The first independent Waldorf school in Bucharest

Liliana-Emilia Dumitriu

A handful of mothers and kindergarten teachers from the private Christophori International kindergarten got together and founded the school. They were joined by parents and teachers. The latter, however, soon felt unable to cope with the situation and more teachers joined them in the same school year.

It started with a small group of pupils, there was one class, then two, and weekly working meetings took place in an intimate atmosphere, which accompanied the whole school life. Everyone always got together, everyone always consulted with each other about all the school’s concerns.

Courage, confidence and trust still accompany the founders and teachers who are still involved today, because every year brings new challenges that the school must be able to cope with. Be it moving to new premises, the increase in children or teachers, but also the losses due to the different situations of the parental homes.

The first, visible challenge of growth was the change in the way of working, because the more people joined, the more differentiated the tasks became and smaller groups partly took on the newly created areas. Each new school year began with, on the one hand, a little sadness about the disappearance of the beautiful initial atmosphere and, on the other hand, with delight about the growth of the school and increase in staff. Now we are called the Free Lower and Middle Waldorf School – Şcoala Gimnazială Liberă Waldorf.

Another challenge that the school built into its name is the idea of freedom. In Western countries, when people say “Free Waldorf School”, they mean a school that can decide for itself what educational activities are to be carried out on its premises and that, as far as is at all possible, is protected from the influences of schools policy in order to cultivate the image of the human being that aims to educate body, soul and spirit.

Well, in Romanian circumstances the question arises: what kind of freedom? Freedom from what? Because the Romanian school law stipulates that both private and state institutions are subject to the same criteria. Although education law grants alternative systems of education their own form of administration, this has not yet been regulated.

That is why the issue of the school name crops up again and again: to what extent is what takes place inside free from non-educational influences? Added to this is the situation that the parents themselves are perhaps so freedom-loving in their personal lives that they bring up their children without saying “no” and therefore see in the school’s title the variant that supports their educational concept. This means that their children enter the educational process questioning everything, unrestrained, demanding limits, and that the topic of “education for freedom” has to be discussed again and again with the parents. Because the freedom we mean only goes together with wisdom, knowledge and awakened and cultivated abilities. Developing these takes time, dedication and vigilance on the part of both parents and teachers.

While on the one hand we speak of freedom in this way internally, the contents of the examination subjects, such as mother tongue and mathematics, are fixed by the ministry and must correspond to a uniform level and be documented through examinations in classes 4, 8 and 12. In addition, there are smaller evaluations in classes 2, 4, 6 and 8, as happens in the state schools.

Content is constantly adjusted with regard to external requirements and learning level assessments are carried out. Only music and eurythmy are free. Sometimes this also succeeds in biology, physics and chemistry, although with regard to upper school it must be said that at some point in class 8 a stronger alignment with the demands of the state schools must be made so that the children do not enter upper school naively. We do not yet have our own upper school, and attending the Bucharest Waldorf Lyceum is only one option among many other upper schools.

Another topic is the class teacher principle. Even though the founders had set out to follow the principles of the Waldorf school as faithfully as possible, this section of school is not easy to realise under the circumstances described. In our school, we strive to enable the class teachers to continue to accompany their class after class 4. For this purpose we organised an internal seminar in the 2018-2019 school year, with the idea of preparing the class teachers, who have already received Waldorf basic training through the Romanian Waldorf Federation, for middle school in such a way that, firstly, they have an overview of the structure and content of middle school and, secondly, they themselves take courage to enable themselves to lead their class beyond class 4. Unfortunately, the interest was much weaker than we had expected, so we had to stop the initiative early. However, the idea has remained, as has the desire to structure this internal training in such a way that in the future it will grow into permanent internal as well as external seminar work.

At the moment, the school is about to receive official accreditation, recognition from the ministry, for the kindergarten groups and the lower school classes. In a year’s time, the procedure for middle school will probably also take place. This development touches on the question of the status of a class teacher at a Waldorf school. For our school has set itself the goal of implementing the class teacher principle from the outset. This intention is not as self-evident as it may sound, because in Romania this form of employment is not approved. The possibility of employing a teacher as a class teacher, regardless of their qualifications, has not yet been regulated. The other Romanian Waldorf schools have not even set themselves this goal, although there were examples of this in the early beginnings in the 1990s. In our school, we have had the first round with a class teacher from class 1 to class 8, although not in all subjects.

We wonder whether it makes sense, for example, to employ a subject teacher for history for classes 7 and 8 with a part-time teaching load for the one or two main lessons per year only, whom we can support in such a way that a connection to the school, to Waldorf education, arises and that the quality of the teaching is maintained.

We currently have 150 pupils and 30 kindergarten children, 25 teachers and administrative staff. There are always changes among the teachers when a colleague becomes a mother or wants to get married. Then class teachers have to take over other classes. Who will take on the new class is still written in the stars.

What has developed over time is a growing awareness of the need for internal collaboration, for regular educational discussions and for taking on various responsibilities for those areas that accompany the educational work.

In autumn, we will welcome a new class and enjoy the beautiful building in the middle of the capital, next to the wonderful Cişmigiu Park.

We are grateful for the help of the International Eastern Europe Association (IAO), the Friends of Waldorf Education, the Software AG Foundation, the Bothmer Movement International, the many colleagues who visit and support our school and who make our development possible through their educational and financial support. Our school would be delighted to have a partner school in Germany!

About the author: Dr Liliana-Emilia Dumitriu is an English and German teacher. After training as a Waldorf teacher at the Vienna Goethean Study Centre, she founded the  Waldorf school in Cluj-Napoca together with Judith Dan. In Bucharest she led the Romanian Waldorf Federation and taught at the Waldorf Lyceum. She currently works as a class, English and handwork teacher at the Şcoala Gimnazială Liberă Waldorf in Bucharest.