Waldorf 100 Centenary Conference
‘THE FIRST TEACHERS COURSE’
The conference is over, and most participants have taken cars, trains, and planes back to their homes, or have moved on to vacation destinations. The human spiritual activity, the human feeling life, and the human deeds still resonate in the halls of the Goetheanum, and will radiate from there out into the world (and not ‘just’ the Waldorf-world) long after the summer sun descends from its zenith, through the fiery justice of Michaelmas, to illuminate from within ‘the turning point of time’ at the nadir of the northern hemisphere’s solar calendar. What will reawaken come spring depends on each and every one of us.
Approximately 300 participants from roughly 40 nations brought their languages, their cultures, their gifts, and their questions to Dornach. From kindergarten teachers to the European council lobbyist for Waldorf education, an eclectic, vivacious, and striving group of individuals streamed into the Foundation Stone auditorium each morning at 8:45 to experience music and/or eurythmy to begin our day. This was followed by the morning lecture, a coffee break, the workgroups, and the plenum. After a delicious lunch courtesy of the ‘Speisehaus’ and a wonderfully long midday break (2 hours and 15 minutes), the pattern was repeated on five of the nine days again in the afternoon. The ‘Brazilians’ enlivened the start of the afternoon sessions by teaching us various cirandas. Including the first and the last day, four days were half-days allowing for rest, some sightseeing, and much networking.
Each lecturer was tasked with bringing a day of the first teachers course alive; Foundations of Human Experience, Practical Advice to Teachers, and Discussions with Teachers once again presented as the original chronological unit. This intentionality has also resulted in a new, rather chunky, printed edition of all fourteen days that includes a large appendix with additional study material and facsimiles. At the moment this is only available in German, but the English translation is nearly complete, and funds for a Spanish translation are being sought.
The workgroups, loosely structured according to language (German, English, Spanish), served to ‘digest’ the content of the most recently delivered lecture in a very free, interactive way. We had 90+ minutes to do so, and from the four group leader meetings, it became clear that each of the eleven groups approached this task in various ways. As one of our group’s three leaders, our challenge was, having just ‘received’ the lecture of the day (or half-day), to quite spontaneously create the vessel in such a way that best served the content of the lecture and the group. With a lively mix of artistic activities (We had a eurythmist in the group – thank you, Mona!), partner and small-group conversations, walks, quiet reflective moments, and full group discussions we grew successively together as we strove to expand our understanding of the human.
In the first half of the plenum, two groups were pre-selected to ‘present’ something out of their workgroups. These presentations also ‘grew’ in the course of the nine days, becoming a key part of the collegial digestion and integration processes. The second half of the plenum was held as a space for individual contributions and questions, often gently directed by an impulse idea or inquiry by Claus-Peter Röh or Florian Osswald.
This ‘free-form’ conference was an experiment for all of us, and the Pedagogical Section and conference planners demonstrated much needed courage of our times to allow space for collegial exchange within the framework of the conference. Much in keeping with Steiner’s 1919 example, we didn’t just listen. We worked, spoke, moved, created, and attempted to penetrate the indications given. With a finger on the pulse of today, we approached the question, “What is the next one hundred years of Waldorf education asking of us?”
I feel blessed to have attended this conference, and to have met so many sincere and dedicated educators; teachers full of love and creative energies; teachers carrying concerns for the children in their care, and for the world we all share. I have often heard the question, “What is Waldorf?” This conference was Waldorf at its best – a movement, in the truest sense of the word, spanning the globe, increasingly aware of itself and the tasks that require the continued cultivation of the senses, of common sense, of consciousness, not only of the expressions, but also of the underpinnings of our common human experience.
As we continue to celebrate Waldorf 100, let us deeply feel awe, gratitude, and our collective and individual responsibility – the ‘ability to respond’ – for cultivating the teachers, growing the children, supporting the parents and healing the world in which we wish to celebrate Waldorf 200.
Thank you all.
Colleen O’Connors, teacher at High Mowing School, Wilton, NH, USA