There was a time in my childhood when I wanted to be a teacher. Writing on the blackboard for a living seemed attractive, though I am sure there was something more to it that I could not articulate at the time. There were very few teachers who made an impact on me: one in kindergarten, two in grade school, and another two in high school, and maybe double that in college. But I honestly don’t remember all their names. Offhand, it looks like a pretty good number, but when you think of how many teachers we had back then—a homeroom plus one for each subject, per year—well, it is not a lot.
I know for certain that the teachers who left their mark touched me in some way, not so much for what they taught in the classroom, but for who they were. Even now, I remember them before I remember which subject they taught. I loved my English teacher in third year high school because everything about her was quiet but strong. She was not authoritative in the sense of being a terror, but I looked up to her because she knew her stuff and taught it with a simple but true love for her subject. The life she poured into it made it special. Her comments about my essays were very helpful, objective, warm and encouraging. I worked hard in her class but never felt the kind of pressure and tension my math and science classes gave me. I looked forward to every class. There, despite the work, I could always exhale.
I know now that the teachers who made the best impressions were the ones who were original, strong, creative and full of genuine interest in their lessons. I respected them. The others used fear, taught just because it was their job, equated learning with memorization of trivia we do not even use in our lives today. They awakened nothing real inside me. Unfortunately, they outnumbered the good ones. My fascination with blackboard writing quickly fizzled and my desire to be a teacher along with it.
Today I am back in awe of teachers, mostly because of Steiner/Waldorf education. In the Steiner Schools, there is an ongoing and relentless search for teachers because a Steiner teacher knows she has a deep, spiritual task. Her view of the child and the world must be vast and deep. She has to be sensitive to the behavior of each child in and outside of the classroom and be able to see how she can address weakness or difficulty in a gentle but authoritative way. She has to be strong and upright, grounded and willful, to command the love and respect of the children. This feeling for the teacher helps them to learn with eagerness and joy. She must be able to hold them all in her consciousness. She has to think of each child before she goes to bed at night, as part of her preparation for the next school day. She has to find ways to teach every subject creatively through games, song, play, crafts, movement, gardening, woodwork and art. She must also dedicate four to eight years of her life to one class.
A Steiner teacher is a strong, conscious, steady co-parent who is responsible for helping the child come into balance in thinking, feeling and willing. His task is to help the child develop the way he was meant to; not bombard him with concepts and dead information.
My children love their teachers. My older son has a new teacher this year because his teacher of two years decided to marry. When his new teacher was introduced to us last year, she told us she came from a mainstream public school and was contemplating turning her back on teaching because she had been feeling that there was something so lacking in our educational system. Then she heard of Steiner Education and her passion for teaching was ignited again. This was what she was looking for—teaching with a deeper intention. She is new to Steiner Education but her interest and dedication to it are authentic. There is no doubt the children feel that and benefit from her own intense desire to learn and teach them. The inner life of the teacher has everything to do with the quality of education the child gets. That is something every true blue Steiner teacher takes to heart.
More and more people are recognizing that the needs of children today are changing because of the rapid descent of death forces on the world by way of materialism, technology, violence, all kinds of negativity and the deterioration of our view of what it is to be human. We now know that we must work doubly hard to make sure our children remain children; that external forces do not force them into premature and hardened adulthood. Steiner education is a powerful sheath against such a fate. Parents are waking up to it and, thankfully, educators all over the world are, too.
I am happy to share that the first intensive Steiner teacher training program is up and running via the Gamot Cogon Institute, an Ilioilo-based cultural organization whose mission is to advance the principles and practice of integral sustainable development, including training and education for human development. The teacher training is a live-in program that is spread out in two to three week increments over a six-month period.
Conscious, spiritual and socially engaged teaching is what the children of the modern world need. It is a healing education that works deeply in the lives of both teacher and pupil. If teaching is your true task in life, perhaps it is time to step up to all it means. Rudolf Steiner said, “Receive the child in reverence. Educate the child with love. Release the child in freedom.” That says it all. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.