JOHN COLET SCHOOL
The next exciting and challenging chapter in her life was being part of the founding team of teachers who, in 1985, started John Colet School – a children’s school based on philosophical principles. (https://www.johncolet.nsw.edu.au/)
All the teachers, which included her husband who had accepted an offer to be the founding headmaster, were students studying and practising practical philosophy and meditation. These teachers and parents with young children had all discovered the life-changing power of self- awareness, meditation and attention. These spiritual principles were presented simply to the children at John Colet – so they didn’t have to wait until they were adults! Teaching and working at the children’s school for its growth, development and success was a natural extension and expansion of all the years of knowledge, meditation and personal practice.
The precept expounded in the Upanishads is ‘svadhyāya pravachane – Learn and Teach’. The children’s school was a natural and perfect vehicle for this to happen. Sarah, and the other teachers and many of the parents, continued to study practical philosophy and meditation in the evening and on weekends, whilst teaching during the week.
The principles of the school were simple: Give the children the finest food for body, mind, heart and spirit. Stop when the child has had enough. Let the children be in the best company – people, thoughts, emotions and actions. The teachers were under the discipline of being ‘the same inside and outside’ so this meant never asking a child to do something which the teacher didn’t do first. The bar was set very high for the teachers. A key practice as a matter of discipline for teachers, was to see each child every day as the Supreme Self.
The core curriculum for all the children included a weekly philosophy lesson, Sanskrit, an annual Shakespeare Festival, choral singing, Scripture, daily mindfulness practice and thorough teaching of the 3 R’s as well as sport, dance, science, history, Latin and French. Meditation was offered to children from the age of 10.
Much of what was seen as unusual when the school started, is now part of the school’s impressive reputation as ‘cutting-edge’. Society in general is now seeing the need for both a rigorous curriculum, as well as mindfulness, attention, peace and proper inquiry.
One of the challenges for the teachers was to find enjoyable ways of presenting everything to the children in a way that suited a child’s nature and stage of development; otherwise it could all be very serious and heavy. The teachers got better at this; at making it fun. Teaching the children this way, showed the adults how to keep things light, simple and natural!
The Core Values of John Colet School are: Stillness, Truthfulness, Courage, Service, Respect.
“One day a group of 11 year old girls came to my room during their morning recess playtime. Their spokeswoman said, ‘Mrs Mane, we’ve had an argument and we’ve gone through the conflict resolution sequence, but we can’t decide what we should do to finally resolve the problem. We realised we needed an adult to help us make this decision.’ I had very little to do except listen and then suggest what seemed to be the most reasonable course of action. They agreed, and everyone was happy. They went off to continue their game.
To see the day to day application of the school’s values with love and reason by the children themselves, was inspiring and humbling.”
Achievements at John Colet School
Sarah’s role at John Colet School was broad and varied. She was a class teacher – responsible for delivering the core curriculum to her own class every day; a specialist teacher of choral singing – Sarah started, and developed the widely respected and award winning choral singing program, conducting many choirs throughout the years; a Sanskrit teacher – Sarah introduced the Sanskrit syllabus to the school, which also involved training the teachers so they could teach their own students; Sarah coordinated the development of the Gifted and Talented Extension program, which included arranging professional development for teachers and she presented some of this PD herself on topics such as De Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats and Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences.
Sarah was a member of the school’s Executive Committee which managed the running of the school. Sarah’s management role extended to developing and supervising all aspects of the school’s administration; a challenging and dynamic aspect of a growing school. Sarah was also Deputy Head of School for a time, which in addition to all her other roles, involved supervising student standards of behaviour and discipline.
John Colet School continues to grow and flourish. It is a fully established, highly respected and very successful primary school for children aged 5 – 12 years old. It is consistently ranked for its academic performance in the top 10 out of 7600 primary schools in Australia.
Sarah and her husband retired from the school in 2015.
“John Colet School was and is remarkable. It presented opportunities, challenges and huge rewards and success that no one could have imagined when it started. The good will, dedication, intelligence, love and esprit de corps amongst the staff kept us all going, and I will never forget it. We all shared the same principles, values and vision. The children and parents were wonderful. They certainly kept us on our toes! They taught me so much every day. It’s beautiful to see a young adult that has had Shakespeare, Sanskrit, Philosophy, meditation and rigorous academic work using this as a foundation for their life as they grow up. I’ve had ex-students of mine walk up to me in the street with a big smile and their arms spread wide and give me a huge hug, and I was just their primary school teacher. That’s so lovely.”