Breathing freely

Mathias Maurer

We talk about this and that – but when we arrive at the subject of parents he cannot contain himself: “Imagine, in class 8 recently I was having final discussions with some of my pupils about their suitability for upper school. That caused real trouble: I should have informed the parents beforehand, something like that should only be done with them present!”

K. is now in full flow and dredges up one story after the other: “The last class trip – you can’t ask anything off the pupils anymore: no effort, no testing one’s limits. A bicycle trip to Spain – think what I could achieve educationally with that! – what an absurd idea. A ban on mobiles? Impossible to enforce. Handling fire or a knife? Much too dangerous, not to say negligent!”

The impression arises that K. is not just dealing with 38 pupils but with at least the corresponding number of parents.

I ask: “Aren’t your parents aware that they are sending their children to a Waldorf school? Or are you doing something not quite right when you first talk to the parents about their child joining the school?”

K. thought about it briefly: “True, maybe we are not making it clear right from the beginning that there are areas where our very existence as a Waldorf school depends on the willingness of parents to be involved in its work and share responsibility – the trustees or finances, in legal questions, for festivals and cultural events – but not in lessons.

I mean, am I a Waldorf teacher or aren’t I?! My door is always open for parents but it is simply not right that I should have to justify what I do and how I do it almost on a daily basis. After all, it wouldn’t occur to me to tell them how to do their job!”

“Was working with parents part of your teacher training?” I ask. “I cannot recall anything like that,” K responds. “Well, high time then,” I say.

“What would you imagine good work with parents to be like?” I ask K. “I get the impression that parents can no longer let go of their children and with their helicopter perspective pursue their child and the teacher in whatever they do. They not only don’t have confidence in me but not in themselves either – and, worst of all, not in their own children! After all, I can only avoid suffocating educationally if parents leave it to me what I do in the classroom on the basis of my professional skills.”

“So things go well if parents place blind trust in you?” I ask. “No, but if I can be confident that they have confidence in me.”

PS: Some weeks later K. calls again – he is dead tired but happy, he tells me, still completely enthused by taking leave from his parents and class 8 pupils. There was singing, dancing, laughter and tears. He had been well and truly overwhelmed by a wave of gratitude. Reciprocal trust works!