It has been just over a year since news of the Covid-19 virus first began to encircle the world. Beyond its impact on human life and society, this pandemic has in short order radically upturned the way we teach children. In this issue we explore some of the human undercurrents coursing beneath the flow of events and peer ahead to see how teacher education will look during the coming year in light of the outbreak.
You will also be brought up to date on several new programs–ands faces–at CfA and Antioch, as well as the latest news from the Leadership Group of our new Alumni Association.
We invite you to join us on this retro- and pro-spective journey. Meanwhile, we wish you good health and continued strength for the remainder of this exceptional school year.
— Douglas Gerwin
Center for Anthroposophy
Dateline Amherst, MA: Teaching in the Age of Coronavirus
Perhaps even more widespread than the current Covid-19 outbreak is a pandemic of fear and anxiety reaching down from adults into the lives of young people and arresting their ability to learn. As a long-time high school teacher, Douglas Gerwin reflects on a root cause and possible remedy for today’s youth.
In teaching high school students, I encounter fewer cases of truculent teenagers who say, “I won’t!” and many more cases of trepid students who say, “I can’t.” We have entered a new age of heightened mental and emotional–to some extent even physical–paralysis.
Rudolf Steiner predicted more than a century ago that we would find ourselves living in an age of ever more heightened anxiety. In a widely-read lecture known in English as “Overcoming Nervousness”, Steiner characterized a worldwide outbreak of fear and stress that was already gripping people during his time. “Everywhere,” he told a German audience some six years before the outbreak of the Spanish flu epidemic, “something like nervousness is present.” He went on:
All this will, in the near future, grow worse and worse for people. If people remain as they are, then a good outlook for the future cannot by any means be offered. For there are harmful influences that affect our current life in a quite extraordinary way and that carry over from one person to the other like an epidemic. Therefore, people become a bit diseased in this direction: not only the ones who have the illness, but also others, who are perhaps only weak but otherwise healthy, get it by a kind of infection.
Today, even more all-encompassing than the current pandemic attributed to new strains of the coronavirus, we live in an atmosphere of nameless anxiety that intensifies in our students–as in ourselves–an arresting stenosis of soul.
In this same lecture, delivered fully seven years before the opening of the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart, Steiner criticised educators who induce a condition of pedagogical terror in their students by prompting them to cram for what today we would call “high stakes testing”. However, never one to leave his audience in a state of despair or hopelessness, Steiner spent the rest of this lecture outlining no fewer than ten practical exercises on how we as adults can come to grips with what is by now a worldwide psychological affliction. This very matter-of-fact lecture can be found here:
In this context, we need to ask: Given that students are growing up in an age of societal anxiety–a condition exacerbated by the use of smart phones and the Internet, which have been shown to arouse stress right down to a neurological and hormonal level–how are they to be educated? And how best to prepare their teachers to educate them?
Step for a moment into the shoes of a student and you will recognize that, if you are suffering an intensified state of stress or anxiety, you will probably be unwilling, or simply unable, to learn anything new until you feel safe in your place of learning. In a condition of heightened stress, you are more likely instead to protect and defend what you know and shut out or simply ignore what you don’t know or can’t control.
Cramming for a school test represents an archetypal example of this condition. While feeling the pressure to organize and retain what you have been told, it is simply too risky to explore an unfamiliar perspective or be open to the epiphany of new insight. More generally, if students don’t feel safe, they won’t move, which is to say that in order to move or be moved–whether outwardly in physical activity or inwardly in soul and spirit–they first need to feel safe.
We can say, therefore, that in educating our students we need first to make sure they move. But here’s the rub: whatever pressure an adult exerts on a student from without will inevitably create anxiety in that student, who will feel–rightly–the alien source of this pressure. Though in younger years children need to be steered towards healthy situations and protected from harmful ones, by the time they are young adults movement needs to arise more from within, not be induced from without.
In the end, all healthy movement arises from within, even if it is initially stimulated from without. This is the secret of the free human will, easily overlooked because clouded in unconsciousness and, among younger children, still largely undeveloped. With the exception of the reflex–an autonomic (and hence entirely unfree) reaction to the stimulation of the nervous system–healthy movement originates from within the human being, even if it is in response to outer guidance. Only when the kid moves will the kid learn.
By the same token, as children grow into teenagers, loving guidance administered from without must give way to inner self-direction and a sense of confidence if something is to be regarded as truly “learned”. As we know from learning to ride a bicycle, you cannot claim to have learned the skill of balancing if your training wheels are still attached.
Though the development of this inner self-direction is gradual, by the time of adolescence it holds the key to successful education. And yet no age is more prone to paralysis born of anxiety than the time of puberty. For this reason, it helps for teachers to stir their students into movement in three distinct yet related ways, embodying what I will call the “3PC’s” of educating:
- Teacher as pedagogical coach
- Teacher as pedagogical counselor
- Teacher as pedagogical compass
As pedagogical coach, a teacher deals with how to develop practical skills, helping students find purpose in work and confidence in conducting themselves in the world. This is why, in high school, the most trusted teachers are often the ones who can tell you how to do something by yourself. Drivers ed. instructors, gym and athletic coaches, practical arts instructors, computer techies, nurses and medics: these are the faculty and staff members who most easily garner a teenager’s respect. And notice how these coaches, of whatever discipline, are generally big on “safety first”.
As pedagogical counselor (not to be confused with psychological therapist), a teacher deals with how to handle feelings, or more precisely, how to sort out the confused skein of human sentiments that so easily tie youngsters up in paralyzing emotional knots. Good counselors know to use feelings as opportunities for learning; to pose questions rather than supply answers; to jointly come up with strategies rather than provide ready-made solutions. They, too, are committed to creating a safe environment for the unfolding of their students’ emotional life.
As pedagogical compass, a teacher deals with how to think, but again not by providing answers but rather by helping students develop leading questions that will help them discover uncharted terrains for themselves. A good compass indicates direction quietly and steadily, albeit vibrating slightly and adjusting constantly on an acute needle to changes in orientation.
In all three roles, the teacher’s secret to success is to educate by stirring the student to move, whether that movement is physical or bodily, psychological or emotional, spiritual or mental. The teacher sets up the safe conditions in which the student can dare to try, to fail, to learn, and in this way to become motivated increasingly from within, free of outer prodding.
In moving, students begin to educate themselves. And in educating themselves, they gain the confidence needed to overcome the contemporary paralysis of anxiety.
Dateline Keene, NH: New Member for the Renewal Team
Starting in April 2021, Karen Atkinson will be taking on the newly-formed positions of Coordinator for CfA’s Renewal Courses and a leadership program for Waldorf administrators. Karine Munk Finser, founder of Renewal, offers a brief portrait of her new colleague.
Karen Atkinson is coming home. A former resident of New England who studied in Vermont, taught kindergarten and the elementary grades in New Hampshire, and spent holidays exploring the history of these rolling landscapes, Karen has agreed to assume the mantle of Coordinator of CfA’s summertime Renewal Courses, as well as coordinating a new program for training Waldorf administrators.
A longtime Waldorf educator, Karen has taught at half-a-dozen Waldorf kindergartens and elementary schools including Monadnock Waldorf School, Green Meadow Waldorf School, and most recently the Waldorf School of Princeton. In addition to teaching, Karen is the Leader for the Mid-Atlantic Region on AWSNA’s Leadership Council, and formerly served as the Mid-Atlantic regional representative for WECAN. She has presented at several Waldorf venues including Sunbridge Institute and the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland. Last summer she was the commencement speaker at the CfA and Antioch closing ceremony.
Karen earned her undergraduate degree in liberal arts, with a focus on education, at Vermont College and her Waldorf teaching certification in both elementary and early childhood education at Antioch University New England. Among her many interests, she lists watercolor painting and sustainable living. When not in the classroom, Karen can be found out in nature; she supports local and organic farms and enjoys preparing health-giving meals for her family and friends.
As Coordinator of CfA’s Renewal Courses for professional development and artistic practice, Karen will take over the day-to-day running of this popular fortnight of week-long courses in June and July, making it possible for Karine Munk Finser to broaden her scope at the Center to include the development of new certificate programs. Karen has already begun work with Torin Finser to develop a new iteration of a training program for Waldorf administrators (see separate article below)
We are delighted to be adding Karen to our Renewal team and look forward to engaging her in other aspects of CfA’s programs during the coming year. Details of Renewal Course offerings for Summer 2021 are described below in this issue of Center & Periphery.
Dateline Wilton, NH: Preview of Renewal Courses for Summer 2021
Karine Munk Finser, Director of Professional Development, offers a brief preview of coming attractions in this summer’s stellar line-up of Renwal Courses.
I would enkindle all human beings
From out of the Spirit
To become a Flame
And unfold in fire
Their being’s very nature
— Rudolf Steiner
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
if only we’re brave enough to be it.
— Amanda Gorman
(written for the U.S. Presidential Inauguration, 20 January 2021)
Like the 22-year old author of this Inaugural poem, I am filled with hope for 2021, and so am excited to outline our Renewal Courses for this coming summer. We want to make it possible for you to encounter one another, both virtually and face to face; whether online or in person, each course we offer will help to strengthen and enliven you, in order that fresh life forces may ignite your courage for teaching and for living.
Week I (Sunday 27 June – Friday 2 July 2021)
Robyn Brown’s popular course, The Curative Education Course, will be added this year to our grades-specific seminars during our first week together. Another new feature of this week will be daily Conversations on Decomposing the Colonial Gaze with Chérie and Petna Ndaliko, available to all participants. Christof Wiechert, in his masterful short lectures each morning that we’ve come to love, will suggest a new era of Waldorf approaches to challenge and inspire us.
Our Renewal faculty are already meeting regularly to prepare for your arrival into their Zoom classrooms, and I encourage you to discover all the details on our website. New this year is that some of these teachers will be willing to offer five extra Friday sessions, “Renewal +”, which you can sign up for if you need a little more time with your instructor.
Week II (Sunday 4 – Friday 9 July 2021)
This year we’re moving Roberto Trostli’s course on teaching science into the second week of Renewal in order to allow more time for participants to enjoy the science curriculum in the upper elementary grades. Another much anticipated virtual course will be offered by Orland Bishop: Sacred Hospitality: Sacraments for our Futures. Also in this second week, a Biography and Social Art will be taught by Jennifer Fox and Sandra LaGrega.
Signe Motter, supported by CfA staff, will once again welcome prospective Waldorf teachers, assistants, parents, grandparents, trustees, and others to a course titled: Waldorf 101.
These courses will take place virtually while others during this second week are scheduled to be offered once again on our beautiful hilltop setting of the High Mowing campus in Wilton, New Hampshire, working in a post-Covid environment with careful measures and protocols of hygiene.
As part of this second week, we are incredibly excited to welcome Bernd Ruf, founder of the Parzival Zentrum in Karlsruhe, who will help us launch a new initiative called the Kairos Institute. (See separate article in this issue of Center & Periphery.) Bernd will teach the first two modules on psycho-trauma as we inaugurate a new multi-year training in Emergency Pedagogy. He will be joined by Reinaldo Nasimento and Katrin Sauerland, Special Educators who will offer daily artistic workshops.
After a long year of being unable to move together, we are especially glad to welcome Jeff Tunkey and his course on Teaching the Whole Class. Movement will also take place to support the health of administrators and the social climates in our schools when Torin Finser and Carla Beebe Comey teach their course: Waldorf Administration: The Human Encounter. Finally, it is a joy to announce that Alex Tuchman, from Spikenard Farm in Kentucky, will share his course on Honeybees and the Heart of the Consciousness Soul.
As in previous years, we are grateful for our supportive special faculty: Meg Chittenden for singing, Leonore Russell and Cezary Ciaglo for eurythmy.
We greatly look forward to welcoming you, both virtually and face to face. Meanwhile, with all my heart, wishing you good health and happiness,
Dateline Wilton, NH: The “Right Time” for Launching the Kairos Institute
Announcing the start of a new training in “Emergency Pedagogy” with Bernd Ruf under the aegis of the Kairos Institute, a new branch of the Center for Anthroposophy: Sunday 4 – Friday 9 July 2021.
It is with great joy that we announce the inauguration of Training in Emergency Pedagogy, a new program at the Center for Anthroposophy (CfA), beginning in Summer 2021. This is the first program to be offered by the Kairos Institute, a new initiative within CfA to bring together various training courses in the healing of pedagogical, racial, and social trauma.
Our first step this summer: In collaboration with the Transdisciplinary Studies in Healing Education program at Antioch University New England, CfA’s Kairos Institute is welcoming Bernd Ruf, Managing Director of the Freunde der Erziehungskunst Rudolf Steiner and head of the Parzival Zentrum in Karlsruhe, to launch the first North American branch of his internationally recognized “Emergency Pedagogy” training course.
Bernd will be joined by Reinaldo Nascimento, an emergency and trauma educator, and Katrin Sauerland, an art and trauma therapist.
In Bernd Ruf’s own words: Emergencies are part of life. Children and adolescents are not exempt. They suffer accidents, have to undergo necessary medical interventions, or cope with the loss of friends and loved ones through relocation, divorce, or death. Many are victims of violence, sexual abuse, neglect, and poverty. Others suffer war experiences, flight, and displacement, or are caught up in natural disasters. When the incomprehensible happens, nothing is as it was before, and childhood is in danger of falling apart.
What traumatized children and adolescents most urgently need in such situations are psychologically stable and competent adult helpers who are able to initiate first aid for the soul and thus avert possible disorders arising from these traumatic events.
Since 2006 the Freunde der Erziehungskunst Rudolf Steiners has been carrying out international emergency pedagogical crisis interventions based on Waldorf education in war and disaster regions around the world.
In our own countries as well, children are frequently traumatized. Their trauma-related symptoms and behavioral reactions may often go unnoticed or incorrectly diagnosed, with devastating long-term consequences. The aim of our program is to use Waldorf pedagogical intervention techniques to activate the children’s self-healing powers and thus help them to process what they have experienced.
Our new training: The curriculum has a modular structure divided into 12 modules. After completing the basic module (Introduction to Psycho-traumatology I), in which an initial basic knowledge of psycho-traumatology and Emergency Pedagogy is taught, subsequent modules do not have to be attended in ascending order, which increases the flexibility of the further training course. The completion of these 12 modules training is certified by the Free University of Education in Stuttgart and the Medical Section at the Goetheanum in Dornach/Switzerland. Collaborative negotiations are currently underway with other international certification partners in the university sector.
We intend to offer six modules per year, so that the training can be completed over two years between July 2021 and July 2023. Price for the first two modules includes an administrative fee to support the Center of Emergency Pedagogy in Karlsruhe, module training and a CfA material fees. For the initial two modules offered in July 4-9, 2021: $995.
For more information and to register for the two modules in July, go to Renewal Courses. For program content information: contact Karine Munk Finser, CfA’s Director of Professional Development [email protected]. or at [email protected] (for those interested in an M.Ed. degree from Antioch).
International Standards Training in Artistic Therapies will begin in March 2022. Classes will be both face to face and virtual. Dr. Michaela Gloeckler and Dr. Prasanna will be offering the medical-based classes.
Experienced art therapists, music therapists, speech therapists are welcome to write to Karine. Interested students are welcome to email for more information.
The “Right Time” for the Kairos Institute: The name “Kairos” is a Greek word meaning “the opportune moment”. It designates an action or thought that arises at just the appropriate time to meet a pressing need of the moment. Emergency pedagogy–along with other trainings intended to heal the traumas of our current times–will be the focus of this Institute.
Karine Munk Finser
Director of Professional Development and the Kairos Institute
Center for Anthroposophy
Dateline Keene, NH: Training Waldorf Administrators and School Leaders
Waldorf schools across North America are looking for both skilled administrators versed in Waldorf education and Waldorf educators versed in administrative skills. CfA is launching a new training program to serve both.
When Waldorf administrative staff members are hired, they will bring much needed expertise but may not have much background in Waldorf education. Similarly, pedagogical leaders are typically selected from within the faculty because they have earned the respect of colleagues due to their teaching experience. But sometimes they do not have the needed skills in facilitation, communication, conflict resolution, finances, and so forth needed to collaborate with staff, trustees, and parents. In short, both administrators and pedagogical leaders need more support if they are to succeed in new roles for which they have not been specifically prepared.
In response to this widespread need, the Center for Anthroposophy has redesigned its Waldorf Administrator and Leadership Development Program, now mostly online. In the light of recent surveys, the program will place greater emphasis on philosophical foundations, supplemented by contributions from a wide array of current Waldorf administrators and school leaders. Participants will receive personal mentoring, along with practical “eurythmy in the workplace” exercises and interactive group conversations, once we are able to meet face to face.
This new 14-month program will meet on weekends twice a month, starting on 3 April 2021; tuition will be payable over the duration of the program at $210 per month. Thanks to its online format, this program will be accessible to schools in many time zones.
Dateline Wilton, NH: Mid-Year Start of New “Explorations” Program
By popular demand, a new cycle of CfA’s “Explorations” in foundational studies will start this spring. Bev Boyer, convenor of this online program, outlines the new series of weekend seminars.
When the world shut down earlier this year, it became clear that the format for CfA’s “Explorations” program–intensive weekend workshops in foundational studies twice a month–could not continue in person. As a result, the program was shifted entirely online, starting in September with the first cohort of some 40 participants meeting on Zoom. This shift allowed for greater ease of participation both financially and geographically, and, as a result, the class quickly reached its capacity. This cohort will continue to meet twice a month through the spring term.
In the meantime, a steadily growing waitlist of interested participants has resulted in the decision to offer a second offering of this program, beginning Saturday 3 April 2021 and extending into the next school year. This new program, like its predecessor, will be open to participation from around the world, thanks to its online platform.
Explorations now offers not only a more accessible format, but also a revised curriculum that is designed to address pressing educational and social issues of our times. What has not changed is that the program continues to rest squarely on the foundation of Anthroposophy and the arts.
For a description of this new round of Explorations, including topics and dates, click here.
Dateline Wilton, NH: “Explorations” for High School Teachers, Too
In conjunction with the new cycle of CfA’s “Explorations” described above, a supplementary course in foundational studies custom designed for high school teachers has been added. Here is a brief description.
Waldorf education is uniquely positioned to bring healing and strength to young people and those who care for them. And yet, in order to be effective as agents of healing, Waldorf schools need to have effective Waldorf teachers. While the 40 Waldorf high schools in North America are holding remarkably steady despite a national decline in the number of independent schools, the number of trained Waldorf high school teachers continues to dwindle.
And yet the need for trained teachers is great – even greater now, perhaps, than it was when the first Waldorf high school was launched exactly a century ago, a year after the grades school opened in the fall of 1919 on the Uhlandshöhe bluff overlooking Stuttgart’s city center.
In light of this need, the Center for Anthroposophy is launching a new cycle of its “Explorations” program with specific emphasis on Waldorf high school education. This low-tuition online course offers essentially three elements during the forthcoming spring term:
- Introductory workshops focusing on self-development, including practical work in the arts
- Seminars introducing the major fields of high school specialization to all high school teachers, regardless of their own specialty
- Hands-on subject-specific seminars in five academic areas: English-History-Life Sciences-Mathematics-Physical Sciences
The course will begin in early April, break for the summer, then continue in the fall and winter of 2021-22. Those teachers taking this course will be eligible to apply to CfA’s summertime Waldorf High School Teacher Education Program (WHiSTEP), which will be held in a new format partly online during late June and July of 2021.
Dateline Punxsutawney, PA: The Significance of Groundhog Day for High Schools
For some, this day offers a clue each year as to the length of winter. But for applicants to the Waldorf High School Teacher Education Program, this date represents quite another landmark. Douglas Gerwin, Chair of this program, explains.
According to a medieval legend imported by German settlers to this town in Western Pennsylvania, the presence or absence of sunshine on February 2nd foretells the length of winter remaining. In the American version of this ritual, if the groundhog pops out of its hole and sees its shadow on this day, the remainder of winter will be long and cold; if it does not, winter is on its way out. Though it may sound counter-intuitive, a sunny day on February 2nd means lingering cold, according to this tradition; a cloudy day presages an early spring. For the record, the day was shrouded this year in snow showers and rain.
In the Christian calendar, the date is known as Candlemas, a lesser-known holiday celebrated 40 days after Christmas that marks the exact mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.
For high school teachers aspiring to work–or perhaps already working–in a Waldorf school, this date falls exactly one day after the formal deadline for applying to the Waldorf High School Teacher Education Program (WHiSTEP) sponsored each July by the Center for Anthroposophy. This year will mark the 26th cycle of this three-summers program, which offers specialized courses for teachers in Arts and Art History, English Language and Literature, History and Social Science, Life Sciences and Earth Sciences, Mathematics and Computer Studies, Physics and Chemistry.
Candidates for this program–which this year starts with an online component on Sunday 27 June and runs through Saturday 31 July–can apply online at www.centerforanthroposophy.org or by contacting the Center at (603) 654-2566. Detailed syllabi of these specialized courses for high school teachers are also available at this site. Applications are received and processed during the months of February and March, regardless of the weather.
Dateline Wilton, NH: Hearing the Voices of Alumni
A survey of CfA and Antioch alumni has yielded changes to the teacher training programs from which they graduated. Bev Boyer, who coordinates our new association of Waldorf teacher alums, reports on latest developments.
A vibrant and active Alumni Association for graduates of teacher training at CfA and the Waldorf program at Antioch University has been a clearly articulated dream, and recent activities have moved us further along this path. Following several in-person meetings that occurred pre-Covid, alums from both institutions were invited during the fall of 2020 for several Zoom gatherings to share further ideas.
From these meetings there emerged a group of individuals willing to play a role in leading this Association. A Leadership Group–consisting of Betsi McGuigan, Diana Tesni, Baruch Simon, and Beverly Boyer–will be planning several virtual events for alums during the coming months.
Further, in response to a commonly-expressed desire, an Alumni Association Google Group has been set up to streamline and facilitate communications among alums. It will serve as a “living document” that will continually update information on everyone’s activities. Graduates wishing to sign up on this group are invited to contact Milan Daler, CfA’s Administrator, at [email protected]
In addition, the voices of alums–captured through two surveys–have been central to the planning of programs this year. In response to suggestions offered in these questionnaires, specific changes and innovations have been introduced into the teacher training programs of both Antioch and CfA, including the addition of courses on working with parents, extra time devoted to the teaching of math and language arts, and intensified study in the areas of racism, trauma, and emergency pedagogy.
Betsi McGuigan sent us the following additional note:
Stepping forward to help this initiative has already allowed me to reconnect with old friends and begin to make new ones. These winter months of distancing and isolating have been a wonderful opportunity to reminisce about my experiences as a member of the fourth group to enter the Antioch Waldorf Teacher Training (1986-1988); my many years as an early childhood teacher married to a class teacher (a member of the very first class at Antioch of 1983-1985); my work as a long-time adjunct faculty member at Antioch; and, simply, my life as a human being which has been so enriched because I was fortunate enough to pursue this training.
I arrived at Antioch a total novice regarding Waldorf education and anthroposophy. I was a teacher looking for an educational philosophy that would help me to “tie it all together.” My former principal had taken to ducking into hiding whenever she saw me coming because I was so relentless in asking, “Why are we teaching this to fourth graders? How does the math curriculum relate to the science and social studies curriculum? Where is this all leading and why?” I remember one December, I did not want to take my class to watch a movie on birds building spring nests simply because that was when the film became available!
The Waldorf Teacher Training at Antioch immediately and deeply answered my educational questions. Thirty-five years later I can still find myself in awe at the applicability of Steiner’s insights and indications regarding human development and education. At this point I have worked with hundreds of children and families, been part of countless study groups, benefited from on-going life-long professional development, and received the insight and support of so many gifted and thoughtful colleagues. Still, I can pick up almost any of Steiner’s works and discover new aspects of his thinking that I had never noticed or tried to apply before.
I no longer teach in the classroom full-time, it’s true, and a number of my Antioch friends and classmates either never taught or only taught for a short time before pursuing other life paths. Among them are business owners, healers, builders, priests, public school professionals, university teachers, and artists. Recently I taught in a public school where my “hands were tied” in terms of directly applying almost any of my true educational skills or beliefs. This gave me time to contemplate, “What is a Waldorf teacher with none of the outer trappings of a Waldorf school or community?”
This is what I have come to: a Waldorf teacher training is somewhat like a Waldorf education. It is an opportunity to become more human. Studying both the arts and anthroposophy has given me the possibility to refresh myself; to summon my courage to face each day; and to be brought almost to my knees in gratitude in the most varied situations.
As we talked about the possible function of our Alumni Association, my first thought, of course, was how much I look forward to the human connections – old and new! But our hope, as a Leadership Group, is that this can serve as a practical support to all of our colleagues, whether actively engaged in teaching, other work, or moving to a more contemplative stage of life.
As we come to the end of a battering year, I hope that through the Alumni Association we can help to facilitate hope, joy, equanimity, and strength amongst us all – and maybe a little fun as well! Despite all the distance, the divisiveness, and isolation of the past year, my hope continues to live in the old Irish proverb: It is in the shelter of each other that we live.
Diana Tesni, also a member of the Leadership Group, adds:
I am happy to be working with our emerging Leadership Group to develop an Alumni Association that will serve to connect, inspire, and renew us. Anyone who journeyed through the Waldorf Teacher Training Program at Antioch was on a special educational journey, and we have all ended up in some interesting places doing some interesting work! Some of us are working in the schools, while others have brought the ideas of Waldorf education to new environments.
For myself, since graduation I have served as a class teacher in two Waldorf schools in the Northeast. I am now bringing my experience and background to positions as a college writing instructor, a Unitarian Universalist Director of Religious Education, and an international Waldorf tutor to a family living in Vietnam. Where else will this work call me? Where has it called you? How can we support one another in our endeavors, be nourished by shared stories and experiences, and expand our influence ever wider to transform lives? How can we support those who are hearing the call to learn about Waldorf Education right now?
When I graduated from Antioch, my classmates and I all wore felted flowers–made by several of my colleagues–pinned over our hearts. I still treasure this flower, as I treasure the memories of my summers in New Hampshire and memories of classmates and teachers. I look forward to helping create an organization that can make the heart connection that we share through our experiences as Antioch Alumni bloom into a source of strength and support for us all.
Finally, we received this note from Baruch Simon:
I owe tremendous gratitude to each of the seeds that the teachers, colleagues, and experiences planted in me at Antioch University New England. They are now being watered, pruned, nourished, and harvested in my career as a teacher. My passion to preserve, honor, and protect the innocence of young children is now joined with a joy I feel to experience the gift of each moment with children — a present, if you will, that children help unfold.
I attended Antioch from 2005-2007 in the Year Round Waldorf Teacher Training program. This led to a M.Ed. as well as Waldorf certificate and a New Hampshire state teaching credential. After graduating, I taught in Rose Kindergarten in California at Yuba River Charter School for eight years, before moving with my family to Colorado in 2015 to teach at the Waldorf School on the Roaring Fork in Carbondale, Colorado. There I taught for five years in the Sunflower Kindergarten. This past year, I returned to teach in California, once again at Yuba River Charter School, and again in the Rose Kindergarten class. I have served on both schools’ pedagogical councils and as department chairs, and more recently on accreditation teams for both AWSNA accreditation and Alliance accreditation. I enjoy supporting teachers and mentoring new teachers to help discover their unique gifts and talents. I’ve taught forest kindergartens and bicycle camps, and I enjoy learning while in movement and outdoors. I view mother nature as our primary teacher. I look forward to serving the group in whatever way I can.
Dateline Hudson, NY: A Clarion Call to Teach
In connection with the formation of an alumni association for CfA and Antioch graduates, Torin Finser, Director of the Waldorf Program at Antioch, has written a new book on preparing teachers for the classroom of today. Here is a description of the latest book of this prolific writer.
The vocation of teaching has been under considerable pressure for many decades now. As a result, teachers become discouraged, even demoralized, and yet in their hearts they still know how much their students truly need them. In administering standardized tests and complying with state mandates and administrative tasks, some may begin to doubt their own insights concerning the mysteries of child development and the sense of service that drew them into the teaching profession in the first place.
Drawing on 30 years of experience in the classroom and extensive research on the nature of adult learning, Torin Finser offers in his latest book, A Call to Teach: In Service of Waldorf Teacher Education and Lifelong Learning, full-hearted stories demonstrating the vital importance of preparing teachers thoroughly for the classrooms of 2021 and beyond. He paints vivid pictures of a potential future in which schools become professional learning communities led by inspired educators.
This is a book not only for practicing teachers but also for parents considering a change of career. In practical ways it shows how we can educate children, love them, and awaken in them a curiosity for learning lifelong and a undying passion for justice and social healing.
Torin has devoted the past four decades to education, first as a class teacher at the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School in Massachusetts and then in service of teacher education at Antioch University New England. At various points, he has been Chair of the University’s Education Department, helped found the Center for Anthroposophy in New Hampshire, and served nine years as General Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society in America. He is author of more than a dozen books, most recently The False Door Between Life and Death: Supporting Grieving Students, Teachers, and Parents and Education for Non-Violence. Currently his interest is focused on building professional learning communities with parents. Torin lives in Keene, New Hampshire, with his wife, Karine Munk Finser. Their family extends to six grown children and by now six grandchildren.
Dateline Wilton, NH: New Diversity Fund for Waldorf Teachers in Training
As the focus of this year’s annual appeal, the Center for Anthroposophy is launching a new diversity scholarship fund. An outline of this appeal is described below.
Though founded over 100 years ago on the ideals of human freedom, equality, and fraternity, many Waldorf schools across North America still struggle to embody these social ideals. And, as one might expect, a lack of diversity within the faculty and staff of schools is also evident among Waldorf teacher education programs, which face difficulties attracting sufficient minority teachers to meet the demands of our schools.
The leadership of the Center for Anthroposophy (CfA) and the Waldorf Program at Antioch University New England are committed to addressing this issue, but cannot effect change without community involvement. With this appeal, therefore, CfA is launching a new “Diversity Scholarship Fund” as part of its annual giving campaign to attract, retain, and support successful candidates of color in teacher education programs.
Because of the disruption wrought by the pandemic, CfA deliberately held back its annual appeal until the start of the New Year, but now support is all the more urgently needed. If this turbulent past year has taught us anything, it is that deep-seated social change requires collaborative human initiative. We invite you to help us in our annual campaign by making a secure donation at our website here.
Dateline Keene NH: A Remembrance of Ann Pratt
Among her many positions of leadership, Ann Courtney Pratt was a former Director of the Waldorf Program at Antioch University New England and a key player in CfA’s program in foundational studies. Susan Weber, a fellow kindergarten teacher and adult educator, offers this reflection of Ann, who died peacefully at the Fellowship Community in Spring Valley on 13 January 2021.
Ann Courtney Pratt was a member of the ‘great generation’. Hers was not the first who brought Anthroposophy to North America, but the generation that took it up and made it their life’s work. Ann was an initiator who believed anything was possible. She drew the future toward her as new impulses flowed from the spiritual world not only into her thinking heart, but also into her creative limbs.
Ann was born into a family that included her mother Elise, who studied biodynamics in Europe as a young woman, and her uncle Ralph Courtney, to whom Rudolf Steiner gave what came to be known as the ‘America Verse’. Her father was Ralph’s brother Jo. They were all part of a quickly growing circle in Manhattan who created what is said to be the first vegetarian restaurant in New York City, and the first branch of the Anthroposophical Society in America. In order to provide healthy vegetables for the restaurant, the group purchased farm land in Spring Valley, just outside the City. Here not only did the gardens grow, but also the arts: music, eurythmy, theater were all a part of life there, and it was here that Ann spent her childhood summers with her parents and sister Charlotte.
It was Ann’s mother who had first traveled to Dornach in 1926 to study eurythmy–her traveling partner Gladys Barnett had earlier sold her grand piano to pay for the trip–but in the end it was Ann who became a eurythmist herself, traveling to England while her husband Swain cared for their two young daughters, Laura and Alice. Her mother, as it turned out, ended up studying biodynamics instead. One could perhaps see the seeds of the practical will which stood out so strongly throughout Ann’s biography planted right here!
Over Ann’s shoulder was slung a quiver of beautifully colored arrows, ready to be launched in the service of anthroposophy, especially Waldorf education. They unerringly hit their mark, especially when the task was to initiate a new impulse arising from the future that spoke so strongly to her threefold self — her heart, her thoughts, her will. She was one of those of whom Rudolf Steiner spoke: over her destiny in golden letters was written, “Be a person of initiative”.
Where did those arrows take her? To Wilton with her husband Swain, then a teacher at High Mowing School, to create first a Waldorf kindergarten then to be followed by a full eight-grade Waldorf school. When Beulah Emmet, the founder of High Mowing, rejected Ann’s request to create a kindergarten there (especially for the children of the faculty – a future initiative at Sophia’s Hearth perhaps already expressing itself), Ann forged right ahead to create it on her own in what became known as Pine Hill Waldorf School.
When Antioch New England’s nascent Waldorf teacher education program needed its second director during the 1985 school year, she launched a second arrow of initiative in order to build up this young venture. She remained at Antioch until 1991, when a call from friend and colleague Betty Staley unleashed a fresh arrow to lead her to Milwaukee to be the program implementer for the urban Waldorf school, the first public Waldorf school in this country. When that task was ready for its next phase, she returned to Antioch in 1993. By then, the fledgling program was ready to welcome her back as its second faculty member, and Ann joined Torin Finser who in the meantime had become the program director while Ann was in Milwaukee.
During this second stint at Antioch Ann became a founding board member of the circle that became Sophia’s Hearth Family Center. Together with Rena Osmer, Susan Weber, and others, a new impulse was seeded, first at Antioch through a new design of its early childhood teacher education program and later on its own. Recognizing that Waldorf education had a tremendous contribution to offer to the education of the child in the first three years, Antioch became the first teacher education program in the United States to create a program to prepare teachers for this new work with parents and very, very young children.
When Ann stepped back from her Antioch responsibilities, she returned with Swain to her roots at the Steiner Fellowship community in Spring Valley. But it was far too soon for her to settle down in a retirement home, for her quiver still held several more creative arrows. When asked to come to the Moraine Farm Waldorf School (then Cape Ann) in 2001, she moved to Rockport, Massachusetts to help build up the early childhood programs there. When the Housatonic Valley Waldorf School asked her in 2007 to develop its college of teachers, another arrow drew her there. When the impulse was started to create a new initiative inspired by the Fellowship Community in Spring Valley, she joined groups trying to create something both in Wilton and in the Ghent NY area. The Ghent NY explorations culminated in the Camphill Ghent setting, a community for older adults inspired especially by the presence of the arts.
These golden arrows of initiative living in Ann’s soul were outer expressions of an inborn restlessness.When I first met Ann, she and Swain were living in the house they had just completed in Wilton, NH, planning to spend the rest of their days there. How surprised I was to hear that no, after the shortest of years, they were on the move again — and then again. I recall Ann sharing with me that during her starting year in Milwaukee, first she and then with Swain moved seven times! An
d friends also recall that moving boxes were always at the ready in their home, carefully and permanently labeled so that belongings could quickly and efficiently be readied for the next change.
During the last years of her life, Ann wrote poems and recorded her thoughts in notebooks or on slips of paper. One poem was entitled “Loose Leaves” — a title that captures a theme of her life, especially in later years, when all of her initiatives were completed, when all the arrows had at last been sent forth from her quiver. For Ann, this may have been a time without clear focus, a time of waiting or feeling herself to be a ‘loose leaf’ carried by the swirls of gentle breezes rather than the clear path of an arrow.
Ann’s final step was to return to the Fellowship Community in 2014, where she was to remain for her final chapter of life. All through the years, by her bedside was her well-worn copy of Rudolf Steiner’s How to Know Higher Worlds. It was there at her last moment, offering solace, courage, and guidance for who Ann was striving to become. But perhaps it is this verse by Rudolf Steiner that encapsulates her rich passage on earth.
To us it is given,
At no stage ever to rest –
They live and they strive,
The active human beings,
From life unto life – as plants grow,
From springtime to springtime,
Through error upward to Truth
Through fetters upward to Freedom,
Through Illness and Death
Upward – to beauty, to health,
And to life.