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Training Teachers for a Fulfilling Bala Vihar at Chinmaya Mission

Photos: Jayesh Mistry

Photos: Jayesh Mistry

By Padmashree Rao

HOUSTON: Chinmaya Bala Vihar teachers from several centers in North America assembled enthusiastically on the morning of June 28, at the Sarasvati Nilayam in Chinmaya Prabha, Houston. The occasion was the much- anticipated, comprehensive curriculum training program by Acarya Darshana Nanavaty of Chinmaya Mission Houston.

After dedicating the day to Gurudev with a prayer, Acarya Darshanaben conducted an intensely thought-provoking training to a rapt audience for several hours. Over a hundred and fifty people – teachers with many years of experience, new entrants, and other volunteers interested in serving through Bala Vihar, became eager students delighting in the expansive vision that unfolded in the presentation. The audience included teachers from other Hindu organizations, who came to learn about effective teaching methods.

As she began, Acarya Darshanaben invited everyone to join her in thinking about the main focus of Bala Vihar. Just as every aspect of Nature finds fulfillment in a picturesque whole, so too will Bala Vihar be a path to fulfillment of both the teachers and the children, she explained. Drawing attention to the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual personalities embedded in each person, the Acarya emphasized, “Integrate your personality.” Through ‘mindful’ integration, the whole would certainly exceed the mere sum of its parts.

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Acarya Darshanaben pointed out Bala Vihar as that special place where children learned through ‘integration.’ She called Bala Vihar as a “gym for the young minds.” It would be the happy responsibility of every teacher to help tone the muscles of the mind and intellect while connecting with each child through love and understanding.

Decades of experience in designing the worldwide Bala Vihar curriculum and bringing out the teachers’ handbooks for all grades made Acarya Darshanaben’s training valuable to every listener. Reminding all about Gurudev’s vision to “Tell, Never Teach,” she outlined how to inspire children to reflect as they grow and make knowledge their own.

Even as Acarya Darshanaben provided an insightful overview of the scriptures-based curriculum from kindergarten to 12th grade, she demonstrated some key instruction techniques to the audience using teachers from the Houston team. Entertaining and engaging with ideas for games and activities, she clarified how learning should be interactive and appealing to children of all grade levels.

Acarya Darshanaben conducted an intensely thought-provoking training to a rapt audience for several hours. Over a hundred and fifty people, teachers with many years of experience, new entrants, and other volunteers interested in serving through Bala Vihar.

Acarya Darshanaben conducted an intensely thought-provoking training to a rapt audience for several hours. Over a hundred and fifty people, teachers with many years of experience, new entrants, and other volunteers interested in serving through Bala Vihar.

Throughout the training, Acarya Darshanaben described how the Bala Vihar books were structured around Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy, the theory of educational psychology used in schools countrywide. Every aspect of each book aimed to make the children remember, understand, apply, and analyze all scriptural concepts as they grow. Finally, the children would evaluate how far they have imbibed the knowledge and create their own integrated, wholesome lives.

Everyone who attended the training then toured the classrooms in Chinmaya Amrta Balamandira where the child-friendly board displays brought alive what Acarya Darshanaben talked about. The Acarya also addressed the challenges that Bala Vihar teachers had to overcome. She said that teachers should first be good students of the scriptures and worthy role models who lived what they taught. Only then would the Bala Vihar classes everywhere continue to grow in strength and spirit.

The visiting teachers attended Bala Vihar in Houston on Sunday, June 29, after Acarya Darshanaben completed the final session of training on Sunday morning. Her main message was that every Bala Vihar teacher must aspire to “be His instrument,” with the conviction that each of them can pass the scriptural wisdom to eternity. When the teachers bowed in gratitude before Gurudev, they received a sweetly significant yajna prasada – a key ring holding together the sixteen steps of a puja (puja vidhi). It was a gentle reminder to invoke and worship Knowledge through every step of Bala Vihar seva.

 Then, Acarya Gaurangbhai Nanavaty reinforced the greatness of teacher in a satsanga where he spoke about Sage Vyasa. He led a meditation session to demonstrate the importance of memory and reflection for spiritual progress.

The weekend of training in Houston was the culmination of deeply caring efforts that began many months before. Acarya Darshanaben acknowledged the help of many teachers who had been instrumental in assisting her with the acclaimed Bala Vihar books and the training preparations. She thanked everyone, from the room parents and the kitchen team who fed the attendees of the training to every volunteer who served Gurudev’s mission in Houston.

Everyone who attended the weekend training was filled with gratitude for Acarya Darshana Nanavaty’s untiring and loving guidance. The lessons from this training will go far and beyond, to hold high Pujya Gurudeva Swami Chinmayananda’s  vision for Chinmaya Bala Vihar.

For further information on Chinmaya Mission Houston visit www.chinmayahouston.org or call Jay Deshmukh 832 541 0059 or Bharati Sutaria 281-933-0233.

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