The sign of a good teacher is that he or she is a life-long learner – from research, from colleagues, from students, from the hardships of life experience.
In this issue we explore some of these options. A few of them apply specifically to school teachers, but others apply to anyone who is involved in the education of fellow human beings of all ages, from cradle to grave – and beyond.
Here are some maps. Enjoy the journey!
Douglas Gerwin, Director
Center for Anthroposophy
Dateline Amherst, MA: Why a Waldorf High School?
Several Waldorf school communities are wrestling at the moment with the idea of starting a high school, with all of its attendant risks and responsibilities. In response to a query from a Waldorf colleague, Douglas Gerwin, himself a Waldorf graduate, offers a perspective.
At first blush, the prospect of developing a high school must appear daunting — indeed, a threat to the life and financial security of a stable elementary school. Teenagers are so much bigger and noisier and reckless than their lower school peers. They cost so much more per head to educate. By the time they graduate, they have been driving for up to three years and are at high risk of getting into an accident. They experiment with dangerous and illicit substances. They get pregnant. Why would any school want to hang on to them?
Put differently, why did Rudolf Steiner envision the Waldorf school right from the start as a co-educational institution stretching from kindergarten through a twelfth or even thirteenth school year? Well ahead of his time, Steiner recognized that, for any institution to be healthy, it needs to be whole. In terms of education, this means providing a rich experience in which children grow up together in a pluralistic society, and in which they experience each other as growing and striving human beings.
In a healthy institution, high school seniors will behave better in the presence of first graders, and first graders will look up to the best (though also sometimes to the less than best!) in their seniors.
There is another reason, too. The Waldorf curriculum is based on the idea that children go through distinct stages of development–in a predictable sequence though perhaps at different speeds–and that these stages can be helped by three distinct yet related forms of education:
- Children learn best in their earliest years by doing and exploring under the wise guidance of a knowledgeable parent or teacher
- During the elementary years they learn best through the medium of the arts and through the loving authority of a teacher
- In high school they learn best when called upon to exercise their own powers of intellectual discernment and moral judgment.
At each stage of development, these students visit and revisit territory they have previously explored, albeit in different ways. For example:
Young children learn geometric shapes by running them.
Elementary children explore these shapes by drawing them (for instance, with elaborate string designs in which they discover how straight lines can give rise to curved ones).
High school students come to know the lawfulness of these shapes by designing or discovering logical proofs for geometric forms and relationships.
In the humanities, children first enact and play characters that they will encounter later through imaginative stories in the lower school and finally during the high school years re-examine through more critical analysis. As an exuberant tenth grader once exclaimed during a main lesson study of Homer’s Odyssey, “Hey, wait — I was Penelope in the fifth grade play!”
At a more practical level, the development of a high school will have all manner of consequences for the life of the school as a whole. Like any living organism, a change in one part affects the whole institution. Some of these effects, like growing pains, may place strains on the organism, but it is striking that of all the Waldorf schools across North America that have inaugurated a high school, none has gone under as a result.
To be sure, a few have had to abandon this project midway, and a small number of younger schools have shuttered their high school after a few years, but among the established schools not a single one has closed its high school once it has been launched. Today, out of a total of some 150 Waldorf schools on the North American continent, over 40 have high schools (or are themselves free-standing high schools in a Waldorf community).
Doubts will always remain among lower school teachers and parents about the merits of building out a high school. These concerns are legitimate but need to be viewed in light of the following considerations:
- Having a high school will strengthen enrollment in the grade school. Without a high school, parents from the fifth grade on will begin looking elsewhere, feeling the need to position their children for public or some independent high school.
- Having a high school draws new parents and students to the upper elementary grades, something that is very unlikely to happen if the school ends in seventh or eighth grade.
- Having a high school makes the whole school more attractive to new Waldorf trained teachers and administrators, who are likely to accept a position at a K-12 Waldorf school so that their own children can benefit from the full Waldorf experience.
- Having a high school prompts Waldorf families from elsewhere to relocate in order to have the option of providing a complete Waldorf education for their students right through twelfth grade. Where the high school is strong, the community grows.
- Having a high school allows the community to see in the teenagers the first fruits of Waldorf education– fruits so lovingly cultivated during the pre-school and elementary grades–as these young adults begin to wake up in their intellect to what they have previously experienced through play in early childhood and through the arts in elementary school.
- Having a high school gives teenagers a values-based education at a time when they are throwing off family (or inherited) values and trying to find their own. Waldorf education brings values to the students largely through the arts, but also through the fact that each subject is related in some way to the human being. This is true for science and math no less than for the humanities.
- Having a high school will enlarge the expertise of the faculty, since each high school teacher is a subject specialist rather than universalist by profession. Many a class teacher has benefited from a high school science or math teacher “dipping down” for a main lesson in the upper elementary grades.
- Having a high school will bolster the leadership of the whole school, at least in the long term. In many schools, leadership and even administrative positions are disproportionately held by high school teachers, once the high school has found its footing.
- Having a high school will give the whole school access to funds and resources–for instance, science equipment from universities–that are unlikely to be made available to elementary schools. This is one of many ways in which high schools can tap new sources of revenue that lie beyond the reach of pre-school programs and elementary schools.
Finally, having a high school will create a growing body of alumni, and this is of immense importance for the financial future of a school. In the short term, of course, it is the parents who will be the school’s major source of philanthropy, but in the longer term it is the alumni of a school who will provide its lasting financial security.
Studies show that students typically donate to their undergraduate and high school institutions of learning, and very rarely to their kindergartens or grade schools. On this view, the advent of a high school–which would appear to pose such a threat to the financial security of a grades school–may in the end guarantee this very same security as no other part of the school community. Parents will eventually become “former parents” but graduates are “alumni” lifelong. Even in death (for instance, through bequests) they can continue in their role as grateful guarantors of their beloved school.
As a Waldorf graduate, high school teacher, and mentor of high schools, that is the lasting role I wish for myself.
Dateline Keene NH: New Masters Program for High School Teachers
For the first time in their long collaboration, the Center for Anthroposophy and the Waldorf Program at Antioch University New England are offering the option of a Masters degree for Waldorf high school teachers. Douglas Gerwin, Director of the Center for Anthroposophy, reports on this new development.
Ever since the founding more than two decades ago of the Waldorf High School Teacher Education Program (WHiSTEP), we have been lobbied to create the option of a Masters degree for Waldorf high school teachers as part of their teacher training. Now we have found a way!
Starting in the Summer of 2017, students enrolling in the high school program sponsored by the Center for Anthroposophy (CfA) will be able to transfer into an Antioch graduate school stream leading to a fully-accredited Masters degree as well as a CfA certificate in Waldorf high school teaching. Under this arrangement, trainees start out in CfA’s high school program, then apply to transfer after the first summer into Antioch’s “Summer Sequence” program in Waldorf education. Two more summer intensives then follow, with a blend of courses offered by the Waldorf program at Antioch as well as subject-specific seminars offered by CfA in one or more of six specializations in arts/art history, biology/earth science, English language/literature, history/social studies, math/computer studies, or physics/chemistry.
In addition to these three summer sessions–all held on the adjacent campuses of two Waldorf schools in Wilton, New Hampshire–students accepted into this program take an online course and undergo a 12-15-week internship in a Waldorf school as part of this program. Students who have successfully completed these courses are then eligible to apply to prepare and defend a supervised Masters thesis on a topic related to Waldorf high school teaching.
Prospective and practicing high school teachers interested in this option should contact me at [email protected].
Dateline Wilton NH: Renewal Courses for Summer 20177
Karine Munk Finser, Coordinator of CfA’s popular Renewal Courses, reports on the latest line up of star-studded seminars and workshops for the coming summer season.
Recently a eurythmist reminded me that when the point becomes periphery and the periphery becomes point–as in contraction and expansion or in breathing–a moment of an in-between space is activated so that the direction can change. That in-between space is our greatest treasure: how we breathe in and out, on many levels, is an aspect of our health and of being able to reach out to someone else in healing encounter. In her poem “Stars”, Mary Oliver asks: “What can we do but keep on breathing in and out, modest and willing, and in our places?”
Our Renewal Courses 2017, in Wilton, New Hampshire will make it possible to focus on that breathing relationship with yourself and with the world in a retreat-like atmosphere. Working with an inspiring array of faculty and sharing a short week with them of sunrises and sunsets on a beautiful hill with mountain vistas will certainly address a deeper inner breathing.
Week I, from Sunday evening June 25th to noon on Friday June 30th, will welcome a large number of people coming to our grade-specific classes. Details of these courses are available at the website of the Center for Anthroposophy. Some local community housing is still available for this week.
In Week 1, Christof Wiechert will continue to offer training and insight into the important “Child and Student Studies”. The unfolding of the young human being and the importance of facilitators to support the guidance and insights that may accompany such a study can’t be overstated. Christof is hoping that every school will send one person or more to this course of studies, which are so essential to our Waldorf schools. We are fortunate that all the grade specific participants and Christof’s own class will receive a short talk by Christof every morning. Here are the titles of his lectures, which have now become a tradition during the first week of our Renewal Courses:
- Aspects of the evolution of consciousness as a way of understanding the needs of education in the 21st century
- The 9th century, and the change from the trichotomy into dichotomy
- The 15th century and the destination of some streams in karmic relations
- The 19th century and the Battle for Freedom
- The 21st century and the destiny of Anthroposophy
Evening events, which are optional but enriching to our little community, will include the return of our much beloved Artistic Soirée: please bring your talents to share and we will provide the ice-cream!
Week II, from July 2nd to July 7th, is devoted to Renewal Courses that stand at the heart of our mission: life-long learning and the sharing of questions that live in our hearts. Please come, and bring your friends–we do offer discounts for group registrations of two or more–and help us spread the news.
Jeff Spade is coming to help class teachers and music teachers lead the children or school community in song. This is also an opportunity for teachers who come in the first week to consider staying for this great and joyful opportunity. Our administrator, Milan Daler, will help make this possible for second weekers!
Mary Stewart Adams will help upper elementary teachers and others who seek “understanding” the stars to navigate within the larger harmonies of cosmic rhythms. Mary will introduce new star gestures through presentations and drawings. Cezary Ciaglo will provide some social astronomy through eurythmy.
Gotthard Killian, who resides in Australia, will bring the meditative life alive through a musical deepening, using Rudolf Steiner’s Six Auxiliary Exercises and musical expression, Participants are invited to bring their violins, cellos, flutes, guitars, and lyres. This course will include Pär Ahlbom’s social and rhythmical games which may be used in grade or high school.
Paul Matthews and Patrice Pinette return with a course for people who love playing with the word: the twelve senses will be explored through guided writing tasks, to enrich professional or personal life. This course is for both beginners and more experienced writers.
Linda Bergh is bringing a biography course, working with the Life Cycles that help us live healingly into our own lives but also humanity as a whole. Linda will lead many artistic exercises, which Elizabeth Auer will support with clay modeling.Working with biography is especially helpful in times of change. This course will explore the power of one’s own story to heal and to transform.
John and Cat Cunningham, together with Barbara Richardson, will bring a dynamic course for administrators and leaders of schools. The theme will focus on governance, communication, and the resolution of disputes.
Charles Andrade, a Master veil painting teacher, this year will help painters create images of light, darkness, and color, focusing on foundational techniques. Charles has spent his lifetime as an artist, and learning from him allows for individual exploration and expression while learning valuable techniques in the difficult art of veil painting. His classes are full of warmth and fun, while also allowing for real quiet focused painting.
Michael D’Aleo is coming to Renewal to support study of Rudolf Steiner’s foundational book Philosophy of Spiritual Activity and the deepening of our observational capacities in nature and in our lives. There will be time every day for practicing metal work and other arts.
Sandy Pearson and Glynn Graham will focus on joy in the handwork class. This course is for those who enjoys working with their hands or sharing handwork skills with children. By the end of this course, which will feature doll making, everyone will be taking home a finished doll to share with a loved one. Handwork teachers and parents, beginners and experienced, are all welcome!
Peter Selg, the world-renowned author, will bring aspects of the Raphael-Michaelic qualities so needed today and into the future. Many themes from his books will resound and this is an incredible opportunity to work with someone who rarely offers courses in the United States. We are indeed fortunate that Peter is coming to offer a seminar at Renewal.
To learn more about Renewal Courses, or to sign up, click here: 2017 Renewal Courses
Dateline Denver CO: Bridges that Span the Continent
After an initial success in Alaska, the “Building Bridges” program sponsored by the Center for Anthroposophy opens up a new site in Colorado. A brief outline of this innovative approach to teacher training, with the option to earn a Masters degree, follows.
As the first cycle of this program in Anchorage, AK comes to the end its initial phase, a new series of workshops to support practicing teachers is being planned in Wheat Ridge, on the outskirts of Denver CO. These workshops are designed to introduce the foundations of Waldorf education found in anthroposophy through study, group discussion, and the practice of the arts.
The content of these courses will supplement foundational course work in preparation for formal Waldorf teacher training at Antioch University New England, as well as content that may lead to advance standing in the Antioch teacher education program, thus potentially reducing the number of summer semesters required in residency in New Hampshire from three summers to two.
Each applicant to Antioch will be evaluated on an individual basis, and the complete program must be taken in order to take full advantage of eventual advanced standing.
Philosophical and curricular content will be complemented by artistic practice. Subjects will include:
- Singing and recorder playing for the grades
- Human development and the sequencing of the Waldorf curriculum
- Geometry and form drawing for the development of imagination and balance
- Speech and storytelling
- Painting from color to form
Weekend workshops will run Thursday afternoons, all day Friday and Saturday. Exact times and locations will be determined once registration is complete. Detailed information and registration forms are here.
Dateline Freeport ME: Voices of Poets and Participantss
As the school year draws to a close, Barbara Richardson, Coordinator of CfA’s Foundation Studies programs, pulls together reflections and observations on the process of transformation.
This grand show is eternal.
It is always sunrise somewhere;
the dew is never all dried at once;
a shower is forever falling;
vapor is ever rising.
Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset,
eternal dawn and gloaming,
on sea and continents and islands,
each in its turn,
as the round earth rolls.
— from the Journals of John Muir
Since our clusters of Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy and the Arts span the continent from Northeast to Southwest, it is exciting to hear that, in the past week, three more participants have just decided to go on to Waldorf teacher training, joining many of their peers who knew this was the first step on the path to becoming Waldorf teachers.
Two written comments, as well as a recurrent phrase I heard this week, seem to exemplify our process of study, artistic practice, and round-table conversation that constitute our Foundation Studies courses.
“This group has been life changing for me. Going into the course, I did not really know what to expect, I just knew it was my first step on my journey to becoming a Waldorf teacher. The readings have such depth and profundity that have changed the way I think and view the world. Our group discussions are really what tie it all together for me. Sometimes reading at home after I have put my children to bed can be challenging to me to really grasp what is being said, but when our class comes together it is what makes it all seep in and fit together. This class has really become what I look forward to every week and couldn’t ask for a better experience.” — Nicole Gent, Santa Fe
“I come to each session with no expectations – I just know that they are all going to be good! I like having the time and space to reflect together.” – Heather Rouse, Tucson
“Now that you mention it…” This phrase came after the faculty presented an exercise and asked what effect it had on people. One participant gently spoke about his experience. Others listened and then another person said, “Ah, now that you mention it…I felt that too!”
This is the awakening quality that group discussions often yield. A vague, nearly unnoticed experience arising during an artistic or reading exercise suddenly becomes a golden insight when a classmate takes courage and shares an experience. Another and then another person shares a small experience and, before you know it, a simple exercise yields much more than the faculty member leading the exercise had even hoped for.
“I am honored to be asked to teach in Foundation Studies.” This is a frequent comment I receive from faculty members. It is most gratifying to them when a student says, as I also heard this week, “Every session and new presenter seems to have a consolidating, galvanizing effect on my understanding of anthroposophy and on my new understanding of my Self as I pull all these threads together.”
Foundation Studies in a few words:
“Moving – Fun – Powerful”
“Zowie – muy bien! Um-Good!”
Summary of clusters ongoing (2016-17) and on the horizon (2017-18), all of them held on the premises of Waldorf schools:
Small mentoring groups:
Burlington, VT; Keene, NH; Lexington, MA
Interested for next year:
Buffalo, NY; Chapel Hill, NC, Chicago, IL; Hadley, MA
Dateline Wilton NH: Waldorf High School Program Represented on Six Continents
Each summer for more than two decades, the Center for Anthroposophy has launched a new cycle of the Waldorf High School Teacher Education Program (WHiSTEP). Here is a brief preview of the subjects being featured during this coming summer and of the students they are intended to serve.
Launched by the Center for Anthroposophy (CfA) in July of 1996, the Waldorf High School Teacher Education Program–affectionately known as “WHiSTEP”–has been graduating high school teachers with certificates in Waldorf high school teaching as of 1998. Since its inception, more than 170 students have completed this part-time three-summers program.
As of this year, WHiSTEP students or graduates are active in 36 of the 43 Waldorf high schools extant in North America, from the Hawaiian islands and the Pacific Northwest to the sultry Southeast and the rocky Atlantic coastline of Maine. A small but growing contingent of high school teachers from China has also joined this program. Overall, around 65% of our current and graduated students are working full or part-time at some 60 Waldorf schools spread across six continents.
Sometimes we are asked: How many teachers does it take to constitute a full high school faculty? At the Center for Anthroposophy, we calculate that number as approaching 12 (give or take a few, depending on the size of the school): 3-4 for humanities including languages; 3-4 for sciences and math; 3-4 for arts and crafts, as well as athletics. These numbers do not include administrative and non-classroom positions such as college and guidance counselors, after-school coaches, and office staff.
Each summer, the Center’s high school program admits a new class of around 15 students–in other words, the equivalent of a full high school faculty–ranging across the subject specializations. This year we are offering specialized “subject seminars” in Arts and Art History, English and Literature, History and Social Science, Life Science and Earth Science, Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry.
About a dozen teachers from across the country have already been accepted into the latest cycle of this month-long summer program, which includes seminars, artistic ateliers, and subject-specific workshops. The latest group of teachers–most of them already active in the classroom–will be studying with close to a hundred trainees in the Waldorf elementary teacher education program of Antioch University New England.
A few are joining with the intention of securing a fully-accredited Masters degree in Waldorf high school teaching from Antioch (as part of a new option described separately in this issue of Center & Periphery). All of these summer programs are held on the adjacent campuses of Pine Hill Waldorf School and High Mowing School in Southeastern New Hampshire.