Douglas Gerwin

From the Editor’s Notepad

The Romans named this the month of purification (februo = “purify through sacrifice”), signaling it was a time for cleansing and fresh beginnings. This year we get an extra day of this activity as we re-align the earth’s orbital relationship to the sun with the addition of February 29. 

In this spirit, we preview some of the new beginnings in the offerings––and those who offer them––during the coming months. In addition, with this issue we are rolling out a new format. Tell us what you think of it! 

–– Douglas Gerwin, Executive Director

Center for Anthroposophy

 

A New Look and a New Manager 

With this issue, Center and Periphery, the online newsletter of the Center for Anthroposophy, gets a new look, thanks to the expertise of Rachel Cohen, the Center’s recently appointed Operations Manager. Here is a brief introduction to the latest member of our administrative team.

Regular readers of our  online newsletter, Center & Periphery, will notice a different look to our thrice-yearly broadsheet as of the current issue. This is but one change wrought by Rachel Cohen, who was appointed last fall to the new position of Operations Manager at the Center for Anthroposophy (CfA).

Rachel came across the advertisement for this position while working as a sales account executive at the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, a regional newspaper in Southern New Hampshire. It happened to be her task to place this ad in her newspaper and––as a Waldorf parent herself––she seized upon the opportunity to submit her own application. After a series of interviews, she was asked to join CfA’s administrative team as of 1 September 2019. 

Rachel brings to this position a rich background in administration and graphic design. Before joining the Monadnock Ledger she worked as a real estate agent, graphics designer, technology trainer at  Keene State College (where she received her BA degree), and editor of a golf club newsletter in Flagstaff, AZ. She earned a MS in Management from Antioch New England Graduate School in 1999.

In her previous newspaper job, she was known as “The Zen Master” for her serene disposition and ability to work quickly on multiple publication tasks without losing her center. What better testimonial for her new role as Operations Manager of our Center! We warmly welcome Rachel to our circle and hope our readers will too when they have occasion to speak with her.

In the meanwhile, we extend heartfelt thanks to Anamyn Turowski of Waldorf Publications at the Research Institute for Waldorf Education, who from the inception of our newsletter skillfully handled its graphics and layout, as well as supplying the articles with a lively and sometimes humorous accompaniment of visual images. Thank you, Anamyn! 

 

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Alumni Responding to the Call 

Over the past year, participants in  CfA and Antioch programs have rallied to the call for the creation of a new alumni association. Torin Finser, who has spearheaded this initiative, offers a first work-in-progress.

Thanks to the support of foundations and several individual donors, we have successfully launched a new project to connect with alumni who have participated in programs sponsored by the Center for Anthroposophy (CfA) and the Waldorf Program at Antioch University New England (AUNE). 

In the first six months of this project, we have conducted an initial survey of alums to assess their wishes for an alumni association, and held five alumni gatherings: two in New England, one each in Tucson, Seattle, Kone, and Maui.  In each case alums expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to meet face to face and share valuable insights arising from their years in the classroom.

We have designed and will soon send to our alumni a more comprehensive survey asking for a more in-depth review of their teacher training experience in light of subsequent years of teaching.  We will use the results of this second survey to evaluate the courses of our teacher education programs.

In the meantime, we are collecting “stories of success” from our alums and others for a new book on “Waldorf Teacher Education – Best Practices Beyond 100”. Alumni of CfA and Antioch programs are invited to submit brief outlines of any story describing a moment of success they have had with a student in or outside the classroom. 

If you are an Antioch or CfA High School Teacher alum please take part 2 of our Alumni survey here.

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Preview of Renewal Courses for Summer 2020 

 

Karine Munk Finser, Director of CfA’s popular Renewal Courses, offers a brief preview of common attractions this summer, including some new options of timely urgency.

 

Dear Friends,

This year we have taken the big step of going paperless with our Renewal brochure, not simply to support the environment but also because we know that most of you find us and register online. A single flyer listing all of our courses has already been sent to many of you. We are delighted to share our new Renewal Brochure for 2020 here.

The first week of courses––June 28th to July 3rd––will feature our grades-specific courses. New this year is that Christof Wiechert, in addition to offering his popular morning lectures, will visit all the grades once to share his rich insights into the art of the child study. David Newbatt will help teachers tackle blackboard drawings that enrich the curriculum and express the joy of creating fresh images in front of the students. 

During the second week––July 5th to July 10th––we will address burning questions of our times. A five-day research symposium on financing Waldorf education and addressing diversity and equity in our schools is intended to stimulate a creative and solutions-based exchange. Leaders of our movement, including Linda Williams and John Bloom, will be on campus to help find solutions and create the language needed for their implementation.

In this spirit, Bronya Evers and Melody Brinch will offer storytelling and  puppetry, using needle felting techniques with performance art that inspires community building, working with social issues for both children, adolescents, and adults.  Michaela Glöckler, MD, will help us discover how the esoteric biographies of Ita Wegman and Rudolf Steiner inspire our own calling. We will work with the fruits of their last years of collaboration, summarized in their celebrated book, Fundamentals of Therapy. Michaela will also address the pathologies of the digital age. 

Karsten Massei returns with another course on nature’s knowledge and wisdom in light of climate change. Linda Bergh and Jennifer Fox will bring a new round of biography studies in the time of the Consciousness Soul. Both courses are new and participants who have taken courses with these teachers before are welcome. June Albright, Robyn Brown,  Carla Beebe Comey, Michael D’Aleo, Torin Finser, Angela Lindstrom, Signe Motter, David Newbatt, and Natasha Zimmerman round out the faculty line-up for this week.

Our evening events will be plentiful, and we eagerly await to welcome you (back). Please look inside the brochure to review the courses  in which you may wish to participate. Celebrate the passions and interests you harbor within so that, together with others, you may receive new wings! 

Until the summer,

Karine 

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Spanning Bridges “from Sea to Shining Sea”

After successful cohorts in Alaska, Colorado, and California, CfA’s “Building Bridges” onsite teacher training program is heading into new terrain. Torin Finser, founder of this program, reports on some future options.

This year CfA is conducting its “Building Bridges” program for prospective and practicing Waldorf teachers at the Yuba Public Charter School in Grass Valley, CA, located just a short hour from last year’s site at Golden Valley in Sacramento. Our current group, 26 strong, includes teachers from half-a-dozen area schools, including six new teachers from Golden Valley who were not a part of the cohort at their own school a year ago. 

This year’s program has been well received, as reflected in students’ regular evaluations of instructors and responses from area schools.  For the coming year, schools across six time zones are possible sites for the next round of this program, which meets once a month for several days at a time during the school year. At present, the communities of Tucson in Arizona, Jacksonville in Florida, and Maui in Hawaii are all considering hosting Building Bridges either in 2020-21 or 2021-22.  

Students who successfully complete “Building Bridges” are eligible for advance standing to finish their Waldorf teacher training and earn a Waldorf certificate or fully accredited Master’s degree at Antioch University New England. 

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What Our Explorations Programs Actually Explore 

Now in its second year, CfA’s foundational “Explorations” program is moving inland and across country. Torin Finser, who pioneered this new arts-based course on the fundamentals of anthroposophy, reports on next year’s hubs.

Currently CfA is running three of its “Explorations” programs on separate sites along the Atlantic coastline: Washington in DC, Boca Raton in Florida, and Marietta in Georgia.  These programs, made up primarily of parents, administrators, and beginning teachers, work through the medium of the arts to explore themes in anthroposophy and the principles underlying Waldorf education. 

For some participants, this sequence of five or six weekend workshops, supplemented with shorter study seminars and online Zoom sessions, serves as an initial step along the path to Waldorf teacher training, while others use this program to deepen their understanding in order to contribute more to their schools as volunteers.  

For next year CfA is exploring interest in Lexington MA, Southern NH, and Anchorage in Alaska.  In each case, at least 15 participants will need to register on the CfA website before plans for a local program can go forward.  A new flyer, designed to be circulated among interested parents and teachers, is available for distribution here

Developing a professional learning community––or “PLC”, as they are sometimes called––is key to the success of our children in schools today.  Most Waldorf schools deliberately cultivate such a learning community within the faculty, but for our schools to thrive “Beyond 100” into the next century of Waldorf education, we need to expand these learning opportunities to include more parents and friends.  

These efforts can make a huge difference in the accessibility, visibility, and sustainability of our Waldorf schools.  CfA’s  programs for “Explorations” and “Building Bridges” (see separate article in this issue) are purposefully dedicated to the development of professional learning communities of the future.

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Three Scholarship Funds for Waldorf Teachers and Trainees 

Thanks to the generosity of its donors, Center for Anthroposophy (CfA) has created three special scholarship funds to help defray the tuition costs of its summertime progams. Terms of these scholarships are described below.

As part of its long-term strategy for sustainability, the Center for Anthroposophy (CfA) has set up three named scholarships funds.

Georg Locher

The first of these was launched in honor of Georg Locher, a long-standing faculty member in the Waldorf program at Antioch University New England and former president of CfA’s governing council. Generous gifts to this endowment fund, which is invested in socially conscious accounts, make it possible to award scholarships to help reduce tuition for Waldorf teacher education. Awards, based both on need and merit, are made once a year to trainees enrolled in Waldorf teacher training programs sponsored by CfA and Antioch’s Waldorf Program. 

 

Karine Munk Finser

Karine Munk Finser

A second fund set up in the name of Karine Munk Finser, Director of CfA’s summertime Renewal Courses––helps Waldorf teachers cover the tuition of these popular one-week courses. 

 

 

 

Douglas Gerwin

Finally, CfA has launched a new fund in the name of Douglas Gerwin, CfA’s Executive Director and founding Chair of its Waldorf High School Teacher Education Program, to provide scholarships for prospective and practicing Waldorf high school teachers enrolled in this three-summers program.

 

All three named funds are being built up out of many generous gifts to CfA’s annual giving campaign, including the philanthropy of some major donors. We are lastingly grateful to the growing number of contributors to these three endowment scholarship funds.  Details of this year’s annual campaign, with its focus on these named scholarship funds and the creation of an alumni association, can be viewed here.

To Donate click here

 

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Reconfiguration of Leadership in Antioch’s Waldorf Program 

Starting this summer, the leadership of Antioch’s Waldorf Program will be re-apportioned in light of the retirement of its current Progam Director. Here is a preview of the new line-up.

When the summertime courses of the Waldorf Program at Antioch University New England reconvene in Wilton, NH next July, a pivotal faculty member will be missing. Hanneke van Riel, who took over as Program Director in 2017, is retiring at the end of this academic year after more than 36 years as a Waldorf educator and a teacher spanning five decades. In Waldorf, she served first as a specialty teacher, then as a class teacher at the Monadnock Waldorf School in Keene, and for the past 20 years as part of the Waldorf faculty at Antioch. 

In light of her retirement, Torin Finser will assume the position of Program Director, a post he first took on in 1990, but this time with a much broader delegation of responsibilities to other members of the Waldorf faculty team. Alison Henry, who was appointed to the Waldorf Program in 2018, will take charge of Antioch’s Year Round Waldorf Program, while Carla Beebe Comey, who joined the Antioch team in 2016, will take a primary role overseeing Antioch’s three Summer Sequence cohorts.  Karine Munk Finser, in conjunction with the Camphill movement, will continue to be primarily responsible for the program she pioneered for experienced teachers seeking further training in the healing arts.  

Antioch’s three-week summertime Waldorf program starts on Sunday12 July with its annual Convocation Ceremony. This year’s Convocation Speaker will be Linda Williams,  a long-time class teacher at the Detroit Waldorf School and a leading figure in the Waldorf movement on the theme of social justice.  

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A Digital Charter for a Healthy Childhood

The International Forum for Waldorf Education (IF) has published new guidelines to help teachers and parents regulate children’s use of digital technology. Douglas Gerwin, a member of the IF, reports on the latest version of this charter.

At its most recent meeting in Berlin, the International Forum, a grouping of some 45 Waldorf teachers from around the world, adopted a final version of what it called “a digital charter for childhood”, a statement concerning the healthy use of screens and digital devices. The statement, reprinted below, lays out the basic perspective of Waldorf education regarding the role of technology in the life of children and concludes with a 10-point charter for a healthy childhood.

Navigating the waves of technology for a healthy childhood

Digital technologies are a part of modern life and need an appropriate place in education – both in teaching and learning. Children develop their capacities to experience the world in successive, developmental  stages: tactile, emotional, social, and cognitive. Accordingly, answers to the questions “When?“ and “How?“ to learn about and use digital forms of media are crucial in the unfolding of a healthy childhood. 

Neither a naive use of digital technologies nor a defensive rejection of them can lead to skillful and appropriate applications. What is needed is a holistic approach that leads the way from concrete, primary experiences of the world (sensory, motoric, and rhythmic activity) through a familiarity with a range of diverse media (picture-books, printed text, handwriting, film, theatre) to an understanding of digital technologies and their applications as tools for learning.

Waldorf Education recognizes that these tools are intended to enhance particular human skills but understands that, at first, it takes time to develop these human skills, including social skills. The more advanced a skill, the more one can take advantage of a device designed to enhance that skill. To the degree one is fluent in mathematical operations, for instance, a calculating device can be of immense help. However, where the calculator is introduced before the requisite mathematical skill is developed, the calculator may, as a result, serve to replace a skill rather than support it.

In the case of digital devices––computers, tablets, smart phones, and the like––the skills they are intended to support are the cognitive functions of conscious human experience. In effect, they simulate these functions. That means that human capacities are enhanced and benefit from using these devices. But the principle still applies: first develop the skill, and only then use the tool to enhance that skill.

In this light, the fundamental question regarding the use of digital technology in education must be: How do we develop the full palette of human experience so that digital technology can enhance, rather than supplant, it? In an attempt to contribute to the discourse around this question, the International Forum for Waldorf Education (Hague Circle) has drafted the following 10 principles:

Towards a Healthy Childhood in an Age of Digital Technology

  1. Children learn best from direct contact with other human beings.
  2. Children learn differently at different stages of their development.
  3. Children need to move if they are to learn. The younger the child, the greater the need to be active and practically engaged.
  4. The development of gross motor skills precedes the development of fine motor skills. It also enhances them.
  5. Children should complete, in large measure, the physical development of their perceptual or sense organs before these organs take up digital devices.
  6. Unscripted, child-initiated play is the most productive work of childhood. It enables children to develop imagination by exploring and experiencing the world around them.
  7. As young learners begin to gain access to digital screen-based technologies, it is vital that adults ensure that children and young people are safe in the online world and that they learn to use these technologies with care and responsibility. Human powers of objective perception, discernment, and thinking––which constitute the basis for freedom and responsibility––need time to mature.
  8. Children need first to develop life skills before acquiring digital screen-based skills.
  9. Education must be guided by pedagogical values, rather than by economic or political interests.
  10. Learning is more about developing human capacities than about accumulating information. 

To which can be added a further statement:

Children learn more from being bored than from being entertained.

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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 25th  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 on Sunday 5 July and runs through Saturday 1 August––can apply online at here 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.