Vaishnava Teacher: the relevance of his/her role in the education of devotee children and teens

posted in: English

By Mani Manjari Devi Dasi

Paechter (1999) explains that there are two types of curriculums or ways in which teachers transmitted their own views and values to students: the intended hidden curriculum and the unintended hidden curriculum. In the intended hidden curriculum, the teachers are aware of the views and values they are given to their students. In the unintended hidden curriculum teachers are not aware of the views and values they are given to their students; since those views and values are spread by implicit communication to students. Teachers are role models to students especially during early years and primary schooling. A vegetarian teacher, even without preaching the value of not eating meat; works as a role model for his/her students and sets the standard that ideally one should hold a vegetarian diet.

McCeery (2005) mentions that teacher’s religious beliefs and history have a big impact in the way they teach at schools. The author explains that teachers seek to respect the religion of their students; but also they seek for their students to question their own faith; especially when the faith of the students has main differences with the faith of the teachers. Naturally teachers that do not hold vaisnava religion and have little knowledge about it will question the vaisnava religious practices of their students. This tendency could result in children questioning their own vaisnava religious practices and their own relationship with Lord Krishna. Secular teachers unconsciously could spread doubts about the Lord and the vaisnava doctrines to their students and this could result in students¨ lack of motivation in learning about the Lord and worshiping His deity in the temple.

It is essential for the teacher to transmit by his/her instructions and behaviours the spiritual benefits that religious practices such as: worshiping the Deity, praying to the Lord, congregational singing (kirtan); and meditating in the Lord and His different forms; could bring in the awaking of Krishna Consciousness.

Ideally the teacher should hold the same religion as his/her students; and the teacher should be a role model of faith, devotion and knowledge about the Lord and His different forms. The vaisnava teacher should spread bhakti and awareness about the Lord by his/her instructions and religious practices.

James and Miller (2017) tested the effects that religion has in the mental health of teens. The authors measured the effects of religion by measuring the spirituality of 434 teens. James and Miller (2017) found that teens that hold a religious belief system were less likely to show depressive features. The researchers explain that to belong to a religious organization was not enough for a teen to be spiritual; h/she needed to understand the purpose of life to be protected from poor mental health. Vaisnava teachers need to explain devotee students that the purpose of life is to develop a loving relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna. By doing this they will educate students at the spiritual level; since people are flesh and soul, the spiritual dimension of a person needs to be also nurtured at school.

It is the duty of a vaisnava teacher to prepare his/her students for the burdens that they might confront in their lives. This means to help them develop skills that will allow them to be successful at work level; but also at the spiritual-personal level. People during their lives confront radical situations, like lost and death. Students also need to be prepared to endure, with integrity, painful situations. To know about moral values does not help a person to control his/her mind and feelings. It is only through a nurturing relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna that a person can face the hardest moments in live showing equanimity.

Jawoniji (2012) describes the civil rights of children and their right to receive religious education. The author pin points that in 1989 in the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), children were given the right of religious freedom and parents were given the right to choose the best type of religious education for their children.

In Little Avanti Santa Clara we have adopted the philosophy of Avanti Schools in England, spread by his Grace Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada funded in the teachings of Lord Krishna and Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Our main goal is for children to develop a personal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna, by teaching about His pastimes and the pastimes of His different forms; practicing congregational singing (kirtan); chanting the Holy Name; and worshiping the Deity of the Lord.

In Little Avanti Santa Clara we delivered the British Curriculum for early years which contains seven learning areas: Personal Emotional Development, Communication and Language; Literacy; Mathematical Development; Physical Development and Creative Development. The vaisnava curriculum for early years, developed by Avanti Schools, has been incorporated into our planning and it is delivered according to the vaisnava celebrations; it holds diverse topics like: the Holy Name and Srila Prabhupada; Lord Krishna and his pastimes; Lord Chaintanya and his pastimes; Lord Rama and his pastimes; the Avatars of the Lord and the Deities of the Lord.

Both the British Curriculum and the Vaisnava Curriculum are taught by using songs and stories. Our classroom library has diverse types of books according to the particular interest of little children; but it also holds diverse books for children about the pastimes of the Lord Krishna, His different forms, His deities and His devotees.

Children in Little Avanti Santa Clara worship daily the classroom deities; which are similar to the deities of Radha Govinda Candra in the main altar of New Vrajamandala. The children have learned to do the simple acamana; and they offered the worshiping articles by turns. The aim of this activity is for children to awake devotion for the Deity of the Lord and a taste for serving the Deity of the Lord. Children participate in weekly Harinamas around the gardens of New Vrajamandala. They are given the opportunity to lead the kirtan and use the mrindanga as a devotional instrument. The aim of this activity is for children to awake a taste for doing Harinama and chanting the Holy Name in congregation in open spaces. Children visit twice a month the Goshala of New Vrajamandala and offer services to calfs. The aim of this activity is for children to awake love for the mother cow.

Devotee parents need to be aware of the big impact that secular teachers have in the religious education and spiritual development of their children. Neither a course of moral values or positive education can bring a permanent feeling of happiness or prepare children and teens for lost and grief that they might face at certain time in their lives. It is only through a loving personal relationship with Lord Krishna that a persona can face the hardest moment of life with integrity.

If you would like to contact the author and learn more about Little Avanti Santa Clara you can write to cuadrosmsl@hotmail.com or contact the principal of the school Caitania Candra Prabhu at littleavantisantaclara@gmail.com

References:

James, A. and Miller B. (2017) Revisiting Mahoney´s “My body is a temple…”study: spirituality as a mediator of the religion-health interaction among adolescents. International Journal of Children´s Spirituality 22: pp 134-153

Jawoniyi, O. (2012) Children´s rights and religious education in state-funded schools: an international human rights perspective. The International Journal of Human Rights 16: pp 337-357

McCreery, E. (2005) Preparing primary school teachers to teach religious education. British Journal of Religious Education 27: pp 265-277

Paechter, C. (1999) Issues in the study of curriculum in the context of lifelong learning. Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, University of Sussex at Brighton, September 2-5 1999

About the author: Mani Manjari DD, holds a Bachelor Degree in Special Education from Boston University; Master Degree in Early Years Education from the University of Sheffield; and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education from the University of Nottingham; she serves as teacher/coordinator in Little Avanti Santa Clara; and pujari of Radha Govinda Candra in New Vrajamandala Temple in Spain.

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