With the launch of a new school year, the Center for Anthroposophy begins a year-long self-study in preparation for the renewal of its membership in the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA). In this context, we have an opportunity to pose some of the basic questions concerning the preparation of teachers for the classroom. What works best? What needs to change? We welcome your thoughts on these questions — and in anticipation of your suggestions, we here offer a few of our own.
Best wishes for a fruitful fall season!
Douglas Gerwin, Director
Center for Anthroposophy
Dateline Amherst MA: The “Art” of Becoming a Teacher
What does it take to become a teacher? Douglas Gerwin, Director of the Center for Anthroposophy, looks back on a life-long career of being a student.
In college, my favorite professor was a barrel-chested giant of a man with a rough chiseled face, booming voice, and a voluminous nose that reminded me of Jimmy Durante’s celebrated schnauzer. A professor of philosophy, this teacher usually lectured without notes, though on occasion he would reach into a faded leather satchel to pull out some classic text such as Rene Descartes’ Discourse on Method, a treatise he was especially fond of dissecting.
More striking, though, than this man’s facial or vocal attributes were his huge angular hands, leathery as his worn satchel. So strong and vibrant were these hands that their gestures could give almost physical outline to the most metaphysical of concepts. Indeed, one might expect these hands belonged more to a woodsman or farmer than to a college professor.
And indeed this professor was a farmer — a sheep farmer, to be precise. Though I would not have thought it at the time, looking back I will now venture that the secret to the sculptural energy and verve of his philosophical explanations had something to do with his agricultural practice. Whatever his background, his teaching was infused with something of special and lasting influence.
What is this special “something” that distinguishes a great teacher? On the one hand, it is tempting to say that a teacher is born with this “something”, rather like musicians who are born with perfect pitch. And yet there is more. Whether it forms part of a freely chosen destiny or is received as an inherited gift (think only how many teachers, like musicians, are born into families of their eventual profession), this “something” needs to be practiced as a disciplined art. In other words teaching, like any art, requires continuously to be developed and enhanced.
Herein lies the essential need for teachers, however gifted and dynamic as educators, to submit their talents to the discipline of training and also to the ceaseless pursuit of further professional development and renewal. In that sense Art, including the art of teaching, is much more about rehearsal than about performance.
In a cycle of lectures given not to teachers but a group of young people three years after the founding of the first Waldorf school in 1919, Rudolf Steiner sets out the crucial role of artistic practice in the vocation of teaching. “Every human being is a teacher, but he is sleeping and must be awakened,” he says, “and Art is the awakener.” A good teacher “does not depend on the giving out of knowledge but on activating the individuality of the soul, upon the pre-earthly existence. Then it is really the child who educates himself through us.” To activate the inner nature of the child, in other words, requires an artistic encounter. “We only educate when we behave in such a way”–that is, in an artistic way–“that through our own behavior the child can educate himself.”
Now, there is something as unusual about becoming a Waldorf teacher as there is about becoming an unpublished chairman of a philosophy department. In readying the inaugural circle of 12 men and women who constituted the first Waldorf faculty on the Uhlandshoehe of Stuttgart, Rudolf Steiner made it clear through his expectations and actions that the preparation of teachers must proceed at three levels. These can be summarized as:
a) Undertaking rigorous self development
b) Studying the human being in its archetypal stages of development
c) Practicing what I will call “the craft of teaching”
For those early teachers, these three levels constituted a hierarchy of training. By “hierarchy” I mean they entailed an order of priority by which they were to be taken up.
To explore briefly each level:
a) In becoming a Waldorf teacher, self development comes first and remains primary for the duration of one’s career. As Steiner put it to the teachers in Stuttgart, “the more we think of leading a right and proper life ourselves, the better will it be for the child . . . . For you can only become good teachers and educators if you pay attention not merely to what you do, but also to what you are.”
Ultimately, the purpose of any schooling is to help each child go through a process of self-transformation. By definition, of course, “self-transformation” can be practiced only by–and on–one’s self. That said, a child needs to be guided in this process, but only by adults who continuously practice it on themselves. As Aristotle would put it, “All learning proceeds by mimesis.”
Even teenagers–who, in the end, learn only by the exercise of their own judgment–will imitate their teachers: not, of course, their outer behavior (which may very well be the object of teenage mockery) but rather their inner striving.
b) Study of human development. This can take many forms and involve many of Steiner’s writings. Perhaps best known among them is the lecture cycle quoted above and familiar to Waldorf teachers as Allgemeine Menschenkunde (in English called Study of Man: General Education Course but more precisely translated as “General Study of the Human Being”), which Steiner gave over a period of two weeks to the first Waldorf teachers shortly before the opening of the Stuttgart school. In many other lecture cycles and books, however, he paints sweeping archetypal pictures of the human being–two-fold, three-fold, four-fold, seven-fold, twelve-fold, and more–in its unfolding from earliest beginnings to furthest future. Here is invitation to a lifetime of study!
c) Finally, in light of these first two levels, and only in this light, comes the craft of teaching, which embraces all that has to do with curriculum, teaching techniques, organization of the classroom, relations with colleagues and parents, and the role in education of the world at large. Whatever is gained at this third level will be of lasting value only to the degree it is saturated with a profound understanding of the archetypal human being, and the study of the human being in its archetypal nature presupposes a rigorous and disciplined program self-development. Hence the hierarchy of these three levels.
To be sure, there are many ways to undertake this hierarchy of training, and I speak only out of the approach pursued in the high school and elementary teacher training programs sponsored by the Center for Anthroposophy and Antioch University. And yet I believe any full-dress program for prospective Waldorf teachers will share the essentials of this approach.
First, self development. Rudolf Steiner offered all manner of exercises and indications in this regard, from the initial so-called six “basic” (sometimes called “supplementary”) exercises for any student of anthroposophy to verses specifically written for teachers. But perhaps some of the most powerful stimuli to self-development arise from a disciplined practice of the arts, especially those most closely associated with the Waldorf curriculum such as eurythmy, speech, veil painting, sculpture, and spacial dynamics. That is why fully 50% of teacher training, as we undertake it, is spent in the practice–at times painful and frustrating, at other times liberating and rejuvenating–of the arts. The primary purpose here is not to train teachers to become artists or teachers of art (though these may be necessary skills, especially for teachers in the elementary grades) but rather to tap those fonts of creative imagination that can give rise to genuine and lasting metamorphosis of self as well as a profound encounter between teacher and student. In the artistic encounter we discern the true individuality of the other. And discernment of one’s essential individuality–in the student by the teacher; in the teacher by the student–lies at the fundament of education.
Then, study of human development. Again, Steiner provides countless entryways into this arena, either through his so-called basic books or through any number of lecture cycles and practical courses. Beyond the study of these, however, prospective Waldorf teachers take up “biography work”, in which they come to a more intimate understanding of the general phases of human development by mapping the phases of their own. Here too a disciplined practice of the arts as a path of self-discovery can help immensely to get teachers beyond the dizzying array of their own biographical data to educe the essential–and often undiscovered–streams weaving through them.
Finally, the craft of teaching. Like the previous two levels, practice at this level continues indefinitely, even though along the way teachers may earn a certificate that bespeaks a certain level of competence. Ultimately, though, craft means practice, and practice means regular and disciplined time in the studio, which for the teacher is the classroom. Some teacher training programs emphasize this aspect of the training more than others. Generally I find that the longer the internship or practicum in the classroom, the greater the success of the teacher post-training.
* * * * * * * *
Ultimately, as the Ancient Greeks knew long ago and as modern empirical science is demonstrating anew, the pathway to changing the workings of the body resides in changing the activities practiced by the spirit. And the route to changing the work of the spirit resides in changing the practices of the body. Think only of recent studies in neuroscience that demonstrate the degree to which our thoughts give rise to the structures of our brain (not the other way around) and how changes in diet and exercise give rise to changes in our mental and emotional states.
In other words, as Waldorf teachers, we are agents of change–first in ourselves, then in the children entrusted to our care–to the degree we work on soul and spirit to effect changes in soil and substance, and vice versa.
The implication is that, to be teachers we need to be farmers, too.
Dateline Freeport ME: The Foundation of Planting – studies and vice versa
Barbara Richardson, Coordinator of Foundation Studies, looks ahead to a new and fertile year of her program
A few years ago a Waldorf Kindergarten teacher gave me a gift of a Bryophyllum pinnatum plant, sometimes called the “air plant” or “Goethe plant” as he was very fond of it. Recently I gazed at the leaves of my plant and noticed they all had little leaf plants and rootlets on every bump of their serrated edges. I realized they were the epitome of the Foundation Studies clusters.
They are plants growing “out of the air” in groups. When they fall into fertile soil (akin, perhaps, to the faculty and parent community of a Waldorf school) in a dish underneath they continue to grow and produce more plants. They are used in medicine as a heart remedy.
The Philippino name for this plant is “Kataka-taka” which is an adjective meaning “astonishing or remarkable”. Astonishment, or awe, is one of the first beginnings of opening the soul to the life of the spirit. When a child is born we are in awe at the miracle, awe surrounds the family when a new spiritual being joins their circle. Awe is one of the fist attributes of character we are asked to develop by Rudolf Steiner in How to Know Higher Worlds, usually the first book we study in Foundation Studies. In working through that book, along with the practice of the arts, conversation and potluck means, it is remarkable how hearts open, heads understand and the culture of a school can change!
“This grand show is eternal, it is always sunrise somewhere…” This line from John Muir seems fitting to describe our new clusters this year, from east to west.
Year One: Burlington VT, Cincinnati OH, Eliot ME, Lexington MA, Roaring Fork CO, Santa Fe NM, and Tucson AZ.
Year Two: Bethesda MD, Beverly MA, Chapel Hill NC, and Roaring Fork CO (yes, two groups there!)
Interest is being shown in: Central Point OR, Freeport ME, Hadley MA, Ithaca NY, and Nashville TN, among others.
Echoes from last year:
On the way to opening the Tucson cluster, at lunch with Charles Burkam of the Desert Marigold Waldorf School in Phoenix, AZ, I asked him how the “echo” was of the Foundation Studies Program that was just held there for two years. He was very positive, saying, “The two-year Foundation Studies Program at our school really helped bring our High School faculty into cohesive whole. Foundation Studies helped our part-time teachers, who may well never have the opportunity for a full teacher training, to have an understanding and a feeling for Waldorf education and what we are doing here at our school.”
“I had searched for my life’s path until the age of 38, which is when my introduction to anthroposophy began. I have ‘found my match’ and I am excited to begin!” (Guadalupe Pollock, Phoenix AZ)
Reviews from the opening weekends in Tucson and Santa Fe:
“This first session provided me with an opportunity to have a formal introduction to Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education. I felt very met by Marke Levene’s presentation. What struck me was his openness and invitation for “students” to find their own way. I am interested in topics concerning integration of gender and social justice issues into the work. Having been through some spiritual process, I found myself very much agreeing with sentiments and ideas expressed.” (Em Bower, Tucson AZ)
Linda Braun, Barbara Richardson and Marke Levene at Tucson Waldorf School
“I came without knowing what to expect. I was filled by new ideas. At this time, the conversations about thinking/feeling and making decisions from the heart corroborate recent decisions I have made to my path. This weekend has felt supportive and where I need to be. I am excited to be on this journey and get to know this community better.” (Elizabeth Falcon, Tucson AZ)
“It was engaging, informative, and allowed for creativity and open expression of thought. It is very interesting – my first foray into anthroposophy. The subject matter was introduced in such a way that I feel I have a good basis for future learning.” (Amanda Gould, Santa Fe NM)
“I came with openness and I found the information very intriguing. Much of the work I’ve done to make sense of the world is being confirmed and at the same time I feel stretched. I feel like I have been fed part of a delicious meal and I hunger for more.” (Awbrey Willett, Santa Fe, NM)
Dateline Wilton NH: Starting a New Seven-Year Cycle
Now in its 21th year, the CfA’s Waldorf High School Teacher Education Program (WHiSTEP) will launch a new summer session for prospective and practicing high school teachers. Douglas Gerwin, founder of this program, briefly previews the forthcoming cycle.
The next round of the Waldorf High School Teacher Education Program (WHiSTEP)–starting in July 2017 on the campus of High Mowing School, a Waldorf school in Wilton, New Hampshire–will mark our “coming of age” in that the program has now been in existence for a full 21 years.
Launched in the summer of 1996, this three-summers course has graduated 171 high school teachers since its first class completed the program in 1998. At present over 120 current and graduated students are working in more than 50 Waldorf schools across North America — a few have even retired after two and more decades in the classroom.
As in previous years, next summer’s program will be offering specialization in:
- Arts/Art History — with Patrick Stolfo
- Biology and Earth Science — with Michael Holdrege
- English & Foreign Languages — with David Sloan
- History and Social Science — with Meg Gorman
- Mathematics and Computer Studies — with Jamie York
- Physics and Chemistry — with Michael D’Aleo
The schedule is arranged in such a way that students can specialize in either one or two of these areas.
The program also features hands-on seminars in “Living Thinking” with Michael D’Aleo, “Human Development and Waldorf High School Curriculum” with Douglas Gerwin, and “Professional Research” with Michael Holdrege, as well as workshops in drama (David Sloan), eurythmy (Laura Radefeld), music (Carol Kelly), sculpture (Patrick Stolfo), and speech (Michael Steinrueck).
In addition to these three summer intensives, students undertake two years of independent studies including a research project and internship. Details of our forthcoming summer program–starting on Sunday 2 July and running until Saturday 29 July–can be viewed on this website.
Dateline Wilton NH: Renewal Past and Future
Karine Munk Finser, Coordinator of CfA’s annual Renewal Courses, offers a brief note on the past and future of her program.
With the approach of Michaelmas I’m sending you all my gratitude: to many of you for coming to Renewal last summer and making it another wonderfully rich season, and to all of you for helping us carry the Center for Anthroposophy’s mission in various ways. May we be united by all we’ve shared, and may the courage we so need be enkindled through our meetings and gatherings.
In Scene III of Rudolf Steiner’s mystery drama The Guardian of the Threshold, Maria, a Michaelic soul, overcomes some character challenges by facing them with great courage and inner clarity. In overcoming herself she makes a holy vow full of heart’s fire, a vow that ultimately will redeem her friend Johannes. It is such a great passage because it reveals how courage comes from love.
I would like to thank the superb faculty who came to teach out of their life work and thereby brought Renewal to life for us all. Thank you to each and every one of you:
Michaela Gloeckler, Jeanette Resnick, Christopher Wiechert, Christopher Sblendorio, Neal Kennerk, Darcy Drayton, Elizabeth Auer, Patrice Maynard, Helena Niiva, Alison Henry, Signe Motter, Michael D’Aleo, David Gable, Cezary Ciaglo, Virginia Sease, Jaap van der Wal, Dennis Klocek, Donald Hall, Sylvie Richard, Jamie York, Leonore Russell, Torin Finser, Douglas Gerwin, and Hugh Renwick.
Well over 400 participants and faculty took part in Renewal last summer over two weeks. Evenings were graced by eurythmy, dances, music, lectures, and the moving performance of Kaspar Hauser by Glen Williamson.
Please visit our website during the coming months to discover the courses as we publish them. Here are the dates for Renewal 2017, to be held–as in the past 17 summers–on the campus of High Mowing School in Wilton, New Hampshire:
Week 1: June 25th to the 30th
Courses include Grades 1 through 8, Christof Wiechert, and World Languages.
Week 2: July 2nd to the 7th
Regular Renewal courses
As always I need to remind you to sign up as soon as you know you’re coming. We have very limited single rooms and limited shared rooms. You can cancel until June 1st.
We’ll be in touch.
Dateline Wilton NH: Where Are They Now?
Of the eight students who graduated this summer from CfA’s Waldorf High School Teacher Education Program (WHiSTEP), all are currently active in the classroom. Here is a brief outline of where they are working.
All members of the Class of 2016 were working in Waldorf schools even before they entered their training three summers ago in CfA’s Waldorf High School Teacher Education Program (WHiSTEP). Though a relatively small group, they hail from both coasts of the North American continent:
Tomas Campomanes: teaching high school physical sciences and mathematics at the Seattle Waldorf School in Seattle, WA.
Nick DeVinney: himself a Waldorf graduate from Ann Arbor, now teaching physics and mathematics at the Washington Waldorf School in Bethesda, MD.
Nathan Doan: also a former Waldorf student from Kimberton, PA, now teaching physics and math at the Maine Coast Waldorf School in Freeport, ME.
Ellen McCann Labbe: a colleague of Nathan’s, now teaching life sciences and math at the Maine Coast Waldorf School in Freeport, ME.
Patrick McCarthy-Nielsen: a former Waldorf class teacher and now a support specialist at the Green Meadow and Otto Specht Waldorf schools in Chestnut Ridge, NY.
Rosemary McNaughton: teaching math and physics at the Hartsbrook School in Hadley, MA.
John Moffitt: teaching life sciences and math at the Academe of the Oaks in Decatur, GA.
Gabriele Schilz: a colleague of Nick’s, teaching German and some history at the Washington Waldorf School in Bethesda, MA.
Looking ahead to the summer of 2017, a new group of high school trainees is already forming, with specializations offered in
- Arts and art history
- English language and literature
- History and social sciences
- Life science and earth science
- Mathematics and computer studies
- Physics and chemistry