Radical and Relevant News

April 2014

The Question of Gender in Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy

Gene Campbell, Program Director
Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy - distance

A recent keynote address given by Nancy Blanning, a long-time Waldorf early childhood educator delivered at the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto, The Wonder of Boys, after the book by the same name by Michael Gurian, has proven to be controversial in its content within the Rudolf Steiner Centre faculty.  It has raised the issue of gender’s relevance within Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy.

This issue is one that belongs to the wider community within the global movement and invites stimulating collective dialogue as it will have profound effects upon our future direction.   In the spirit of healthy debate within the Waldorf movement, I wish to offer these thoughts:

Steiner said relatively little on the topic of gender and yet he placed it squarely within the context of his anthroposophical picture of the human being as far back as 1894.   In Philosophy of Freedom: Chapter 14 Individuality and Genus, Steiner states:

“Man, however, makes himself free from what is generic.  For the generic features of the human race, when rightly understood, do not restrict man’s freedom, and should not artificially be made to do so.   What is generic in him serves only as a medium in which to express his own individual being.”  

“The tendency to judge according to the genus is at its most stubborn where we are concerned with differences of sex.  Almost invariably, man sees in woman, and woman in man, too much of the general character of the other sex and too little of what is individual.” 

“Determining the individual according to the laws of his genus (race, people, nation, and sex) ceases where the sphere of freedom (in thinking and acting) begins.”

Note by Steiner in a later edition of the same book:

“Immediately upon the publication of this book (1894), critics objected to the above arguments that, even now, within the generic character of her sex, a woman is able to shape her life individually, just as she pleases, and far more freely than a man who is already de-individualized, first by the school, and later by war and profession.  I am aware that this objection will be argued today (1918), even more strongly.  None the less, I feel bound to let my sentences stand, in the hope that there are reader who appreciate how violently such an objection runs counter to the concept of freedom advocated in this book, and who will judge my sentences above by a standard other than the de-individualizing of man through school and profession.”

As spiritual scientists, we are continually seeking to understand the patterns being revealed to us in our work as Waldorf teachers.  Steiner has offered us constitutional types for early childhood, temperaments for grades, and soul types for high school in addition to his anthroposophical picture of the human being formulated in the threefold and fourfold human as tools in our search for meaning.  All of these he intended us to apply equally to both genders.   If these are being used diligently in our child study, in what way are we judging them to be inadequate for our work?

If we can observe a pattern that even one member of the opposite sex could also express, to what degree would it be valid to attribute that pattern to gender?  Are we able to eliminate the variable influences of culture (an environmental factor) to legitimately attribute it to gender (an inherent factor)?

Clearly, these are broad strokes in a debate that has spanned generations and clearly is on-going within the movement.   If you would be willing to offer any comments or insights to broaden our perspective, we would be most appreciative.

 

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March 2014

Summer Festival July 7 to 25

Here it is, our new Summer Festival brochure hot off the presses. Choose from 23 stimulating workshops all connected with the theme, Metamorphosis. Parents, teachers, artists and others who yearn for inspiration out of anthroposophy, the arts and Waldorf education come together for three stimulating weeks of deep nourishment for body, soul and spirit - summer camp for adults.

Click here for more information

 

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February 2014

Waldorf Homeschooling at RSCT


More and more people are exploring the option of homeschooling their children and are keenly interested in the Waldorf approach to education.The decision to homeschool is often based on dissatisfaction, fond memories of one’s own childhood education, lifestyle choices, to mention but a few. Rarely is the decision made from the perspective of meeting the developmental needs of the child and determining what needs to be in place in order to fulfill those needs. The Rudolf Steiner Centre, Toronto offers parents the opportunity to explore the option of Waldorf homeschooling. And for those who choose to Waldorf homeschool, the centre provides a variety of ways of supporting them along their homeschooling journey.  

 

Waldorf Homeschooling Intensive

March 21-23, 2014
with Marg Beard at RSCT

 

This Waldorf Homeschooling Intensive has been designed as an opportunity for parents to explore and bring clarity to their questions: “Why homeschool? What is the Waldorf approach? What are things that need to be in place to effectively homeschool? How do I understand a child’s developmental needs? How do I develop and nurture the parent/teacher in me? ARe there advantages to parents homeschooling as a team and what might that team approach look like?

The answers to the above questions will ultimately impact the entire household. Parents/partners are encouraged to attend this intensive as a team to collaboratively create the homeschooling journey that draws on each others strengths, offers mutual support for one another and best meets the developmental needs of their child.

Prior to attending this intensive, it would be most helpful to have read the following books which provide a foundation as to what Waldorf education is as well what the journey is about from the perspective of being your child’s teacher: Understanding Waldorf Education from the Inside Out by Jack Petrash and School as a Journey by Torin Finser.

This intensive also serves as a foundation for the Bringing Spirit to Waldorf Homeschooling which is offered in the Summer Festival of Arts and Education July 7 to 11.

Bringing Spirit to Waldorf Homeschooling

July 7 – 11 Summer Festival of Arts and Education
with Marg Beard

As our children grow up their developmental needs change. As a parent and teacher we must constantly transform ourselves and our homeschooling approaches to meet those changing needs as best we can. This ½ - day, week long workshop will build on the questions: ‘Why homeschool? Why Waldorf? What are the developmental stages of childhood? How can I continue to develop the adult in me?” and will transform those answers, through hands-on activities and individual planning time, into fresh, concrete, effective ways of moving forward for the upcoming homeschool year. The fundamentals covered during the March Waldorf Homeschooling Intensive would be an asset but are not a prerequisite.

Parents/partners are encouraged to attend this intensive as a team to collaboratively create the homeschooling journey that draws on each other's strengths, offers support for one another and meets the developmental needs of their child(ren).        

Evolving Self through the Exploration of Anthroposophy

Foundations in Anthroposophy Studies Distance Program
Waldorf Parenting and Homeschooling Stream
Mentor: Marg Beard

As more and more individuals choose to parent their children out of the Waldorf philosophy, they become increasingly aware of the importance of gaining an understanding of the anthroposophical foundations of such an approach - the wisdom of the human being, child development and ways in which they can meet the needs of their children, as well as attend to their own adult development.

In response to the many requests from Waldorf-inspired parents, teachers and homeschoolers for ways of accessing Anthroposophy that can accommodate busy home life, the Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy distance course was created. This customized one-on-one distance course specifically designed for Waldorf parents and homeschoolers includes all topics required for certification thus fulfilling prerequisites for any future Waldorf teacher training or other anthroposophical training. At the same time, the practical work related to parenting and homeschooling provides a focus for digesting the concepts studied in Rudolf Steiner’s basic books.

The flexibility and individual attention of the course has great appeal. You can begin the program of assigned readings and personal phone or Skype mentoring sessions at any time and pace the studies to accommodate your schedule. Mentors for this Foundations Studies distance program bring many years of experience to the program, their training in anthroposophy, as well as their personal experience as Waldorf parents and homeschoolers. Marg Beard leads the Waldorf homeschooling option of the Foundations in Anthroposophy distance course.

 

Marg Beard  lives in Wingham, Ontario with her husband Phil. They homeschooled, through to high school, their three now university age children and co-founded Rosewood – a Waldorf homeschooling group – which was in operation for 12 years.  Marg leads the Waldorf homeschooling option of the Foundations in Anthroposophy distance course at the Rudolf Steiner Centre, Toronto; is a faculty member of Chiron which provides workshops for parents and teachers; a graduate of the Healing Education and Remedial Training (HEART) program from RSCT, and a mentor for da Vinci School, Toronto. Marg has her own Waldorf parenting and homeschooling consulting practice, KALLIAS, working  in one-on-one or group settings both privately and with community organizations as well as with Waldorf, public and private schools.

 

Please contact Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto
905 764 7570     info@rsct.ca      www.rsct.ca

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Waldorf Graduate Andreas Schleicher and PISA

Waldorf Graduate and highly respected scientist, Andreas Schleicher, speaks cogently about the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) that he has been part of developing. He and his team at the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation in Paris have been analyzing data from schools arond the world to better understand what is working in education and what creates opportunities for excellence and equality in these schools. His research has led to the implementation of an international rubric (PISA) that measures not what students are being taught but rather how well they can use their education to solve new or different sorts of problems. This research reveals trends across boundaries of culture, nation and economic strata and tracks how those trends are changing over time. Regardless of what you think about the rising tide of testing in education, Andreas makes a compelling case for the advancement of education through obtaining clearer data about educational systems around the world. His is thinking outside the box, and he clearly carries a passion for developing the free human spirit. These are ideals shared by Waldorf educators.

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Grade 5 Ski Trip - From a Student Teacher's Perspective

Here is a short article from a student teacher in our Professional Development for Waldorf Teachers full-time program based on her experience co-leading a cross country skiing trip with the grade 5 class at Toronto Waldorf School.  - ed.

Toronto Waldorf School
grade 5 ski trip

What an amazing winter this has been for me, coming from a country, Mexico, that never gets snow! As part of my student teacher practicum, I had the privilege of spending the past four weeks with Grade 5, learning how to teach and having fun at the same time. In between the mighty Herculean tasks - decimal fractions and the preparation for the Greek play - we got a chance to have a gloriousl day in the snow, cross country skiing.

It was a Monday morning at the beginning of February, and just the day before we had gotten a storm that left around 15+ centimetres of fresh snow in the Greater Toronto Area. The children were very excited, and with the help of a few parents and Ms. Clark we set out on our way to the Albion Hills Conservation Area.

We arrived after 40 minutes and, after setting up quickly with all of our equipment, we were ready to start. The sun was shining, the sky was clear and the air was crisp, so we could not have had a better day to ski.

It was my first time cross-country skiing, and it was the same for some of the children, so I was VERY grateful that Ms. Clark gave all of us a quick lesson on how to stop, how to go up a hill, and the basic “stroke” with our knees bent to slide better and have more control.

The park has several trails for all the levels of skiing so we divided ourselves into 3 groups: a beginner, an intermediate, and an advanced group. It was a challenge for most of us at the beginning, a few falls here and there, but the spirit of adventure and determination carried us all for one or two rounds on the beautiful trails. In the group I was in we even got to see three deer at the side of a small hill walking silently through the forest: what a gift! We finished our day at 2:30 pm happy and tired and some of the children even fell asleep on our way back.

As Waldorf teachers, we are teaching our children to have healthy rhythms and how to breathe in the ongoing process of life. This out-breath in our learning journey was a delight and gave the children an opportunity to work with their physical bodies and their will, just what they needed to get deeply into the preparation of their Grade 5 play.

Sandra Valle,
RSCT student teacher

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Preparing for Life - Silicon Valley Chooses Waldorf Education

This is a very well made video by Paul Zehrer and the Waldorf School of the Peninsula showing why creative people in Silicon Valley are choosing Waldorf Education for their children. Have a look the message is clear and compelling.

"The New York Times sparked national media coverage with its front page story on why Silicon Valley parents are turning to Waldorf education. This film picks up where that story left off. “Preparing for Life” takes viewers inside the Waldorf School of the Peninsula where the focus is on developing the capacities for creativity, resilience, innovative thinking, and social and emotional intelligence over rote learning. Entrepreneurs, Stanford researchers, investment bankers, and parents who run some of the largest hi-tech companies in the world, weigh-in on what children need to navigate the challenges of the 21st Century in order to find success, purpose, and joy in their lives."  - Waldorf Today

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Apprenticeships for Waldorf Teachers

 

Thanks to the vision and generosity of the Waldorf Education Fund, RSCT has received a grant to help make it possible for one of our recent graduates to apprentice in a Waldorf School, thus bringing more deeply into practice all that they have learned in the intensive year of teacher education. The recipient of this year's grant, Philip Hartman,  apprenticed at the London Waldorf school from September through December. His experiences reveal the immense value that apprenticeships offer to both teacher and school.  - editor

 


The Value of Mentorship
for a recent graduate of the
Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto

     My name is Philip C. Hartman and I am a recent graduate of the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto, Professional Development for Waldorf Teachers program.  I cannot express in words how valuable these last three months of mentorship have been for me.  Entering a new vocation poses many obstacles but with the help and guidance I have received from my mentors at the London Waldorf School, I feel ready, confident and most importantly of all, excited to begin my new position as the grade eight class teacher.

     The real value of the mentorship program lies in its inherent ability to fuse the new teacher into a symbiotic relationship with the school, faculty and children.  In my particular case, I have been reintroduced to my future class in a way that accommodates the smoothest transition possible for the children.  This transition would not be possible if it were not for the school’s willingness and eagerness to supply me with in-school mentoring.  My mentorship was facilitated by two individuals in particular, Sarah Cooper, current eighth grade teacher and Merwin Lewis, pedagogical chairperson.  Due to their efforts, support and guidance, along with the training I received at the Steiner Centre, my relationship with the schools as a whole has benefited greatly.  I have been privileged to spend a great deal of time with my future class and with the teacher whom I will be replacing.  I have been exposed to and involved in the daily rhythm of the class as well as the rhythm of my future schedule.  I have been introduced to each class and lesson that I will be taking on as part of my position.  I have been able to not only observe the routine but to participate in it as well.  

     Volunteering to participate in an in-school mentorship was something that I truly felt was an important step in the preparation process.  I believe all professions would benefit from an ‘apprenticeship’ period.  This did, however, create a financial strain on my home life, as volunteering often does.  I can understand why many new graduates are not able to pursue this most beneficial avenue.  No one becomes a Waldorf Teacher for the money, which is clear.  We are here for the children immediately and humanity eventually.  Offering a grant which enables recent graduates to receive in-school mentoring is not only extremely generous but also extremely beneficial to everyone, the teachers, faculty, staff and of course, the children.

     Being the recipient of this grant is a true honour.  I feel that it demonstrates the Waldorf community’s dedication to ensuring that Waldorf Teachers are supported, appreciated and most of all prepared.  This last year has been incredible.  From the Rudolf Steiner Centre to the London Waldorf School and all the way to AWSNA, we are one family with a common goal; to spread the holistic and transformative educational system ascribed by Rudolf Steiner to the very best of our ability.

Sincerely and with much thanks,
Philip C. Hartman, Waldorf Teacher

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Waldorf Early Childhood Teacher Education

Update on Professional Development
for Waldorf Early Childhood Educators part-time

Program now enrolling for June 2014

We are in the final year of our two-year part-time program and in March during our final session we will graduate nine members of the Class of 2014.

An important part of our program is to deepen our understanding of the cycle of the year and the festival life of the school. This study has a two-fold purpose. Working more consciously with the rhythms of the year in our classrooms helps to support a healthy sense-of-well-being for the children but it also strengthens the teacher’s spiritual understanding out of which they work.

In our last session we focused on Advent and the importance of finding and cultivating an inner quietness. This is the period of time that is referred to as a thin place. “Thin place” is a Celtic term that refers to a time or location where the veil between this world and the “other world” is thin. These can refer to historical sites such as Stonehenge or places in nature that we are drawn to in order to feel closer to the spiritual world. The Twelve Holy nights is a time when the veil between these two worlds is lifted. For an early childhood teacher this can be a time of inner reflection and also a renewal of their own life forces.

As well as deepening our understanding of this festival we also spent time with Annette Wintjes doing crafts. This gave the students a chance to breath out while making beautiful things to use in their classrooms. The little star child marionette was one of their favourite crafts and enhanced their understanding of this beloved Advent story.

It is the aim of this program to work with the ideals of Rudolf Steiner’s indications as well as find ways to make this work visible to the children. Jan Pringle from the London Waldorf School expressed it so beautifully in her reflections on creating her classroom Advent table:

“One of my weaknesses as a teacher has been feeling confident or proud about my Nature Table, but as a result of taking the course and seeing examples of your beautiful tables, I was able to complete something I loved.  I had many compliments and one teacher is going to duplicate the handing out of articles for the Advent Table as the gifts when she teaches Grade One next.  Again, thank you.”

 
Jan Patterson
Director Waldorf Early Childhood
Teacher Education

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Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy working on several fronts


For the first time in the program's history, groups of participants successfully completed Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy at three separate venues in the 2012-13 school year — the Rudolf Steiner Centre in Thornhill, Waldorf Academy in downtown Toronto, and Halton Waldorf School in Burlington. Graduates are now furthering their studies in Waldorf teacher education, in art therapy training, in deepening their work as teachers and parents in Waldorf schools, and in biodynamic gardening.

Last September the Toronto Waldorf School asked if we could start a Foundation Studies program primarily for parents. Subsequently, a  group of twelve participants has now been meeting on Wednesday mornings in the TWS community room, where we are engaging with Rudolf Steiner’s basic concepts and practices. This course is planned to run until December 2014.

Meanwhile members of the Saturday group at the Rudolf Steiner Centre are currently working with Dorothy LeBaron to explore the spiritual influences in their own biographies.

It is wonderful to experience the enthusiasm and mutual support in both these groups.

The core faculty would also like to serve communities within driving distance of Toronto that have a need for Foundation Studies, and we are looking at possible models that might meet this need. Although a full school day once a week during the school year works best, we are currently exploring an invitation to offer a cluster model (eight or nine weekends a year over two years) in Ottawa next fall.

For those for whom such a course is impossible, the Distance Program is available.

Paul Hodgkins,
for the Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy in-house core faculty

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November 2013

RSCT Welcomes Teachers from China

Warren Lee Cohen November 25, 2013

Last week a group of 20 educators from Shanghai, China spent the morning learning about Waldorf education with Warren Lee Cohen, codirector of the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto. These teachers have received a partial scholarship from their schools to come to Toronto for a month to learn about Canadian approaches to education through the auspices of the Nobel Institute. These teachers were eager to learn about Waldorf pedagogy and see if there were aspects that they could apply to their own classrooms. Josie MacPherson, their host, made sure to include Waldorf in their multi-school itinerary, because it has resonated with her approach to education for some time now. And it was good decision. The teachers lit up as they learned about the ideals of goodness, beauty and truth that are the foundation of Waldorf pedagogy. Our head, heart and hands approach to education made sense to many of them. They laughed as they learned to recite poems and sing songs together from the language arts curriculum. They commented on how alive they felt after this active learning experience.

The teachers spent some peaceful moments in the kindergarten, which felt to them like a calm and beautiful home-like setting. We tried to imagine the kindergarten teachers singing and baking and supporting the imaginative play of the children in their care. We then moved to the Grade 7 classroom, which had many models and images from the explorers and the Renaissance - beauty in a whole different context. As chance would have it, the students at the Toronto Waldorf School were preparing for their autumn parent festival. Our Chinese visitors were fortunate to see Grade 6 practicing for their eurythmy performance, which involved the whole class moving in complex patterns to live piano music. The teachers commented on how poised and coordinated the Grade 6 students were. This is especially remarkable as Grade 6 can often be a very physically/socially awkward time for children as they go through puberty.

It was a fruitful visit, that many said would impact the way they work in the future. We look forward to seeing them again and are glad to schedule visits with other groups of educators.

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