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.