Ausgabe 03/24

About False Images, No-gos and Oases in Waldorf Schools

Stefan Grosse
Christian Boettger

Christian Boettger | We have far too few trained teachers in the schools, but we believe that there must be the potential of teachers because there are children who want to be taught and who want to learn. We don't know where to find these teachers or whether they will even see us. This raises the question of how we can become visible to potential teachers. Stefan, we wanted to do something in this direction for our schools with our delegate conferences. The question of what anthroposophy means in Waldorf education is also crucial. What reception do we have for anthroposophy? Because this point is repeatedly criticized in public. We realize that our parents and schools have images of what anthroposophy is that are not congruent with the points of view we have and with what we want anthroposophy to be.

Stefan Grosse | Yes, there is a certain tradition in the reception that I question. It is very esoteric and not open to discussion by the outside world. For example, if I take it for granted that there is a spiritual world with all kinds of beings and don't discuss this any further, but instead implement it one-to-one in educational measures, then that is not effective. One step towards becoming capable of discourse would be to focus much more on Rudolf Steiner's philosophical writings and less on his lectures. The philosophical works contain very good suggestions on how philosophy and the empirical sciences can enter into a fruitful dialog with the content of anthroposophy. We need a shift from an insider's language to clear thoughts, and I see the philosophical writings as a secure basis for this.

CB | Another aspect that Steiner repeatedly tried to make clear to the members of the Anthroposophical Society is that you should refer to what you have experienced yourselves: Rely on what you have experienced yourselves and not on what I have told you at some point, but work for yourselves. In many places we place too little trust in this.

SG | Steiner pointed out that the Waldorf school should be a school of methodology and not a school of worldview. This means that anthroposophy should not be taught at school. However, it does happen. One example is the curriculum for history. It contains content that is derived from anthroposophy.

CB | I would put it even more sharply: Something that Steiner said about the cultural blocks is adopted one-to-one without taking a close historical look. You can't teach children that — a story as a history lesson!
It works better in the natural sciences. There, the approach is phenomenological. This is justifiable, and we are in professional contact with people with a strong scientific reputation for the content of lessons at the upper school level.
Anthroposophy and its reception — that is the field we tried to open up at the first delegates' conference in Berlin in January 2023. The second major field is the question of how we work for the people we have already found. How do we meet the incoming teachers at schools? This is what the next delegates' meetings will be about.

SG | When I was a young teacher fresh out of college, I was put in front of classes with over 40 second or third graders — with the friendly request: «Go for it! You'll be fine. » But it didn't work out. That was a very hard lesson and for a long time absolutely nobody cared what happened — to me and to the children. That's a no-go and you can't do it like that anymore. In fact, training must continue at school for the first three years.

CB | I felt the same way 30 to 40 years ago. We've done a lot since then. For example, we have trained mentors and introduced mentoring in schools, but we have still paid far too little attention to professional HR management. This involves two questions: as an employer, how do I look after my employees and how can new staff really find their feet in this complex school? On the one hand, it is a workplace and, on the other hand, a creative field for personal initiative, and in an institution of at least 40 people (for a single-track school), you need really good personnel management these days.

SG | In this area, we have long since been overtaken by the normal working world. This has not been well grasped in our culture of self-management or lack thereof. But now it has been recognized and we are tackling this area of work. This includes, for example, a reduction in the scope of the department, mentoring, a feedback culture, and the newcomers must also be well supported in what they also do in self-governance. If they don't get this, the storm they face will be too big and frustrating.

CB | We can no longer afford to wear out one person after another in our schools. With all the changes that some schools have had, you're putting more and more on the newcomers because you're already so burnt out, but it's impossible to give a newcomer to a school in their first year crucial positions in self-governance, such as baccalaureate management. That has happened, but it can't be.
Another area that we want to work on at one of the next delegates' meetings is economic efficiency. It is clear that we need to invest significantly more money in order to integrate people into schools who are coming out of education. We can't think that once you're trained, you're done. Instead, the training will continue in the first three years at school. In order to guarantee this in the form of further training, we believe that the school must also invest money.

SG | A teacher with a five-year graduate degree would have to be financially valued at 100,000 Euros. That's a lot of money for a comparatively small school movement and in this respect, we have to see it as something very valuable.

CB | An experienced colleague from a school once told me that he estimates another 25,000 Euros if someone were to come to his school to keep him there, to make sure that he stays. That's a lot of money, but I think it's right to realize from the outset that it also requires financial resources.

SG | On the other hand, just like the schools, the colleges in particular are suffering from a lack of money. They make every effort to reach for the sky, but there is an administration of lack and if we talk openly and honestly about this situation, then we would have to say that the colleges need significantly more money — also in order to remain competitive. And if we focus on our universities, then we need to spend more on research than we have done so far, so that useful things happen there and not dust collectors are produced on bookshelves. In other words, research should also be financially strengthened so that it can achieve even more. University education is so important because the inner attitude, the sharpness of thought, the intellectual effort developed through good research and teaching are essential for the teaching profession. With an inner push, a school movement must at some point really decide in favor of this and say: This is what we want, this is what we need! Because we don't want teachers who have been trained to work with prescription cards, we need teachers who think independently and freely. This must be the guiding star of good academic education. And our universities are following this star, but under financially difficult conditions, and that is not promising in the long run.

CB | This is something that runs counter to the current mainstream. It is based on the fact that we are afraid of individual decision-making power and the power of initiative. Everything must therefore be regulated and standardized. In Waldorf schools, on the other hand, we work in a parallel world. However, we always work with this scarcity. We have significantly lower salaries and much less money available. But we have been facing up to this challenge for decades and the only thing that I think helps is an enthusiasm for this oasis situation in which it is possible to develop and unfold.

SG | Waldorf alumnus Andreas Schleicher said in an interview with the Stuttgarter Zeitung that he had the impression that German teachers were the uncritical enforcers of a curriculum, but should actually develop enthusiasm and initiative from a pedagogical perspective and act much more freely in terms of both content and pedagogy. At Waldorf schools, teachers can do that. For someone who can appreciate this, this opportunity to really dedicate themselves to the profession out of joy and idealism in freedom, Waldorf schools offer an incredible amount for someone like that. And I believe that a few Euros less in salary ultimately make up for that.

The interview was moderated and recorded by Anne Brockmann.

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