the end of the school day to ensure the two schools leave the site at different times, if possible. At the same time, over the coming months, I look forward to working with the incoming Headteacher of Pinner High School, Chris Woolf – on similar plans for co-location when they join us in September 2016.
Planning for the permanent, £25 million build on Whitchurch fields is moving forward at a pace now, with discussions between the DfE and the Council around community use of the playing fields now getting into the detail. With considerable support from the community consultation, (74% of community respondents were very positive about the new school), finally, our planning application is imminent for an August 2017 delivery of the new build. I look forward to keeping family and friends of the school up to speed on this blog.
One of the teachers who made a lasting impact on the aforementioned musician (John Lennon) was of course His Divine Grace Srila A.C.Bhaktivedanta Praphupada – back in the late 1960s – shortly after Srila Praphupada had made the long journey from India to the USA and established ISKCON in a shop front on the East coast. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of that event which I am sure will be marked at ISKCON centres worldwide, including of course the one closet to home – at Bhaktivedanta Manor. The Manor is of course another venue known for bringing great happiness and spiritual insight and fulfilment into the lives of thousands of families and the opportunity, through the practice of bhakti (devotional) yoga, the most eternal happiness of all.
As Krishna declares to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 18, verses 36-39
“…now please hear from Me about the three kinds of happiness which the conditioned soul enjoys, and by which he sometimes comes to the end of all distress.
That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.”
That happiness which is derived from contact of the senses with their objects and which appears like nectar at first but poison at the end is said to be of the nature of passion.
And that happiness which is blind to self-realization, which is delusion from beginning to end and which arises from sleep, laziness and illusion is said to be of the nature of ignorance.”
May we rest in the mode of goodness (sattva) and find a deeper happiness.
Have a lovely week