It's the first week of September and a flock of teenagers has descended on Brockwood. The house and the outbuildings that have lain in relative silence for most of the summer are again populated. Students are getting to know each other, being introduced to the changes that invariably are made over the summer, rediscovering things from what now seems to be ages ago and slowly acclimatising to that very specific thing that is Brockwood culture. For adults like me, who have their rooms in the same part of the building as the students, there are again the familiar sounds of teenage life: the hum of a skateboard rolling, the Reggae music popular with surfers, shouts along the corridor, the serious low voices discussing the merits of a particular band, the occasional higher pitched voice of a girl venturing into the boys' wing. Going to sleep before the official school bedtime of ten o'clock is now out of the question for a light sleeper like myself and there is the near certainty of having to respond regularly to loud music coming out of open windows, doors being slammed shut so hard that the building shakes, and the sound of footsteps from the occasional student sneaking out after bedtime.

Thus the short months of being responsible only for myself are over. They have been just long enough to find a few weeks of almost complete solitude to renew myself, to sink deep into my own conditioning and live in wonder of what a human being is, allowing fears and contradictions to run down the paths carved by time without interfering. I feel like a new person after a summer of going into myself and without having to give the needs of those in my care pride of place. But now that the term has started, it is necessary to take up again the role of educator and be in loco parentis. Which makes me wonder what it would be like to be an actual parent who, it would seem, can no longer be responsible for himself alone. It's great to see the students. All of them come carrying their own world. It may show in the looks on their faces or the little ornaments they wear on their bodies, a brief hesitation in their voice or the way they wait in line for lunch. None of it seems coincidental.

The staff at Brockwood, the cooks and the maintenance man, the person in charge of the infirmary, the administrators and the teachers, have been preparing for this day for weeks. Some of the preparation has been practical and some of it has been at the level of ideas, strategies and procedures. Perhaps the really crucial part has been arriving at a shared understanding of each other as individuals and what it is we aim to do with the students. There needs to be a spirit of friendship among the adults and the focus has to be on the education of the young people in our care. The group of staff is small this year and the workload daunting, but all are keen to give their best and there is a natural movement in the group that reaches out to the students, that is concerned with their well-being.

Adolescence: change and continuity

It is, in many ways, quite a peculiar thing to be working, year in year out, with young people in the same age range. One grows older, but the students are always fourteen, fifteen, seventeen, nineteen. I feel that we can learn a lot about adolescence by looking at what goes on during childhood and how that relates to what is expected of an adult in our society. Western parents seem to stress the development of an individual self during the early years, forever inquiring after the child's inner state, its wishes and needs and putting as little as possible in the way of the child's "unique" individual development. The child comes to adolescence predisposed to being directed by its inner state. We can see here the imprint of a society that values individuation.

What is more, because the role of the adult is gradually internalised, the child becomes predisposed to reflect on himself, consciously deliberating about his relationship to the environment. Thus, by the time they reach adolescence, most children are on their way to becoming self-regulating through reflection. They are being groomed for a society that has at its foundation the notion of the individual, where freedom is equated with choice, where meaning is often indistinguishable from pleasure. And yet, for all the continuity, something happens during adolescence that makes it different from other stages in life. There is physical and sexual maturity, which may throw up challenges, especially where there are contradictions surrounding the issue in the culture the child grows up in. There is also immense cognitive growth, which means that the adolescent has to incorporate many new things, often of considerable complexity, into the way he or she views the world. This increased mental ability also turns towards itself, reflects on itself, evaluates itself, and may in the process become self-conscious and insecure.

The role of the tutor

All the adults at the school are responsible for all the students and one may strike up significant personal relationships with lots of different students. This relationship between the adult and the teenager is exemplified and formalised in the relationship between the tutor and the tutee. As opposed to most schools, where a tutor is concerned mainly with the student's academic progress, the tutor at Brockwood is focused on caring for the student's personal and social welfare. Each member of staff has between two and four tutees. The tutor mediates between the student and the school as an institution, and the role of the tutor is in many ways similar to that of the parent. His domain is the student as a whole, the physical, emotional, social and intellectual taken together.

Living at close quarters as we do, we get to see each other in many different moods and states. It is important to reveal oneself without burdening the student, showing them that this is a real-life human being with hopes, doubts and fears. It seems important to be able to be at ease in their company, to relax and be oneself.

We talk to the students about the world they are growing up in, and also about what drives them personally, why they act the way they do, and about the impact they have on the lives of others so that they start to take responsibility for their behaviour. At the same time it is important that they feel they can be who they are, without worrying too much about what others think about them. Krishnamurti suggested that they be encouraged to study their own history, find out what their experience as children was: Were they spoiled? Was guilt instilled into them? Did their parents really care for them?

Yet there are clear dangers in too much emphasis on reflection, the most urgent ones being the inability of reflection to address some of our most pressing psychological problems and the fact that it may get in the way of a freer, more spontaneous life. When it is in order to let things go, reflection can be counterproductive, as it may perpetuate the thing that is best forgotten about. Also, our propensity to act from reflection tends to be linked with the drive to avoid pain and seek reward; we calculate the result of our actions. It is linked to time, as we seek to conform to ideas we hold of what we should be like. Indeed,the self could turn out very different if self-reflection changed in character.

Awareness of these dangers needs to be at the forefront of what we do in our education, and they need to be pointed out to the students. When we ask a student to look at their behaviour, to be aware of themselves, they often understand this as our wanting them to think about themselves. Though thinking goes on and has a place, the important thing is to convey to them that there is a kind of understanding that is based on direct observation, not intellectual reflection. The discovery of what one "loves to do in life" cannot come as a result of reflection, though that may be part of it.

I find I best prepare for a meeting with a tutee by seeking silence and allowing my mind to empty itself of some of its activity. Walking through the vegetable garden on my way from my room to the main building, the richness of detail in colour and shapes dances before my eyes. The body becomes aware of itself and there is joy in just walking and seeing. When talking to students about their lives, I may say just enough to keep the flow of the conversation going: keeping the process of turn-taking intact, but really just listening. What they say becomes like a multi-story edifice that I wander through, taking in the different rooms, tracing the corridors or peering into the depth of a stairwell. There is no attempt to retain things or reach a conclusion, and yet every now and then a point presents itself, something becomes evident that seems worth pointing out.

We do our best to ensure that the students grow up to be healthy individuals, who have a sense of where they want to go in life, who are self-confident in a non-assertive way, who accept themselves as they are without being stuck or complacent. At the same time, one finds at Brockwood a combination of tradition and innovation where both are motivated by the desire to create an atmosphere in which the self is given as little prominence as possible. Not out of the wish to suppress or deny, but because it is perceived to bring unnecessary interference at best and also to wreak havoc most of the time. We find in the School a tradition that has its roots in the wish to give prominence to collective wisdom and consideration for others. The student is invited to become part of this atmosphere.

Wherever you go, from the family to the government of a country, most decisions about how we shape our social reality involve a number of people. When we look at such a group as a bunch of individuals trying to reconcile their particular points of view and interests, we will probably conclude that reaching consensus is impossible. If, however, we take another model, then we may say that it is the group that takes a decision. Needless to say, this would be a mere exercise in ìNewspeakî, unless we came to the meeting with the predisposition to think together, leave behind our own particular points of view and allow self-interest to take a back seat.

At Brockwood, students gradually become aware that collective insight is expected to inform the decisions, rather than the wishes of the participating individuals. They are also increasingly involved in decisions of this kind. Importantly, decisions concerning people are taken in this way: Do we invite someone to join the community? Do we ask someone to leave? Also, when we give feedback to a student about how the staff feel he or she is doing, the emphasis is on what the collective has observed, i.e. what has come out of the meeting, rather than what does so and so think.

In talking with individual students about their lives, their hopes and doubts, it is the meeting of minds that brings thoughts and understandings to the surface. Often it is the role of the tutor to verbalise and make more explicit the insights that have come out of the talk with the student; it is not the adult telling the student how things are. The insight is what counts.

The struggles of adoloescence

In talking with individual students about their lives, their hopes and doubts, it is the meeting of minds that brings thoughts and understandings to the surface. Often it is the role of the tutor to verbalise and make more explicit the insights that have come out of the talk with the student; it is not the adult telling the student how things are. The insight is what counts.

I find, moreover, that many of the struggles of adolescence can be understood by looking at a contradiction in the way we in the West have conceptualised education. On the one hand, we see education as enabling the individual to develop without interference from those who represent the constraints of the culture the child will eventually be part of. We can see that this thinking is predominant in much preschool education. In primary school it becomes less and less so, and by the time we get to secondary education it is the opposite viewpoint that prevails. Playing has become studying and the motivation to learn has often become an abstract future goal, such as the exam or the job, or because it will be useful in later life. The student finds herself face to face with a world that tells her to adapt, play according to the rules,act with the interest of society at heart.

These are conflicting cultural values. On the one hand, there is the child-centred pedagogy of the early years that the student has internalised and that represents important cultural values, such as self-expression or the importance of finding out for oneself. On the other hand, there is the obvious reality that we need to take into account the social context when we act and that some people are at some point in need of correction, of containment within boundaries.

What is more, apart from creating conflict between the teenager and his or her environment, this culturally created opposition may be erroneous; we may falsely associate order with control, freedom with choice, self-expression with creativity, just because they have been historically packaged together. Questioning all the values we create as a society, talking about them, is one of the things we do at Brockwood. Ideas, such as that life is better when there is more pleasure,  or that pain and fear are things to avoid,are discussed. This is a fluid, ongoing dialogue with no fixed aim or goal. The main thing is to be aware of our conditioning when it operates.

The school year start

As the new school year commences, we use the first week to establish contact between the staff and the students and we discuss many of these issues. Classes do not start until halfway into the second week. There is a lot to do. Not all teenagers are responsive to what we try to do and our selection procedure is aimed at finding those students who are willing to participate in this exploration. In contrast to most schools, academic ability is not a selection criterion, except in those extreme cases of learning disability where we are unable to provide adequate tuition. In my experience, what we propose makes sense to a lot of young people, even if in practice they may find it hard to shed some of their ingrained habits. But who doesn't find that hard?

Every school year is a new journey in itself and the participants are aware of sharing a unique experience. There is an air of excitement in these first days of the school year. We point out to the students how they co-create the school, how they can make a difference and contribute to a constructive atmosphere. Once they understand this, many students seem to feel inspired and do take up this responsibility. I also try to convey to the students how I experience what is happening, that I am first a human being, suffering when things are difficult and happy when things are going well. One needs to be able to relate, to be friends, to feel genuine affection for them.

There is a hazy white sun high up in the sky. As so often at the end of summer, the lawn shows various yellow patches. These seem to be mirrored in the parts of the white façade of the school building where the paint is peeling off: signs of a low-budget school struggling to keep up the maintenance of an old country mansion. The people who walk in and out of the building, who sit outside in small groups talking while someone is playing the guitar, who are studying from books or who sit in offices behind computers, are not there for the physical comforts, even though the surrounding parkland, with its old trees, never ceases to move those who have an eye for it. This is Brockwood. Few who have been part of it have been left untouched by it. It is definitely greater than what a person like the author of this article can describe in a few pages. It is about people. It is about Krishnamurti's teachings and the challenges they present to us, the doors that they have opened.