Some guiding ideas on the current situation in schools

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by Thomas Stöckli, leader of the Academy for Anthroposophical Education, Switzerland

We are currently in an exceptional international situation in which schools worldwide are closed for the time being. Therefore we have to switch to online learning, especially in the upper school, where it is necessary, and at the same time we need to create a balance, because it is not part of the quality of Waldorf education to work so much with the internet. On the other hand we must use it for "meaningful" purposes through conscious human and spiritual work. 

There are some points that are important. 

1. which tasks we give that are meaningful, even if they are conveyed online. For the upper school there is nothing to prevent us from doing maths exercises, German essays, foreign language assignments, written work like essays to reflect the current situation, perhaps watching a film - imagination is needed and above all, in any case, individual contact with each and every young person, whether by e-mail, by telephone or by coming to the school for individual conversations wherever possible. Of course in the sense of Waldorf education it is right that there should be a balance in polarity with tasks in nature if possible, enjoying the sun, also observing plants, clouds observing with meteorological tasks, birds watching etc. There are infinite possibilities that one can have real encounters in nature that are so important in balance with the technical one-sidedness of the internet. It is not a question of demonizing online learning, but of creating a counterbalance, that is one of the current tasks of Waldorf education. Of course, in the sense of Waldorf Education and Salutogenesis, it is natural that in the polarity with these tasks in nature, if that is possible, to tank up on sunshine and fresh air. 

2. for the lower school it is a different situation. It is clear that in Waldorf education it is not enough or even beneficial for children to be given tasks online. It is better if they go to the school to pick up their "learning packages" from the teacher individually.  And it is right that there is now also an intensified contact with the parents in which the parents communicate with us online on questions concerning the children and Waldorf Education. Here the teachers can maintain an individual contact with the parents and help them. Of course this includes "learning in life", helping in the household, when there is a garden, gardening or otherwise going out into nature, making a fire, with observing the forest, keeping a small diary with drawings in nature, which is kept daily. It is also important that the teachers keep each child in mind and maybe even see a chance to be in continuous contact with the parents through regular letters to the parents. Perhaps this will give them an insight into Waldorf education where they otherwise have no time or are not in demand. 

3. It is very important that the teachers look at themselves in the sense of a healthy psychological hygiene and a mental balance and that they go into the forest or into nature or do artistic activities. And cultivate the meditative life: Because in the sense of Steiner's last guiding principles, the more we are induced to immerse ourselves in the "sub-nature" of the new technology, the more important is life in the so-called "supernature", i.e. spiritual thoughts and ultimately a living anthroposophy. Concrete ideas are needed. Only an anxious rejection of this new challenge would not be in the spirit of the age of Michael, but to be active and take initiatives, to react from an inner power which can come to us from the spiritual world.

4. exchange and communication: these are only a few of the guiding ideas that certainly need to be supplemented, we as a Waldorf movement can also network locally and worldwide, communicate more with each other in new ways, exchange experiences in order to counteract "social distancing". And in doing so we think of all children, not only of the Waldorf schools, we will become a community of destiny as humanity.