Methodos – a school by pupils for pupils

Dorothée Krämer

Bavaria: A Waldorf school, a class 12 classroom, afternoon. The lesson has finished. The teacher gathers his things, someone still has a question. Half the class has already left, people want to get home. Others are still chatting and then saunter out. Quarter of an hour later there is silence: the room is empty. 

Freiburg: A youth centre, Methodos’ room, afternoon. The lesson has finished. The teacher gathers his things, someone still has a question. Then the teacher takes his leave. “Same time next week,” he asks?

“Yes, that’s right,” someone answers. “And thanks!”

One person says: “I have to go. But I’ll just check with the office on  my way out  about a room for the open day next week, okay?” “Yes, great,” someone else responds “and will you remember to give me the film about the German empire tomorrow?”

“I’m going to take another look at biology, anyone join me?” “I will, but I first have to eat something!”

Quarter of an hour later there is silence: a “studious atmosphere”. In a whisper, someone asks the person sitting next to them about a mathematical formula. Another person asks: “Would someone go through Bismarck’s alliance system with me?” “I’ll do it.” The two of them leave the room in order not to disturb the others. The two scenarios are located about 400 kilometres, one summer holiday and a difficult decision apart. After three years of Waldorf kindergarten and twelve years of school I have decided to join the “Methodos” pupil initiative in Freiburg for the year in which I will take my final exams.

What fascinates me most from the beginning is the independence of the initiative. A number of young people who have decided to organise their path to the school leaving exams by themselves and also to bear the responsibility for that – all by themselves. I found that so exciting that I wanted to be part of it. Everyday activities at Methodos assume a high degree of self-motivation. Because here it is us, the pupils, who do all the work: if we don’t do it, no one else will. In order to achieve the aim of passing the final exams every one of us must think intensively about our needs, strengths and weaknesses. On that basis we can then put together a timetable as a group which best meets everyone’s needs so that everyone has the feeling that they are using their time effectively and meaningfully. Just as we decide when, we also decide how we learn something: we are involved in organising the lessons with the teachers, can try different learning methods and adapt lessons to our requirements.

All of this produces a high level of responsibility which we cannot shift onto anyone else. But it is precisely such responsibility which is an important part of Me­thodos and which I am happy to carry with all its consequences because as a result each day becomes an instructive challenge. I am convinced that young people want challenges, that they want to carry responsibility and need the opportunity to develop in freedom. During my class play in class 12 of the Waldorf school I was able to experience what it means to be able to create something yourself, to devote yourself fully to a task and to take responsibility for your own contribution and thus for a part of the whole. My class had the opportunity to turn a play into something great: qualified directors, a sufficient budget, enough time and space. But the responsibility as to how great the play would ultimately become lay with the class, with the willingness of each single person to do their best. In that time I was able to sense the Waldorf educational purpose behind the class 12 play and today I know that I learnt an incredible amount, both about myself and about how you can manage to do the things you want to do. And that knowledge is of benefit when you are doing your final school exams.

There can be no doubt that I took a lot away with me from twelve years of Waldorf school. It is precisely those things which finally caused me to joint Methodos. For me Methodos represents the logical consequence of everything I learnt in twelve years about the possibility of developing your potential and self-determination.

Methodos e.V. was founded in 2007 by a group of Freiburg Waldorf pupils. The pupils left the school one year before their school leaving exams, founded the association, collected donations and organised each school day, arranged a room, employed teachers and began to study. The association has now been in existence for five years. In general, only the association and the idea to prepare for the school leaving exams separately from and independently of the school is passed on. Finance, the work connected with the association and the organisation of the school day is always organised by the current group. The regular reflection of the individual participants on social and learning-specific issues and the division of the learning units into teacher, group or individual learning lessons have proved themselves so that they have become a firm part of Methodos over the years.