Work in Progress - Teachers' Conference at Lucca
“A holiday for body, mind and soul, and a meeting place for education,” -
one St James, London, teacher’s verdict on the International Teachers’ conference at Villa Boccella, in Lucca, Italy, sponsored by the ERT in July. It really was international. The 70 participants came from Argentina, Australia, Hungary, India, Israel, New Zealand, South Africa, Trinidad, the UK and the US. Some were teachers with many years in the family of schools that the ERT supports, and with deep experience of the spiritual philosophy of education. Others were encountering this philosophy for the first time. Some were from schools in affluent areas, others were from the townships of South Africa.
Paul Moss, the ERT’s special adviser on teacher training, led the conference. He noted:
“After 24 hours it would have been difficult to recognise the various categories (of experience and background). All participated to the full with the service needed to keep things going and all contributed fully to the life of the study. It was delightful to see the various countries coming together in conversation – Orange Farm township chatting with Chislehurst on the nature of maths!”
Each day began with Quiet Time. ERT trustee Margot Camp presented a series of images, from 5th century icons to Piero della Francesca paintings, with appropriate quotations. It unified the beginning of the day, much enjoyed by all. The daily programme also contained ‘Study of Principle’, in four groups according to experience. One of the Hungarian teachers said:
“I keep telling the children to keep calm in their mind. Now I have learned to do it.”
Twice a day there was Study of Subjects. Artist Brian Wright held classes in Art, Tom Bree of the Prince of Wales’s School for Traditional Arts, explored Geometry. Margot Camp led study of Plato. Warwick and Elena Jessup, who run the Sanskrit department at St James, London, led study of the Bhagavad Gita, as well as classes for beginners. Writer and Shakespeare scholar Jill Line, together with actor husband John, led a group reading and acting The Tempest. Hard to imagine a better setting!
Barry Solowey got everyone singing, from Mozart to South African folksongs. There was even time for visits to Lucca town, Pisa and Florence. One valiant South African managed all three in a day.
Sue and Alan Young produced wonderful meals with the help of a team of young women from New York, Johannesburg and London. Kim Brown was the administrator ‘without whom this conference could not have happened’. Alan Young took the photos.