From The Principal
Dear Kodai Community, Near and Far,
A big and warm KIS welcome to the latest addition of The Flag Green! We’re headed into the stretch run of the school year and we’ve had a semester replete with grand accomplishments, new initiatives, and compelling programs. The Flag Green articles herein share some of these school, student, and alumni happenings, along with a number of memorable events and moments that we’ve done our best to capture with photos and write-ups.
As an alumni of KIS (from a time way before the Internet, and even before the prevalence of TVs in Kodai) I’m often asked to share my perspective on the major differences between Then and Now. One change I’ve noticed in recent semesters relates to the relative busyness and speed of life in a contemporary boarding school, and what it means for the ability of KIS students to really get to know Kodaikanal. Whether it’s the academic demands of the IB curriculum, the ubiquity of technology in our lives, the frenetic bustle outside the school gates, or the abundance of choices available with regard to how students spend their free time, there is little doubt that the pace of living and learning has increased several fold from “the old days,” sometimes at the expense of a sense of connection with Kodai. Long and carefree days I recall spending exploring the environs of the town and the hills seem distant, and no longer within the realm of experience of recent Kodai students.
And yet, in new and often exciting ways, the reach and involvement of KIS students in the lives of those around them has never had more potential.
Whether it’s through work done through our Social and Environmental Experience Department (SEED); our initiative to help bring responsible recycling and waste management practices to schools, hotels, and other institutions in Kodai; or a new wave of student innovation and social entrepreneurism that is taking shape and yielding results (see Rehan Balsara’s article, below), I’m delighted to see what I sense is a renaissance of student understanding and involvement in the community. More than this, I believe that, as educators, our role is to help our students succeed in the classroom and in life by connecting them to authentic community issues, organizations, and people.
Recently, KIS Drama teacher Robert Wood took his IB Diploma Programme Theatre students (the first IBDP Theatre class in KIS history) to several local villages, including a Tamil repatriate community and a tribal Adivasi village. The purpose was simple: to listen to the villagers’ stories. To learn from their cultures and to hear their almost completely untold histories and cultural narratives. The visits were transformative for everyone.
At first the Adivasi were taken aback; they had certainly received visitors before, but seldom ones that had come only to listen and be taught. Initial reservations led to a sense of joy. In sharing one particular legend, the Adivasi children began to dance, weaving movement into narrative. “They were so excited to have this opportunity,” recalls Robert, “that they could have danced all night.”
Based on this experience, the KIS Theatre students are now developing a range of pieces: monologues and other forms of spoken word and performance to relate these stories, with insight and honesty, to the world. “Our students just want to go back,” Roberts says.
I’ll close by sharing some student work. Earlier this semester KIS held a day-long Writing Festival for all students and staff. The idea was to give students an opportunity to focus on writing in a relatively non-academic setting, and to interact with the campus, the town, and some of the wonderful people in Kodai, inside and outside the school. The staff and student writing that emerged from this experience was wonderful. I’m proud to share one such result: Grade 12 student Letay Silveira’s poem, “The Lake.”
A circular flow of water like
Blood which personifies the lake.
This is no ordinary lake
For different trees are tucked into the lake like a blanket
Along with the aroma of surrealism.
The beauty of a body of water is the smiles and ethereal emotions brought to life
By curious and hyper tourists.
Amidst this beauty a lurking darkness emerges in the form of plastic.
It is humorous and peculiar how such happy faces can be the cause of destruction
Of what they supposedly love.
Letay Mikhaila Silveira
– Corey Stixrud, Principal