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September 2017

Interview with Foundation Studies Director Paul Hodgkins


Q: What kinds of people take the Foundation Studies program? What are they looking for?

Three Kinds of Students come to Foundation Studies...

Paul: There are three types of students in the program. First there are those who are interested in Waldorf Education and who want to become Waldorf teachers eventually. 

Second, there are parents of Waldorf students, who want to learn more about the ideas that inform their child’s education. 

And thirdly, there are those who are seeking to develop personally. Perhaps they’ve encountered Anthroposophy to some degree, maybe they’ve read some books, and they want to learn more. The intent of the program is to serve people like these, who are looking for anthroposophy for any of these reasons.

Q: So do these people find what they are looking for in the Foundation Studies program?

Paul: Most of the time they do find what they’re looking for. Occasionally there is a person who finds it doesn’t suit them. We’ve had three or four people drop out of the program over the past 15 years.

What's Next for Students after Graduating?

Q: What do graduates of the Foundation Studies program go on to do?

Paul: Some have become teachers. Others have gone into biodynamic farming. At least one has become a Eurythmist. Some who were naturopaths or homeopaths are now pursuing studies in anthroposphical medecine. Some work at Hesperus and at the Toronto Waldorf School. 

However not all the students go into anthroposophical initiatives. Some become anthroposophists. They join the Society and form study groups to deepen their understanding. 

Others go on to do other things. Steiner said that there are people who study anthroposophy for a while and then go away. In the next life they will be anthroposophists.

With regard to the course itself, there is no specific desired outcome. We aim to present a basic picture of anthroposophical principles in hope the students will form their own relationship to Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy, and begin to study freely and independently. The purpose of the course is to form a bridge to that end.

Guest Speakers

Q: You’re not the only presenter in this course. Can you tell a bit about guest speakers?

Paul: When we find someone who is working in anthroposophy in a vocational way and they are available to us, we try to enlist that person, either to speak to the students, or in support of visiting faculty. 

We also have regular contributors who are experts in fields like early childhood education. Rhonny Russman is an early childhood educator who has done a lot of research into the basic senses with which kindergarten teachers work. 

We have a Eurythmist, Jonathan Snow, who works with the students. Dorothy LeBaron shares her expertise in biography work. Doug Wiley talks to students about the Threefold Social Order ideas. Fred Amrine, a University of Michigan, German professor, has come to talk about Rudolf Steiner’s biography.

Q: Can you tell a bit about the field trips students go on?

Paul: We visit Michael Schmidt’s biodynamic farm in Durham. We used to visit Camphill, but the new government regulations which Camphill has to operate under, no longer allow such visits. 

Paul's Personal Path

Q: Did you ever take a Foundation Studies course yourself? How did you find anthroposophy?

Paul: I never did take a Foundation Studies course. I stumbled upon anthroposophy while looking for answers to three questions. My questions concerned art, wanting to learn something authentic about Christ, and wanting to find a different kind of education for my newborn child. 

One day in a bookstore I came across books on all three subjects, all by the same author, Rudolf Steiner. And I couldn’t understand any of them. Eventually this led me to study Steiner’s more basic books, and to attend workshops on anthroposophy in Toronto. This would have been back in the early 1980s. 

In 1985 I began an in-service teacher training at the Waldorf School in Ottawa. At the end of that I became a Waldorf class teacher and took a class through all the eight grades, and later picked up another class for two years. 

I had done some teaching of adults in my life earlier. But most of my earlier career had been in things like retail sales, and working as a clerk in the English civil service. Shortly after I came to Canada in 1966, I worked as a gold miner in NW Ontario.

When Foundation Studies started at the RSCT

Q: How did you find your way back to Toronto after going to teach in Ottawa?

Paul: I came to Toronto in the summer of 1995. I worked part time for a year teaching at the Toronto Waldorf School and then taught for a year at the Halton school. I was thinking of teaching more at TWS but instead I got involved in the Foundation Studies program. In my second year in Toronto I was invited to give a little talk at the RSCT. 

Then I got involved in the steering committee to establish the Foundation Studies program, gradually becoming more and more involved in the facilitator’s role, which is what I’m doing now, although just recently, I’ve been appointed director of the program. Back when I started with the program, Arlene Thorn, who was director of Adult Education at RSCT, discouraged me from continuing as a Waldorf teacher, and suggested I focus on Foundation Studies. So I gave up teaching children.

Q: What kind of satisfaction do you personally get, from leading this program?

Paul: This is my passion. I don’t see myself as a teacher, but rather as a student of anthroposophy who is sharing his experience with others. Sometimes I get confused with the teacher. For me, the teacher is Rudolf Steiner. I’m just someone who has been studying Rudolf Steiner longer than the students.

What Does it all Mean?

Q: Tell me more about your passion.

Paul: I love anthroposophy, its ideas, the idea of it. I love the idea that there can be an opening into the spiritual reality and that one can take it up in a free and independent way. I love to share this, and try to enthuse people for these ideas and practices.

People who come to Foundation Studies, come with important life questions. They are seeking some meaning in life. Responding to those questions is what makes it lively, being asked questions and having to respond.

Anyone who is a teacher is thinking about the needs of their students and asking themselves “how can I serve the needs of my children”. Parenting is always responding.

Proof is in the Pudding

Q: Tell me about your own kids and their experience of Waldorf education.

Paul: I raised five children and they all went to Waldorf school. I thought Waldorf education served them very well. It really does speak out of a deeper understanding of the human being. A Waldorf teacher can be imperfect. A body of teachers can be imperfect. Teachers consistently fall short of the ideal, but it is the attempt — the wish and will to do the right thing for the children, that works. My children were happy to go to school. Even if they complained, they loved school, and they loved their teachers. For me, that was enough. They have grown up to be open and caring human beings.

Q: In the local production of Rudolf Steiner’s Mystery Drama that will be performed in October 2017, you play the role of the spiritual teacher, Benedictus. Were your typecast?

Paul: That was an accident. Three years ago, at the first readings of the play before the rehearsals even started, the director, Tim, asked me to read that part. It’s a co-incidence that I’m in that role.

RSCT's is not the only FS program

Q: Can you talk a bit about the vision for the future of the Foundation Studies program and about similar programs around the world?

Paul: Our program is very minimal. It would be nice to run it five days a week. My hope is that some person (or persons) will step into this work, who is younger and more in touch with the times. I would actually like to be replaced. (Note: Paul is 70 years old)

Last year we had 12 students in the program. The average has been about 15. Then there are about 100 students in the distance version of the program — people from all around the world. 

In Canada, there is a program on the west coast. People in the maritimes are trying to put something of this sort together. There are some part time programs in the States.

There used to be a few major institutions — Emerson College (in England), The Waldorf Institute (in Detroit), and Rudolf Steiner College (in California) which ran full time Foundation Studies programs, but those have now been shut down, primarily due to a lack of students.

But more recently there has been a resurgence of interest among young people in their 20s.

Q: What do graduates of the Foundation Studies say about their experience in taking the course?

Paul: Many students testify that they have gone through a transformative experience. One said “I used to look for success, now I look for meaning in life.”

There will be free introductory talks on the Foundation Studies Encounter program on Monday Sept. 11th in downtown Toronto at the Waldorf Academy, 250 Madison Avenue, and again on Wednesday Sept. 13th at the RSCT at 9100 Bathurst St., Thornhill. Both events run from 7:30 to 9:30 pm.

The Foundation Studies Encounter Progarm is offered both at the RSCT in Thornhill on Saturdays, and downtown at the Waldorf Academy, at 250 Madison Ave., in Toronto, also on Saturdays. Both programs run from September through May.

Learn more about Foundation Studies at the RSCT.

Photos:

1. During the interview

2. Mystery Drama rehearsal, October 2016

3. Mystery Drama rehearsal, Octoboer 2016

 

 

 

 

Waldorf Teacher Education, Waldorf Schools