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Two reports from the latest number of Reflections on Growth from the International Teaching Centre.
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Strengthening the Training Institute: The Importance of Gatherings for Reflection
In its message of Ridván 2010, the Universal House of Justice called upon the believers and institutions to strengthen the institute process, the instrument critical to realizing the potential of local populations to create the “dynamics of an irrepressible movement.” …
In this issue, friends from different parts of the world share their experiences of consultation, action, and reflection at the institute seminars…. The stories illustrate how well-organized reflection can contribute to the strengthening of the institute process, “an instrument of limitless potentialities.”
At one seminar I learned so much about creating an environment conducive to reflection. The facilitators of the seminar modeled how to create such an atmosphere.
We, the participants, had many questions, but the facilitators always put the questions to the group and they let us explore the answers; hence, it was a collective learning rather than a “sage on the stage approach.” I also learned that facilitators provided a definite answer when necessary. So when I came back to my cluster, I followed this example by hosting a tutor gathering without any agenda—“just an opportunity for reflection.” We seated the tutors in a circle and started with study of the guidance and reflection questions on the challenges and successes of tutoring. I tried very hard to restrain myself from talking and answering questions, as it used to be my custom to talk too much and provide all the answers. I always reminded myself how the facilitators modeled and created a setting for reflection.
The gathering went very well, and the participants learned from one another’s experiences and approaches. Plans were devised for how to increase more study circles. At the end of the gathering, I asked the tutors for feedback and one participant said: “This is one of the best tutor gatherings I have ever come to. I really felt like we did a lot of reflection and I learned a lot.”
A participant in the tutor gatherings…explains…how she felt more capable of creating the environment envisioned in the institute courses.
I attended a two-weekend tutor gathering where we reflected on how to tutor Book 1 and practiced facilitating the book together. We went through the book, identified themes, looked through some of the questions that invite discussion, and consulted on how we handle such situations…. Great emphasis was placed on putting into action what the participants learned, such as praying, reading the Writings, and of course serving.
Another important aspect of the study circle was the practice component. We went out to visit Bahá’í friends to share a prayer. The visit was great. The task was divided into three parts: introduction, discussion of what prayer is, and sharing the prayer itself. It went so well that there was an exchange of ideas between the participants and the Bahá’ís we visited. It was so natural that other prayers and passages from the Writings were shared and recited….
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A tutor training for the Ruhi Institute in New Zealand, 2002
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In the system of distance education that has now been established in country after country—the principal elements of which include the study circle, the tutor and the curriculum of the Ruhi Institute—the worldwide Bahá’í community has acquired the capacity to enable thousands, nay millions, to study the writings in small groups with the explicit purpose of translating the Bahá’í teachings into reality, carrying the work of the Faith forward into its next stage: sustained large-scale expansion and consolidation.
Let no one fail to appreciate the possibilities thus created. Passivity is bred by the forces of society today. A desire to be entertained is nurtured from childhood, with increasing efficiency, cultivating generations willing to be led by whoever proves skilful at appealing to superficial emotions. Even in many educational systems students are treated as though they were receptacles designed to receive information. That the Bahá’í world has succeeded in developing a culture which promotes a way of thinking, studying, and acting, in which all consider themselves as treading a common path of service—supporting one another and advancing together, respectful of the knowledge that each one possesses at any given moment and avoiding the tendency to divide the believers into categories such as deepened and uninformed—is an accomplishment of enormous proportions. And therein lie the dynamics of an irrepressible movement.
– The Universal House of Justice, Ridván 2010 message, § 9-10
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(Source: “Reflections on Growth”, the International Teaching Centre, Number 27, September 2011. Link to the document in PDF-format: xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/14277181/344443263/name/Reflections) (Photo source is here, copyright of the Baha’i International Community).