Faculty Meetings -
The author of this article, Uta Taylor-Weaver, formerly taught at the original Waldorf school in Stuttgart and presently teaches German at Highland Hall (Waldorf school) in Los Angeles, California, consults at other Waldorf schools and is on the faculty of two Waldorf teacher training institutes. We believe that her article is a significant contribution toward clarification of the function of the "College of Teachers" at a Waldorf School. From her perspective as a Waldorf teacher with experience both in Germany and in the US, she sees the American division of the teaching staff into "college" and "faculty" to be not at all what Rudolf Steiner intended. We share her viewpoint and are grateful for her permission to publish her article on our page.
Visiting schools and listening to the gripes of colleagues at
annual conferences, I realized that most of our meetings are not
yet what they were intended to be. Instead, they are rather tiring
and strenuous encounters that sooner or later lead to burn-out,
often making the individual teacher decide to stay away from them.
They are, according to what I heard, in no way "the heart
of the school" or the place of continued nurturing for the
teachers. What is it that ails us there? I come from the original
Waldorf School in Stuttgart, where the administrative, pedagogical
and inner circle meetings were so well structured, prepared, executed
and reviewed that they were in balance and often in themselves
a piece of art [Editors' note: In our correspondence with Mrs.
Taylor-Weaver, she told us that the "inner circle" she
refers to here consists of three faculty-nominated members whose
task it is to organize the agenda, bring important matters to
everyone's attention, and guide the faculty meetings. The American
reader should not confuse this inner circle with what we call
the College of Teachers. It is more accurately thought of as
an Administrative Committee or Coordinating Committee.] In contrast,
here in the West I experienced a certain emptiness and helplessness.
I experienced faculty meetings with no or hardly any pedagogical
word - free from anything that could be described as a "living
university." Why, I asked myself, was that so?
Preparing for an upcoming workshop on faculty meetings, I began to research Steiner's lectures and the Conferences with Teachers. Reading "A Modern Art of Education", the lectures given at Ilkley (GA 307), I found a long paragraph on the pedagogical work teachers' meetings should accomplish. Because of its significance, I would like to quote it here:
I have said that a school ought to be an organism in which each single feature is an integral part of the whole. The threads of the different activities which must be carried on in order that the whole organism of the Waldorf School may live, are drawn together in the very frequent teachers' meetings. In the course of the year, I myself am present at the majority of these meetings. They are not held merely for the purpose, should we say, of preparing school reports, conferring about administrative details of the punishments which are to be meted out to the children when they have broken rules and the like. These meeting are really the living "High School" for the College of Teachers - a permanent training academy, as it were. They are so indeed, and for the reason that every practical experience gained by the teacher in school becomes, in turn, part of his own education. And he who derives such self-education for himself from his teaching work, gaining on the one hand a profound psychological insight into the practical side of education and, on the other, into the different qualities, characters and temperaments of the children, will always be finding something new, for himself and for the whole College of Teachers. All the experience and knowledge acquired from the teaching should be "put into the pool" at these meetings. In this way the College of Teachers in spirit and soul becomes a whole where each member knows what the other is doing, what experience has taught him and what progress he has made as the result of his work with the children in the classroom. The College of Teachers becomes, in effect, a central organ whence the whole life-blood of the practical teaching flows and helps the teacher to maintain his freshness and vitality. Probably the best effect of all is that these meetings enable the teachers to maintain their inner vitality instead of actually growing old in soul and spirit. It must be the teacher's constant aim to maintain a youthful freshness of soul and spirit, but this can only be done if true life-blood flows to a central organ, just as human blood flows to the heart, and out of it again. That is concentrated as a system of soul-spiritual forces in the life that is striven for in the teachers' meetings at the Waldorf School.
Immediately, I found myself stumbling over the sentence, "These
meetings all recall the living 'High School' for the 'College
Something in the wording disturbed to me - disturbed me enough to make me look up that passage in the German original.
"Living High School" in the German edition is expressed as "Lebendige Hochschule". A "Hochschule" is not an "Oberschule" or High School, but a university, a place of study and research.
The next translation in question was "College of Teachers". Again in the German original we find here "das Lehrerkollegium" by which is meant all the teachers teaching at the Waldorf School, in short, the teaching staff! Not the inner circle, the college only!
Why do I point this out? Observing and participating at the various Waldorf schools in this country I often found that this misleading translation has led to a fundamental misunderstanding: The faculty meeting as the place where all teachers meet is a mere administrative event and any study (mostly mere reading) is done in the college only. Thus, teachers, who have joined the school without the proper Waldorf training do not receive a gradual introduction to Anthroposophy, child development or curriculum study. They never have the chance to listen to the various teachers presenting and discussing a block, or listen to a biology high school teacher teaching them about the heart of the senses while working with the Study of Man. As it is, the newcomer at our schools has a hard time making the transition from an outsider to a carrying member of the teaching staff.
The necessary "central organ whence the whole life-blood of the practical teaching flows," to help the teachers maintain their freshness and vitality is not accessible to all teachers.
Why is that so, I asked myself and others?
Why these translating errors? They are not errors - at least not to some of the English speaking world. Talking to teachers from Britain, I found out that the term "College of Teachers" is used as is "faculty" here in the US It would be advisable to make note of the difference in language in the books sold in the US, so that the scholar of Steiner is not misled.
What is left for us, however, is the review of our meetings. Can we change them and our customs? How can we perceive our general teachers' meeting in order to create a place of continuous growth, learning and rejuvenating?
How many members in a faculty really know of the special backgrounds of their colleagues? How many faculties present a block just taught and open it up for discussion? How much teamwork is there to support the presentation by looking up the indications the Heydebrand or Stockmeyer curriculum give, the Conferences with Teachers and the pedagogical lectures by Rudolf Steiner? Is it not mostly that all come and hope something will happen to make coming worthwhile?
When you say you cannot get to know one another in conferences, it seems odd to me that in a community that is always together from morning till evening, meets in every break and has the chance, every break, of smiling at one another, talking in a friendly way and having warm exchanges, that has so many opportunities to get things going, I cannot understand why you cannot manage it without having recourse to the conferences. In the conferences you give each other the very best you can. The trouble is that you ignore one another too much in college, and you do not smile at one another enough. Now and again you can tell one another the blunt truth, that helps the digestion and does no harm, if it is done in the right place. But you must behave to one another in such a way that each one of you knows that the other one does not only feel that way about you because he likes or dislikes you but because you are Waldorf teachers together.
|The child study has to become a study, not just a desperate call for attention because of discipline problems. It takes study of the physical appearance and development and fine observation. It takes display of the child's work in relation to his peers and, maybe even his work of previous years. A photograph of the child should be circulated, in order to introduce him to those of the faculty who do not teach him. A home visit should have taken place previous to the presentation. A paragraph of one of Rudolf Steiner's lectures, describing the age or the developmental situation of the child is beneficial to the presentation. It is also a gradual training and introduction to Waldorf education and Anthroposophy.|
As Waldorf teachers we must be real Anthroposophists, in the deepest sense of the word, in our inner life as well, and we must be able to sense the reality of an idea that has often been expressed in Anthroposophical circles, and which is important for us. We came down from the spiritual worlds to the physical world at a certain time. Those we meet today as children came down later; they were still living in the spiritual world for a while after we had already come to the physical world. There is something tremendously heart-warming and soul-inspiring in regarding the child as a being who has brought something down from the spiritual world that we ourselves have not experienced in the spiritual world because we are older. Being older than they are has a special significance for us. Every child brings us a message from the spiritual world about things that happened after we left there.
|It is difficult to bring about change when one has been accustomed to certain ways for a long time, but it definitely would be worth the discussion and study to see what we can do to strengthen the inner core of our working together. Let us make the faculty meeting the heart of the school and a place of continuous learning. Let us make it a meeting to look forward to, where we come to know each other and where we find the unity of approach to teaching and carrying the children and their parents.|
I have said that a school ought to be an organism in which every feature is an integral part of the whole. The frequent faculty meetings draw together the threads of the different activities essential to the life the whole organism of the Waldorf School. In the course of the year, I am present at the majority of these meetings. They are not held, should we say, merely to prepare school reports or to confer about administrative details of punishments to be meted out to the children who have broken rules, and the like. These meetings are really a living "university" for the faculty - a permanent training academy, as it were. They really are like that, because each practical experience of a school teacher becomes, in turn, part of his or her own education. Anyone who derives such self-education from teaching will always be finding something new for him- or herself and for the whole faculty. Such a person will gain profound psychological insights into both the practical side of education and the different qualities, characteristics and temperaments of children. All the experience and knowledge that comes from teaching should be "put into the pool" at these meetings. In this way the faculty becomes a whole in spirit and soul. Every teacher knows what the others are doing, what experience has taught them and what progress they have made as a result of their work with the children in the classroom. In effect, the faculty becomes a central organ from which the whole life-blood of teaching flows, helping the teachers maintain their freshness and vitality. Probably the best effect of all is that these meetings enable the teachers to maintain their inner vitality instead of actually growing old in soul and spirit. The teacher's constant aim must be to maintain a youthful freshness of soul and spirit, but this can be done only if true life-blood flows to a central organ and out of it again, just as human blood flows through the heart. That flow of soul-spiritual forces is concentrated in the life we strive for in the faculty meetings at the Waldorf School.
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Last update: November 30, 1997