Radical and Relevant Blog

November 2016

Partnering with Parents

Reflection on the Waldorf Development Conference

November, 2016

Mhairi Gray teaches Grades 6 and 7 at the Mulberry Waldorf School in Kingston,Ontario. She recently attended the Partnering with Parents conference as Part of her Professional Development for Waldorf Teachers part-time program. Below are her reflections on the conference with inspirations and questions it has stired in her for how best to meet the needs of her students and build a stronger school culture. -ed.

"In their partnership to foster the well being of a child, the parent, teacher and school need trust, confidence and clarity of communication to avoid distrust, doubt, fear and confusion."

I found myself quickly immersed and engaged in the clear, sharp and open professionalism of Liz Beaven. Throughout her presentation, Liz moved between the role of the parent and the teacher as she brought forth the picture of the child in the centre of a triangle with each outer point represented by the parent, the teacher and the school. What do we want for our children? What drew us to a Waldorf School? What are common conflicts between parents and teachers/schools?

It is the first of these three questions that Liz presented where we found the most commonality. We can rest on the fact that all parents want their children to be loved, challenged, confident, motivated, responsible, etc..

What draws us to a Waldorf School is individual: the smell of the building, anthroposophy, the aesthetics, the look of the children, etc..  This second question made me consider how, with our exposure to a Waldorf environment, we are presented with an opportunity to develop our inner life. Regardless of how we come to it, this Waldorf impulse asks us to meet it. Perhaps we never understand what it is that we are drawn to and become fearful that it is a spiritual element that draws us? Aren’t we all on a quest to heal wounds?

Common challenges that arise between parent and teacher/school such as sports, festivals, field trips, ask for an open, responsive professionalism on the part of the teacher. Balancing the demands and concerns of the parents and community, remaining awake to the constantly changing needs of the students while maintaining the essential elements of Waldorf education in the classroom is an often overwhelming task. As Liz pointed out, the work we put into this area will never go to waste and may lead to a positive ‘living’ experience of education for parent, child, teacher and school community.

I began to wonder why the child was at the centre of the ‘tricky’ triangle. After all, we are all on a path of development and arrive in the community of Waldorf education with our own particular tasks and challenges. Parents, teachers, the school community and the child require relationship in order to reflect and develop. For obvious reasons the child needs loving authority and guidance. However, I think of children more as seasonal foliage crowning a trunk that has several arteries and deep roots. We, as adults, are present for ourselves in a school as much as we are present for the child. Perhaps some of us are not even aware of this?

I was also left with a question about specialties in the middle school. I am appreciative of the opportunity, as a class teacher, to strive intensely to meet the curriculum expectations of the upper grades. Although my class has several other teachers (French, gym, handwork, choir) I have the responsibility to carry the rest of the curriculum. I am aware of the trend in larger schools toward specialty teachers and wonder if my class might be better off with a teacher who can really inspire and challenge them in more specific areas of focused study. Is it naive to think that it is beneficial for students to sense my striving in areas that are difficult for me and to be guided toward making surprising discoveries about their own capacities?


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October 2016

Partnering with Parents: Finding new ways of working in collaboration


Join us for our annual

Waldorf Development Conference
Friday and Saturday, November 4 & 5, 2016
Keynote Liz Beaven, EdD


When parents enrol their children in school, they also enrol in the educational journey. Parents and teachers share a common interest, providing the best possible education for children, yet each views the child and school from a unique perspective. The parent-teacher relationship is an important factor in a child’s experience. Building healthy parent-teacher relationships requires communication, time, and clear expectations. This presents both opportunities and challenges for parents and teachers.

We invite educators and administrators to join us for an exploration of the differing lenses of parents and teachers on the journey through school. What works, what does not work? What do parents and teachers need in order to work together? How can we build a team to support the vital needs of our children? Can we work together to transform the parent-teacher

Liz Beaven, EdD, has over thirty years experience in Waldorf education as a class teacher, parent, school administrator, researcher, and adult educator. She is a member of the faculty of the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, where she is working to develop programs in Integral Teacher Education. Liz is board president of the Alliance for Public Waldorf Education, and is past president of Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, CA. She consults with a number of schools on a range of topics, including the role of parents.

Click here for more information


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September 2016

Scholarship Funds Available for All Steiner Centre Programs

The Steiner Centre is pleased to announce that we now have dedicated scholarship funds for each of our programs. Thanks to the many contributions we have received each year from individuals and foundations, our programs are now more accessible for people of any financial means. We believe that honest conversations about money/cost/resources can strengthen community and help us all to learn to ask for what we need and equally to offer freely what we can.

Foundation Studies Scholarship Fund

For those students facing financial challenges in meeting their goals to complete the prerequisite Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy (in-house and distance - parts 1 and 2), in preparation for Waldorf teacher education, tuition assistance is available from our scholarship fund.  Foundation Studies contributes greatly to understanding the standard of excellence in the worldwide Waldorf movement and to inspire individuals to train and contribute to this most important work. This fund is enthusiastically supported by a wide circle of generous benefactors.  Funding is limited.Please complete the scholarship application form if this will help you step into your future.

"Dear Gene and the Rudolf Steiner Centre,
It is hard to convey over email the depth of my gratitude for the financial support you have offered. It means a great deal to me and to my family. The scholarship offers emotional and moral support as well, knowing that there is a group of people who want me to have the opportunity to further my studies and to make a greater contribution to work in Waldorf Education. I will hold this in my heart as I begin Foundations Part 2."

                                                                                      Sincerely, Jenny Taylor


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June 2016

RSCT Teacher Education Graduates: Where are they now?


The Steiner Centre is grateful to Yvonne Philpott for helping us stay in touch with our busy alumni who are working in Waldorf schools on many continents. - ed

Hiromi Matsue – Class of 1999
Akico Komano – Class of 2006

In early February I was in California where I had the opportunity to meet up with dear friends: two Japanese RSC Teacher Education graduates. Hiromi Matsue (Class of 1999) now lives in Los Angeles and teaches Japanese at the Ocean Charter School.  Proximity to the Pacific inspires some California schools to choose Japanese as a foreign language for its students.The Ocean Charter School, spread over three campuses, is a publicly funded Waldorf school.  By this summer all class teachers will have completed Waldorf teacher training.A beautiful blackboard description of Waldorf’s view of child development in her classroom showed me that Hiromi is making her contribution to the professional development of her colleagues.

I witnessed a rehearsal of the two combined grades 4 for a performance of a Japanese fairy tale.  It is an annual highlight where the grade four students present an hour-long play in Japanese, with a little guidance in English so the audience can follow. All the children know all the roles and only towards performance time does Hiromi match actors and roles. Teams of parents and their friends provide considerable help with the elaborate costumes, make-up and scenery. Last year’s performance drew members of the local Japanese Businessmen’s Association who were so impressed that they provided a grant which enabled Hiromi to order a huge traditional hand-made drum.

During my visit two of her colleagues told me: Hiromi is such a gift to the school!

Akico Komano (Class of 2006) followed her Waldorf teacher education with a four-year eurythmy training in England.  She then returned to Sapporo, Japan, where she conducts eurythmy classes for adults and for children. She was visiting her friend Hiromi at the time I was there.  She led a three-week eurythmy session with a grade 3 in the Ocean Charter School, at the end of which the school’s director asked her if she wouldn’t like to move to L.A.  And that wasn’t the only compliment she got.  The students had prepared a beautiful thank-you book.

Akico and Hiromi were preparing to attend the West Coast Waldorf Conference in Portland, Oregon at the end of February.

Yvonne Philpott

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The Arts in Waldorf Education

The arts are central to Waldorf education. Not only do we teach through a broad range of the arts, but we hold that a teacher needs to be an artist in all that s/he does: an artist with language, with paints, with discipline, with mathematics and with colleagues. This is no small undertaking. Every summer the Steiner Centre works with teachers, parents and others inspired by Waldorf education in our Summer Festival of Arts and Education July 4 to 22. This year we are offering a large variety of artistic workshops including:

Streaming Story



Musical Leadership for the Teacher



Waldorf Art Curriculum



Magic of Coloured Dust






Sculpting the human Form



and Waldorf Doll Making



Click here to see our full Summer Festival brochure.

Come and join the fun!

Register today.

Waldorf Teacher Education, Waldorf Schools, Storytelling, Summer Festival   Add Comment
May 2016

Les Black - 2016 Honorary Waldorf Fellow

The Steiner Centre is pleased  to announce our 2016 Honorary Waldorf Fellow, Les Black. Les has been a long time colleague and champion for creativity in Waldorf education. With over 30 years of dedicated service to our Toronto Waldorf School community, Les has touched the lives of hundreds of children and colleagues. His love of drama and movement has inspired us all. Les will be the keynote speaker at the graduation of our full-time program on May 30 where he will be awarded his own certificate.

Les retired from the intense life of a Waldorf class teacher at the Toronto Waldorf School in 2010. Following the graduation of his third, eight-year-cycle class, Les has nourished the slow build-up of a new career in teacher-mentoring and Foundations Studies in anthroposophy teaching through RSCT’s Distance Studies Program. He is currently assisting at L' Ecole Rudolf Steiner de Montreal, mentoring teachers, speaking to topics requested by the faculty and to topics parents in the school's community. This concept of mentor-to-school relationship will extend to the Trillium Waldorf School early in the new school year. Les also mentors many Foundations Studies students from Mohawk First Nations communities in Brantford and Cornwall. This is an unexpected and privileged turn of focus. Students from Montreal, Australia and South Korea have made up the mosaic of students he has supported in these studies.

 In 2011 Les drove across Canada, encouraging Canadian Waldorf schools to unite with a Canadian organization designed to enhance the work of AWSNA in Canada and address our common, Canadian-specific issues.

Les and family (wife, Ilse and sons, Ben, Noah and Lucas) moved to the Toronto Waldorf School  in 1983, where he took up the mantle of class teacher. Three classes journeyed with him from grade 1 through 8. For one school year he was the movement teacher for grades 6 through 12 and he subsequently completed the Spatial Dynamics Training (2nd North American Class). Les carried many leadership roles during his twenty-seven years at the school and was active in the resistance to the imposition of standardized testing by the Ministry of Education.

Les and family had moved from Fort Frances, in North Western Ontario, where he had been a public school teacher for seven years before that. He did his graduate training in education at the University of Lancashire in England in 1975. He had prior teaching experience at Crescent School and Lakefield College School.



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Waldorf Doll Making

Have you ever wanted to make one of those adorable, huggable Waldorf dolls? Well, here is your chance. This July 18 to 22 Luciana Baptista Cohen will be leading a workshop in which she will lead you through all the steps of bringing your dream into cuddly form - your very own doll. Of course you can share it if you want to, but you may just want to keep it for yourself.

Waldorf Doll Making
with Luciana Baptista Cohen

Come and make a huggable Waldorf doll. A Waldorf doll is much more than just a toy. It inspires free play, a sense for caring, and imagination. Made out of all natural materials, respecting healthy human proportions and with a simple physiognomy, these delightful dolls will become a friend close to your child’s heart. It will accompany your child through life experiences and support his or her social and emotional development. And besides all that, they are fun to make and play with! 


   You may even want to keep it for yourself.


Waldorf Teacher Education, Family, Summer Festival   Add Comment
April 2016

Encountering Our Humanity

Dear Friends of the Steiner Centre,

We are excited to announce a North American Anthroposophical Conference “Encountering Our Humanity” taking place in Ottawa August 7 to 14th.

How is anthroposophy meeting the needs in the world today? How can we be more aware of the needs, and how can we become active in the movement? The conference will address this question. It will provide a broad scope of the fields where anthroposophy is at work, with keynote lectures that speak to Karma & Biography, Education, Medicine, Science & Biodynamics, the Arts, Spirituality, and more. We will get a sense for how these fields are interconnected, and the place of the developing human being.

Speakers from the Goetheanum and from North America will be present. There are a few keynote speakers from our community, including Regine Kurek, Kenneth McAlister, Jonah Evans, and Michael Schmidt.

The conference provides a unique opportunity to learn more about anthroposophy, to engage in artistic workshops, to hear about research that members are active in, to be inspired by each other, to meet and connect, to relax and enjoy evening performances from such artists as violinist Emmanuel Vukovich, the Spring Valley Eurythmy group, and the members of the Cambridge Music Conference.

Please visit the website  www.encounteringourhumanity.ca  for more information, and to register.


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In Honour of Virginia Smith

Our dear colleague, friend and alumni, Virginia Smith died this past weekend. We are saddened to have to say goodbye to her so soon. Virginia was a well respected mentor in our Professional Development for Waldorf Teachers part-time program and taught in our Summer Festival of Arts and Education. She will be missed here as she will by her friends far and wide. We send our blessings to her, her family, friends, students and peers. Her colleagues at the Calgary Waldorf School shared these fitting sentiments with their school community:

Dear Friends of the Calgary Waldorf School:

On behalf of all of us on the Faculty, Staff, and Board at the school, we are writing to you this afternoon to confirm for you and share with you in the saddest of news. Many of you will already know that our beloved friend, teacher, and colleague Virginia Smith died this past weekend. After many years of struggles with a number of difficulties and heart-breaks in her life, Virginia chose to take her own life at the end of last week. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go to everyone who grieves our loss of her. We want you to have this “Intercessory Prayer” (by Adam Bittleston) which we have been reading together this week to send our love, hope, and peace to our dearest Virginia.

Thou angel who keepest watch
Over the destiny of Virginia
Through the waking and sleeping,
And the long ages of time:
May our thoughts, filled with hope,
Reach Virginia through thee.
May she be strengthened
From the founts of will
Which bear us towards freedom.
May she be illumined
From the founts of wisdom
Which warm the inmost heart.
May she feel peace
From the founts of love
Which bless our work.

Virginia joined the Faculty of our Calgary Waldorf School in September of 1995. In these past 20 years, she has been a leading and steadfast light in our community. Virginia has filled virtually all of the key roles in our school, including Class Teacher, Interim Pedagogical Administrator, Teacher Mentor, Teacher Evaluator, Division Chair, Faculty Council member, Board member, member of Faculty committees and Board committees, leader of many faculty professional development/teacher training series, and speaker/workshop leader at many adult education events. Throughout her two-decade tenure at our school, Virginia has been the embodiment of a striving Waldorf teacher. As a true “Server of the Light”, Virginia’s deep and enduring commitment to our students, our parents, her colleagues, our school, and our community has been a gift to us all which will continue to resonate throughout the whole lifetime of our school. She has touched and will continue to touch so many lives with her compassion, intelligence,
insights, creativity, and clarity. As I write this, I have a picture in my mind of Virginia’s glow.

Our deepest condolences, affection, and thankfulness go from all of us to Virginia’s family. And we also hold Jack Searchfield – Virginia’s partner in life and teaching for so many years – very closely in our hearts, with much love. Each of us will miss Virginia terribly and in so many ways.

At the school, we have heard this afternoon from Virginia’s family about the details of the service which they will be holding this week to remember and honour Virginia. Everyone is very welcome to attend the memorial service on Thursday, April 14th at 3:00 pm at Scarboro United Church (134 Scarboro Avenue SW). A reception will follow the service, at the church, up until about 5:30 pm, which everyone is also very welcome to attend. Please know that the school will be sending flowers to the church, for Virginia’s family, on behalf of everyone in our school community. Also, many of the CWS faculty and staff will be singing at either the service or at the reception...

In losing Virginia, we know that everyone’s heart is breaking. All of us here on Faculty, Staff, and Board join you in this profound grief and sadness. At the same time, we are so grateful for all the expressions of love and care which are constantly pouring toward Virginia, her family, Jack, and the school. We’ll close this letter to you with a poem, “In Blackwater Woods”, by Mary Oliver (one of Virginia’s favourite poets), which we know Virginia has turned to for many years, in order to find solace, wisdom, and the way forward.

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars
of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
nameless now.
Every year
everything I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Yours in thankfulness and community,
Cathie Foote, School Administrator
Kathy Brunetta, Pedagogical Administrator
Mary Wyatt Sindlinger, President of the Board of Directors

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