Beat the Devil! Faust, the Whole Story
told by Glen Williamson
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe worked on the great poetic drama Faust for most of his life. Actor and storyteller Glen Williamson has been working with his production of the story for much of his life. The combined depth of this experience and insight was a gift to all who attended Beat the Devil! Faust, the Whole Story on November 4/12 at the Toronto Waldorf School. One audience member described Glen as “one of our greatest living artists.” For me, “living” is the key word. Glen “lives” into his performance of the story, inhabiting the characters and breathing contemporary meaning into this timeless story of innocence and experience. The litmus test of the success of his performance was exposed on the faces of the audience. From high school students to Hesperus residents, we were swept into the age-old trials of being human and the compassion that springs forth from open hearts.
Intensify your STORYTELLING SKILLS with Dramatic Arts workshop with Glen Williamson at the Wychwood Barns Community Gallery
Those of us who attended Glen’s storytelling workshops at Wychwood Barns and Hesperus were all the more prepared to appreciate his art and craft. During these workshops Glen invited us to embody the elements of earth, water, air, and fire. We began by imagining we were moving through thick gooey clay, and ended by radiating the very warmth of the sun. Then we took a gesture and put words to it. Different gestures, same words. Working in pairs, we were astonished to see how diverse the conversations could be, using the same words with different gestures. So during the performance when Glen embodied Helen of Troy, “the face that launched a thousand ships,” emerging from the water as a watery apparition speaking in a watery way, we experienced it more profoundly for our own exploration of water.
Glen has been working with Goethe’s Faust since 1981, and began developing his story version (condensing 24 hours of playing time to an hour and a half) “at the request of the New York Branch of the Anthroposophical Society in 1999 in honor of the 250th anniversary of Goethe’s birth.” Having spent 10 years or so crafting the Greek myth of Psyche and Eros into an hour and a half storytelling performance, exploring in depth the resonance of the story and how to share this with an audience, it is Glen’s creative process of working with this play in such a unique way that is inspiring to me.
Missed it? You’ll get another chance! You almost always do.
Waldorf education values the essential role of play for the healthy development of children (and adults!) of all ages. Free play allows for untold learning in the realms of social interaction and dynamics, proprioception and the imagination. Play is the crucible in which children begin to digest the many experiences of their day, to make sense of them, to groung them in their own experience. The following article by Alfie Kohn was excerpted from his book, The Homework Myth - WLC
Children should have plenty of opportunities to play.
Even young children have too few such opportunities these days, particularly in school settings.
These two propositions – both of them indisputable and important – have been offered many times. The second one in particular reflects the "cult of rigor" at the center of corporate-style school reform. Its devastating impact can be mapped horizontally (with test preparation displacing more valuable activities at every age level) as well as vertically (with pressures being pushed down to the youngest grades, resulting in developmentally inappropriate instruction). The typical American kindergarten now resembles a really bad first-grade classroom. Even preschool teachers are told to sacrifice opportunities for imaginative play in favor of drilling young children until they master a defined set of skills.
As with anything that needs to be said – and isn't being heard by the people in power – there's a temptation to keep saying it. But because we've been reminded so often of those two basic contentions about play, I'd like to offer five other propositions on the subject that seem less obvious, or at least less frequently discussed.
1. "Play" is being sneakily redefined.
Whenever an educational concept begins to attract favorable attention, its name will soon be invoked by people (or institutions) even when what they're doing represents a diluted, if not thoroughly distorted, version of the original idea. Much that has been billed as "progressive," "authentic," "balanced," "developmental," "student-centered," "hands on," "differentiated," or "discovery based" turns out to be discouragingly traditional. So it is with play: "Most of the activities set up in 'choice time' or 'center time' [in early-childhood classrooms] and described as play by some teachers, are in fact teacher-directed and involve little or no free play, imagination, or creativity," as the Alliance for Childhood's Ed Miller put it. Thus, the frequency with which people still talk about play shouldn't lead us to conclude that all is well.
2. Younger and older children ought to have the chance to play together.
Peter Gray, a psychologist at Boston College, points out that older kids are uniquely able to provide support – often referred to as "scaffolding" – for younger kids in mixed-age play. The older children may perform this role even better than adults because they're closer in age to the younger kids and also because they don't "see themselves as responsible for the younger children's long-term education [and therefore] typically don't provide more information or boosts than the younger ones need. They don't become boring or condescending."
3. Play isn't just for children.
The idea of play is closely related to imagination, inventiveness, and that state of deep absorption that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi dubbed "flow." Read virtually any account of creativity, in the humanities or the sciences, and you'll find mentions of the relevance of daydreaming, fooling around with possibilities, looking at one thing and seeing another, embracing the joy of pure discovery, asking "What if....?" The argument here isn't just that we need to let little kids play so they'll be creative when they're older, but that play, or something quite close to it, should be part of a teenager's or adult's life, too.
4. The point of play is that it has no point.
I didn't know whether to laugh or shudder when I read this sentence in a national magazine: "Kids need careful adult guidance and instruction before they are able to play in a productive way." But I will admit that I, too, sometimes catch myself trying to justify play in terms of its usefulness.
The problem is that to insist on its benefits risks violating the spirit, if not the very meaning, of play. In his classic work on the subject, Homo Ludens, the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga described play as "a free activity standing quite consciously outside ordinary life as being 'not serious' but at the same absorbing the player intensely and utterly." One plays because it's fun to do so, not because of any instrumental advantage it may yield. The point isn't to perform well or to master a skill, even though those things might end up happening. In G. K. Chesterton's delightfully subversive aphorism, "If a thing is worth doing at all, it's worth doing badly."
Play, then, is about process, not product. It has no goal other than itself. And among the external goals that are inconsistent with play is a deliberate effort to do something better or faster than someone else. If you're keeping score – in fact, if you're competing at all – then what you're doing isn't play.
Implicit in all of this is something that John Dewey pointed out: "'Play' denotes the psychological attitude of the child, not...anything which the child externally does." As is so often the case, focusing on someone's behavior, that which can be seen and measured, tells us very little. It's people's goals (or, in this case, lack of goals), their perspectives and experiences of the situation that matter. Thus, Dewey continues, "any given or prescribed system" or activities for promoting play should be viewed skeptically lest these be inconsistent with the whole idea.
Such is the context for understanding well-meaning folks (like me) whose lamentations about diminishing opportunities for play tend to include a defensive list of its practical benefits. Play is "children's work!" Play teaches academic skills, advances language development, promotes perspective taking, conflict resolution, the capacity for planning, and so on. To drive the point home, Deborah Meier wryly suggested that we stop using the word play altogether and declare that children need time for "self-initiated cognitive activity."
But what if we had reason to doubt some or all of these advantages? What if, as a couple of researchers have indeed suggested, empirical claims about what children derive from play – at least in terms of academic benefits – turned out to be overstated? Would we then conclude that children shouldn't be able to play, or should have less time to do so? Or would we insist that play is intrinsically valuable, that it's not only defined by the absence of external goals for those who do it but that it doesn't need external benefits in order for children to have the opportunity to do it? Anyone who endorses that position would want to be very careful about defending play based on its alleged payoffs, just as we'd back off from other bargains with the devil, such as arguing that teaching music to children improves their proficiency at math, or that a given progressive innovation raises test scores.
5. Play isn't the only alternative to "work."
I've never been comfortable using the word work to describe the process by which children make sense of ideas – which is to say, adopting a metaphor derived from what adults do in factories and offices to earn money. To express this concern, however, isn't tantamount to saying that students should spend all day in school playing. Work and play don't exhaust the available options. There's also learning, whose primary purpose is neither play-like enjoyment (although it can be deeply satisfying) nor work-like completion of products (although it can involve intense effort and concentration). It's not necessary to work in order to experience challenge or excellence, and it's not necessary to play in order to experience pleasure.
But there's still a need for pure play. And that need isn't being met.
The nation of Bhutan has taken the bold step to consider the Gross National Happiness as the most important assessment tool for their developing nation. Having been long isolated from the frenetic world of international investment, development and monolithic corporatization, they are striving to create new and meaningful pathways to enter into relationship with the rest of the world, while maintaining the rich cultural life that they have. Theirs is a brave step and very much counter to the impulses that seem to be guiding the rest of the world. We can only hope and work to support them to create viable alternatives worthy of emulation.
And now to showcase their work, the are offering a Gross National Happiness International Program. This looks to be a wonderfully balanced mix of inner development, learning about Bhutan, its cultures and artistic work. It is interesting that they have structured their week very much like we would at RSCT, at Emerson College and as Waldorf Teachers in our classrooms. Theirs is a holistic approach that acknowledges and supports integrated nurture of body, soul and spirit.
The Rudolf Steiner Centre is seeking a full time Administrator to oversee all financial and administrative duties, assist program directors and provide the highest level of service. The successful candidate will have several years of progressive experience.
• Carry day to day consciousness of financial matters. Oversee bookkeeper and accountant with invoices and payments using basic accounting practices and “Simply Accounting” bookkeeping program.
• Assist in the preparation of budgets, tax returns and analysis of the financial results
• Day to day office administrative duties: answering questions on telephone and e-mail; greeting the public; registering new students; scheduling meetings; typing and preparing documents; organizing and maintaining an efficient filing system; maintaining office space and supplies
• Excellent written and verbal communication skills
• Proficient with computer office software: ACT, Simply Accounting, Word and Excel
• Proven ability to develop effective working relationships
• Self motivated, organized, able to take initiative and meet deadlines
• Knowledge of anthroposophy and/or Waldorf education
• Post secondary education in administration and/or business
Start date December 1, 2012
Salary $40,000 commensurate with experience
Includes full medical, dental benefits and 4 weeks paid vacation
We thank all interested applicants.
Those under consideration will be contacted for a formal interview.
Dear Friends of the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto,
As many of you may know, RSCT has had to delay the opening of our Waldorf Teacher Education Program by two months (fearing we might have to cancel it entirely) while we dealt with the Onta
rio Ministry of Trainings, Colleges and Universities request for registration. We have just received confirmation from them that our Program can proceed (exempt from ministry regulation!) under two new titles:
Professional Development for Waldorf Early Childhood Educators Full-Time
Professional Development for Waldorf Teachers Full-Time
This name change will in no way effect the content or quality of our programs; however, all students applying to our programs will now need to demonstrate some previous teaching experience to be accepted into the program. We believe that this requirement will help us to prepare better Waldorf teachers.
We also want to let you know that our two part-time teacher education programs have earned the same exempt status:
Professional Development for Waldorf Early Childhood Educators Part-Time (currently running)
Professional Development for Waldorf Teachers Part-Time (beginning July 2013)
Thank you all for your support.
President of RSCT Board of Directors
As we prepare for our upcoming Waldorf Development Conference November 9 and 10 at RSCT, entitled The Wonder of Boys , it is exciting to read this article by Agaf Dancy from Waldorftoday.com.
Registration for the conference is now open.
I learned from Cynthia Aldinger that there were four male students in the LifeWays training recently. I was so glad to hear that! And then I thought again, “Wow, there are only four men taking up the LifeWays training, out of how many women?” I was glad – and I am glad – that there are at least four.
But there’s no getting around the fact that childcare and education in general below the high school level are both dominated by the female gender, not only in this country but in much of the world. Mind you, I have nothing against women! But greater gender balance in child care would really help, particularly with the boys. Where, these days, do children see men doing “manly” things? Where do children see men embracing their “power?” We need to find ways to help children get some sense of the things that men and women DO, even if it’s now mostly on weekends.
LifeWays is excellent in creating a homelike environment where we invite the children to engage in the real work of the “Domestic Arts” – cooking, baking, washing dishes, cleaning, folding laundry and engaging in many other tasks of the home. We provide child-size versions of stoves, kitchen appliances, ironing boards, etc. for the children to continue these activities in their imaginative play. We also provide child-size work benches and tools (though we would prefer that they not be too noisy with the hammers!). Rainbow Bridge LifeWaysBut it’s much less common for children to see or actually participate in activities like repairing things, building a deck, mending fences or gates, painting, etc. that most typically are the work of the “man around the house.” This is not too surprising as many of these activities tend to lie outside the comfort zone or physical capacity of many female caregivers. Yet the absence of these activities leaves the children’s picture of the domestic arts somewhat unbalanced and incomplete.
I have a greater concern than this. My sense is that far too often the early message that boys get in “school” is that they should be more like girls. They aren’t valued for the active male energy they bring. One of the things I really like about Rainbow Bridge is that we work hard to engage the boys and validate their “boyness.” I know, Rahima would love to have a few more girls in the mix, and I agree, but perhaps we attract so many boys precisely because we provide a welcoming environment for them. Boys are different from girls: their play tends to be rougher, more active and physical, less attuned to relational elements. They love to race cars and trucks and are fascinated with anything powerful. They like to build and create things. They are less keen on doing things that require close focus and concentration. It’s hard for them to be indoors, if indoors isn’t conducive to the sort of play they favor.
I think that for many female caregivers, it’s just hard to truly appreciate – to celebrate – the testosterone-laden energy that boys bring. It would be so much easier if only they were more like girls. So what can we do about this? Obviously, it IS possible, with a bit of effort and intention, to invite more men into our centers. There are lots of retired grandfathers who would be delightful for all the children to experience and who could bring skills and activities that would complement and enhance those of the female Rainbow Bridge LifeWays caregivers. You might even get that fence repaired or painted in the process! In addition to this, I think that it’s also important for all of us as caregivers to examine our inner attitudes towards boys and girls, and to actively look for ways we can make space – psychic space – for boys to be boys in our programs. We don’t need to stop boys from racing their trucks around — we need to create a space or venue where it’s okay for them to race to their hearts’ content! And then it will be okay to have other spaces and times that are only for quieter activities.
My sense is that both boys and girls in our LifeWays programs will benefit from our creating greater balance, both in the presence of men and women as role models, and in the space we make in our hearts to embrace and celebrate the energy that both the girls and the boys bring and long to share with us. I invite us all to examine our attitudes toward these matters honestly, and to keep doing our inner work!
Agaf Dancy is a long-time Waldorf class-teacher and school Administrator, and currently a caregiver at Rainbow Bridge LifeWays Program in Boulder, CO. Learn more about LifeWays at www.lifewaysnorthamerica.org
Report on Waldorf School Board Governance
Conference held at the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto
14-15 September 2012
With John Bloom,
Senior Director, Organizational Culture
At the Rudolf Steiner Foundation
What is good governance?
Good governance is freeing human capacities with a framework of agreements.
It is delivering your mission effectively at a reasonable cost.
Good governance builds credibility in the world.
Governance is about who decides who decides.
The board cannot delegate its responsibility to govern.
Collaborative governance is a new social art, a co-creative process.
Bad governance is everybody trying to do every body else’s job.
Good governance is not about holding power but rather to empower those who carry out the mission of the organization.
Profit vs Non-Profit Corporation:
- Profit : use up human capacities to create surplus capital
- Not-for-Profit : use up capital to build human capacities
In a non-profit organization, board members cannot be paid but their expenses can be reimbursed while furthering the work of the board.
How can human spirit shine and be coherent with the whole?
By bringing together these two distinct axes:
- Vertical: human spirit or our angel or our genius (individual)
- Horizontal: common ground or agreements (community)
Good governance is managing Rudolf Steiner’s motto of Social Ethic
My work as a board member is not to try to show my angel to everyone else but to allow other board members to see their own angel.
My work as a board member is to help people to connect to their money in a different way.
When you step in an organization, your work is bound by its set of agreements (ground). You are not free to do what you like.
If you disagree with the agreements, you can either change them together or you are free to leave.
Mission of the Corporation:
The mission of the Waldorf School is to build Spirit (teaching children).
Never loose sight of the end goal!
Board work also has its foundation in spirit.
Individuals are equal in spirit (nobody is more spiritual than another) and bring different strengths. If not considered as equal, it can easily be a source of confusion and lead to abuse of power.
Love and trust are the most important values of the organization.
Board members need to love and trust each other to allow every one to speak out their different views, to agree to disagree.
When the board members come to a decision, whether by consensus or by a vote, it is important that they stand together with ‘one voice’ regardless of their personal views because they were part of the decision process. This is very important and often hard to understand.
For the Board to be effective, its members must know the framework of agreements for their corporations.
The framework of agreements includes by-laws, policies, procedures, record of decisions, handbook, etc. These form also a legal framework.
The Board and Policies:
Creation of policies is the board’s primary work.
What is a policy? Good practice brought into a system.
How do you create a policy? By doing!
Doing once set a precedent and thus create a policy.
There are two types of policies: governing and operational.
Examples of good policies:
- The school will not operate without a balanced budget.
- The school will not take any action that may compromise its charitable status.
- The school will not break any labor laws.
Policies are changed when they are no longer working. Any proposed change must be presented to the board which decides to accept it or not.
How do you create resilience in the organization? By allowing mistakes to happen and learning from them.
Delegation and the three legs of governance:
Governance and management are two separate functions. It is important to have clarity between these two functions.
The Board governs the school and the CEO/administrator and the teachers manage it.
The three legs of governance (threefold social order) comprise:
- Authority (rights sphere)
- Responsibility (cultural-spiritual sphere - destiny path - who will it serve? this can be determined collaboratively)
- Accountability (economic sphere)
The Board must always delegate all three at once to allow people to carry out their tasks effectively.
Directors need to find people (staff) to deliver its mission.
Delegation can be done through a mandate system and terms of reference (job description).
A mandate must be clear and be accompanied with the three aspects of governance: Authority, Responsibility and Accountability.
Good practice: No paid member may vote on the board.
Board must not manage nor tell the CEO how to manage the budget.
Board members as Co-creators:
‘Every act of creation starts with destruction’ (Picasso)
We live between chaos and order.
An idea is a centre of processes based on human relationships.
The right attitude to adopt in a meeting: the solution is in the room. It can be very disempowering if someone always have to consult with another group or person outside the board.
We must let go of personal agendas and shoulds.
We must hold a question to let it work amongst ourselves until we find a solution or come to a decision.
Where is the Ego of the School?
The Ego of the School finds its expression in the way the agreements are carried out.
The Ego of the School is the reflection of the Higher Being of the School.
The Ego is part of a unified voice.
The Ego manifests when questions and decisions related to the mission of the school are considered.
What is the role of the Board?
The Board is responsible for creating public benefit.
Through its agreements, the Board is accountable to the parents and governments, both provincial and federal, and through to them to the public.
If the Board and the CEO/administrator fulfill their tasks properly, the line of empowerment flows from the government all the way to the teacher.
The government gives the right to the corporation to exist. The corporation is accountable to the government.
How does a Waldorf School board differ from others?
Board members are often parents and thus are deeply connected with the mission of the school.
What are the CEO functions?
The CEO or administrator functions may be held by only one person or shared by several individuals.
The CEO functions comprise five main areas:
- the financial management
- the development of the organization
- the spokesperson to the public
- the state/government requirements
- the effectiveness of the organization
The public should have access to the school.
The CEO is the public face of the school and greets the public as someone who stands for the values of the organization.
The CEO works with everyone in the school (teachers, board and parents) and thus is connected to the Archangels.
The CEO can have volunteers to help them accomplish their tasks. The CEO retains the authority, responsibility and accountability.
A board member (not employed by the school) may serve on a committee as a volunteer, not as a director (does not manage the school).
What are the two primary responsibilities of a board member?
The board meeting can be regarded as a sacred space or vessel.
To make the best use of the time at the meeting, each board member should take the following responsibilities most seriously. - The Duty of Care:
o The director must come to the board meeting well prepared, i.e. read all the material (reports, minutes, agenda) sent ahead.
o As a director, you must get yourself fully informed about the matter at hand such that you can fully participate in the decision-making.
o Need to build enough time for people to prepare. Material for the meeting must be sent by a certain time.
o Poor preparation may lead to bad decisions.
o Financial statement: need to know and understand the assumptions behind the numbers - The Duty of Loyalty:
o First and foremost, the board must be loyal to the mission of the school/corporation.
o The board is legally bound to its mission and accountable to the government.
o The mission cannot be changed unless the board members are in agreement and granted permission by the government to make the proposed change.
o The board members must put the needs of the corporation ahead of their personal needs (for e.g. when setting tuitions).
o Once a decision is made, the board members must support it regardless of their opinion.
o Confidentiality must be respected by all those present at the meeting, including visitors (must not tell others who said what in the discussion preceding a decision)
o Visitors are also bound by the duty loyalty and must be made aware of this expectation.
o Minutes need only to include the points of discussion and decisions.
o Duty of Loyalty applies to the whole and the financial information.
Prudent man rule: what any normal and reasonable person would do in the same situation.
A healthy board should meet about 4 times a year.
Board members carry on work in between with committees or individually.
Board meetings can include study, artistic works and guests.
How do you deal with Conflict of Interest?
Conflicts of Interest may be either legal or ethical/moral.
You deal with them by bringing forward clarity about it.
Conflicts of Interest can be offset through disclosure which allows measuring the risk.
The board must have a disclosure policy.
Every board member fills a disclosure form (do you stand to benefit privately for any decision being made?)
Disclosure includes family and corporate partnerships.
Through the duty of loyalty, one can rise above the conflict of interest.
If someone finds him/herself in conflict of interest with respect to a particular decision, it is best to step out while the discussion and decision are made.
How do you leverage the Confluence of Interests?
This is the counter part of the conflict of interest.
The confluence of interests has to be managed.
How do you deal with controlling parties?
A controlling party is someone who can weight unduly on a decision.
For example, a board member is a significant donor and has another close partner on a board with only 3 people. The donation must be refused or the donor must step down.
If you are a donor and have more weight on a decision, you have broken your directorship/trusteeship.
Appointment and succession of Directors:
Board may be representational (elected members) or self-perpetuating (nomination process).
If nominated, there should be a nominating committee who seeks out the right person and skill set for the board.
Once you have joined the board, you don’t represent anyone because you are bound to the mission of the corporation (duty of loyalty) even when elected.
The board needs to constantly renew itself.
Limited board terms are important to ensure a rotation of people who bring new and fresh ideas.
Succession planning is an important function of the board.
New board members should receive board orientation.
Orientation may be given in the form of the board handbook which includes: by-laws, policies, mandates of standing committees, communication tools, procedures, corporation/school organization, etc.
The staff provides the continuity to the organization.
Why do you want good governance?
So that the corporation/school can stand in the world with credibility.
As a board member, you can stand for the whole in the world.
How do you stay in touch with the whole?
- By sitting in a classroom with the children
- By going on a tour (WTTG) or attending an open house or other school events
- By checking out what is happening in the world
- By attending meetings or events connected to your mission as a school representative
- By not being afraid to stand for your values and say what you care for
- By knowing what is being talked about in education and contributing to the conversation
If you are interested in the world, the world can become interested in you.
"Every idea which becomes your ideal creates within you life-forces."
- Rudolf Steiner (How to Know the Higher Worlds, chapter 1)
RSCT works actively to shape the continuing dialogue on age appropriate education. We seek to find partners across the educaitonal spectrum to work towards creating safe and nurturing schools for our children in which teachers are free to explore the art of education. - Ed.
My view: Obama, Romney need to know one thing about early childhood education – start over
By Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Special to CNN
Here’s what I would say to the presidential candidates (in case they ask me) about what we need to do to give the best education possible to our nation’s youngest members.
I would start talking in a pretty loud voice to make sure they can hear: You are going in the wrong direction with policy-making for early childhood education! Please back up and start over.
And this time, put early childhood educators at the head of the policy-making table.
Most classrooms for young kids today are driven by a myriad of developmentally inappropriate standards-based tests and checklists. Policy mandates are causing a pushdown of academic skills to 3, 4 and 5 year olds that used to be associated with first-graders through third-graders. Young kids are expected to learn specific facts and skills at specified ages, such as naming the letters and counting by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s.
This has led to more teacher-directed “lessons” and a lot more rote learning by kids who try to learn what’s required but don’t really understand.
Many early childhood teachers do not like these policies and how they are affecting their classrooms. They don’t like them because the policies are not based on what teachers know about how young children learn - the decades of theory and research that form the knowledge base of early childhood education. Young children learn through activity, through direct play and hands-on experiences that promote creativity and thinking skills. They need to see facts within meaningful contexts, to invent their own ideas and problems to explore and solve.
If you go into a really great kindergarten classroom, you’ll see blocks, easels, a science table, dramatic play, lots of books, building and art materials of all kinds and kids interacting with enthusiasm and visible joy. You’ve probably seen classrooms like this. Your own children probably went to them.
But I wonder if you have seen some of the kindergarten and pre-K classrooms like those I have visited this year - devoid of materials, eerily silent, where children sit as teachers drill them on facts from a prescribed curriculum. Classrooms where teachers spend long hours testing individual children at a computer while the rest of the class sit copying from the board - no talking.
Giving tests and assessments has become much too big a focus in early education. Teachers of children in pre-K, kindergarten and first and second grades are spending far too many hours administering and scoring tests instead of meeting the needs of the whole child. As teachers strive to get the scores up, they depend more and more on scripted curricula designed to teach what is on the tests.
Standardized tests of any type don’t have a place in early childhood. Kids develop at individual rates, learn in unique ways and come from a wide variety of cultural and language backgrounds. So it’s not possible to mandate what any young child will understand at any particular time. It’s much better to have well-prepared teachers who can assess a child’s individual abilities, needs and interests and then design teaching and learning for each child from there.
Sadly, the worst of the restrictive, standardized, drill-based education is happening in our poorest communities. More often the teachers in these underfunded schools have less training. They are more dependent on the standardized tests and scripted curricula and more willing to impose them. These teachers haven’t learned what they could do instead of the drills and tests, and they haven’t learned how harmful these approaches are for kids.
I wish you could see the faces of kids in the low-income communities I visited this year. They are scared, sad and alienated. I see on them an expression that says, “School is not fun, and it is not for me. I want out of here.”
Early childhood teachers whose professionalism is now hamstrung by current policies are leaving the field in great numbers. They can’t teach using their professional expertise and many detest having to follow a prescribed curriculum with which they don’t agree.
As one teacher said recently to Defending the Early Years (DEY), “I feel disrespected as a professional, my students feel the pressure and the parents are confused. I see kids with eyes glazed who are simply overwhelmed by being constantly asked to perform tasks they are not yet ready to do. I finally had to leave my classroom and retire early.”
At the same time, teachers with less training are entering the field and are found in much greater numbers in low-income areas. But we need more highly qualified teachers of young kids, not fewer. We need to finance teachers’ education and their professional development so we have the most qualified teachers working with our youngest learners, especially in poor communities.
Many people say we need to put more money into early childhood education. And we do. We need quality, affordable education for all of our nation’s children. We are the richest country in the world! Surely you can figure out how to come up with the funds to provide great early education for all our nation’s kids. Where there’s a will there’s a way.
But it has to be education built on the knowledge base of the early childhood field. It has to grow from children’s ability to be learners - intellectuals and artists - and not on your top-down expectations.
Let’s reverse direction with early childhood education policy and this time, let’s get it right. Let’s start with children and build from there - and please - start by putting early childhood educators at the helm.
Editor’s note: Nancy Carlsson-Paige is professor emerita at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she taught teachers for more than 30 years and was a founder of the University’s Center for Peaceable Schools. A strong advocate for public education, Nancy speaks and writes on a variety of education and parenting topics. Her most recent book is ”Taking Back Childhood: A Proven Roadmap for Raising Confident, Creative, Compassionate Kids.”
Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto recently recognized Merwin Lewis for his 30 years of dedicated service to the Waldorf movement. Merwin cofounded the London Waldorf School, educated hundreds of children and has mentored and helped train a whole new generation of teachers. Merwin is the first honourary recipient of our Waldorf Teacher Education certificate. He has more than earned it.
Biography of Merwin Lewis
Merwin Lewis was born in Cadillac, Michigan in 1945. His mother was a teacher in a one-room school; his father was a factory worker, a musician, and a church minister. Merwin holds two masters degrees, M.Music and M.L.S., from Indiana University. Before becoming a teacher, he was an assistant director of the library system at the University of Western Ontario. He was a faculty member at the Rudolf Steiner Institute, Maine, for many summers. He was also a board member of Rudolf Steiner Centre, Toronto for several years.
Merwin is a poet, a playwright, and a composer. His many compositions include three songbooks for Waldorf schools: When the Green Woods Laugh, With a Voice of Joy, and Something Rich And Strange: Shakespeare Songs, several musicals for Waldorf classes (Wildflowers for Grade Five, The Stones Cry Out! for Grade Six, Channel Crossing for Grade Seven/Eight, and On Riddle Road and The Music of the Spheres for Grade Eight). He has also composed three full-scale musicals: A Masquerade of Dreams, Ariadne’s Thread, and Beggar Moon.
Merwin has had twenty-four years of experience as a teacher: he taught a combined class (beginning in Grade Six/ Seven) for two years, taught a combined class from Grade One through Grade Eight (9 years), took another (single grade) class though the eight grades, and has been the Supplementary Main Lesson and Enrichment Teacher for the past five years at London Waldorf School, London, Ontario. Merwin is presently the Pedagogical Chairperson and has been a Board Trustee of the school for thirty years.
Merwin loves telling gnome stories in the younger grades, teaching science and creative writing in the upper grades, and greeting the students as they enter the school in the morning and throughout the day. He is presently writing a play for Grade Eight entitled, Teller of Tales. His first grandson, Elliot James Morris, born on May 3, 2012, is the light of his life. He hopes no one will notice he is past retirement age (so please don’t tell).
Planet Green School Awarded to the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA)
Along with jimmy Carter and Sir Richard Branson, the Waldorf Schools have been awarded the Green Planet Award for their remarkable commitment to the environment and educating students to be deeply environmental. The Planet Green Award is yet another recognition of the core values of Waldorf education, a holistic approach to educating body, mind and spirit. - WLC
"THE MAKING OF AN ENVIRONMENTALIST IN WALDORF SCHOOLS"
by Patrice Maynard
Waldorf educatorsknow that by cultivating a personal relationship with the Earth and her resources, young people can develop a genuine ecological consciousness.
Waldorf students are engaged in experiential learning that fosters their potential to be thoughtful, caring, and active stewards of the Earth. Waldorf schools work with an awareness of where all things originate as gifts from the Earth: paper from trees; crayons from bees, color from plants, and so on. The teachers lead students in daily practice of remembering these gifts with gratitude and in exercising care for how the Earth’s resources are used. This builds inner habits that prepare the children for being environmentalists on the deepest levels. The Waldorf students learn about the ways in which the Earth is threatened and how they can take action to help: recycle trash; tread lightly when in the wild; bring awareness to their energy use and purchases; educate others; identify problems and imagine solutions. To this imagination they bring a deep feeling for the Earth that has been cultivated during their Waldorf years.
About Waldorf Schools
Waldorf schools offer a developmentally appropriate, experiential approach to education. They integrate academics and the arts for children from preschool through twelfth grade. The aim of the education is to inspire life-long learning in students and enable them to fully develop their unique capacities. Founded in Germany in the early 20th century, Waldorf education is an independent and inclusive form of education based on the insights and teaching of the Anthroposophist, artist, and scientist, Rudolf Steiner. Evolving from a profound understanding of the human spirit and human development, Waldorf education is regionally adaptive and has grown to include hundreds of schools worldwide.
The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) was founded to assist Waldorf Schools and Institutes in working together to nurture Waldorf education so that it can manifest more widely in the world. AWSNA provides leadership to the more than 250 schools, early childhood programs and Institutes in North America by facilitating resources, networks and research as they strive towards excellence and build healthy school communities. The Association performs functions that its member schools and institutes could not do alone – outreach and advocacy; accreditation and school support; professional development; and research and publications.
AWSNA also initiates and maintains relationships with groups seeking the revitalization of education for all children and provides a “voice” for Waldorf Education in national advocacy groups. AWSNA provides strength through collaboration.
Patrice Maynard, M.Ed., is the leader for Outreach and Development of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA). She was a class teacher as well as a music teacher, taking one class through a complete cycle of eight grades and a second class through 5th grade at Hawthorne Valley School in upstate New York. Her background before teaching was in management, development, and public relations. Ms. Maynard is the parent of three Waldorf graduates and a passionate advocate for the renewal of education and pluralism in our republic.