Above: view of the historic town of Kilkenny in Ireland, from a local tourist information display.
Recently our Director of Early Childhood Education, Jan Ney Patterson, attended a four-day conference in Kilkenny Ireland for leaders of Waldorf early childhood education programs. The 89 participants included representatives from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, Canada and the USA. This conference was the third and final in a series of colloquiums.
Lest Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot
During the conference, Jan was able to meet some of the people she had worked with at the earlier conference in Vienna. Jan also renewed her connection to Graham Kennish a colleague she knew from her time at Emerson College in the 1970s.
The theme for this conference was about the inner development of the educator. Who trains the trainer and how deeply do they drink from the well?
Working Together with Other Teachers Around the World
Florian Oswald, leader of the Pedagogical Section in Dornach was the keynote speaker. It was significant to have someone primarily related to the grade school focus working with the early childhood educators as the two areas need to work more closely together.
Florian admired how the International Association of Steiner/Waldorf Early Childhood Education (IASWECE) organization had established such high standards for the training of early childhood educators.
Every morning opened with the verse from Steiner’s mystery drama The Portal of Initiation setting the tone for the day.
"When many people join in conversation,
Their words present themselves before the soul
As if among them stood, mysteriously,
The Archetype of Man.
It shows itself diversified in many souls,
Just as pure light, the One,
Reveals itself within the rainbow’s arch
In many coloured hues."
WECAN photo above, from the Kilkenny colloquium, reprinted by permission. Other photos courtesy of Jan Patterson.
Ph.D. Equivalent for Early Childhood
A teacher educator must herself be a master of the subject she is teaching. How do we gain this kind of mastery? How do we do spiritual research? In the academic world, professors are expected to have a Ph.D. but what is the equivalent for early childhood? To stand before our students we must be actively working on our own inner development.
To deepen our relationship Florian stressed the significance of what has come to be called “the night work”. Connecting to one’s own angel is the first step. The second is for our own angels to connect to one another through the activity of the archangels. From one to another, they unite us with colleagues all over the world.
Above: view from Jan's bedroom, at the place she was staying, near Kilkenny Ireland.
Like Modern Monks - The "Night Community"
Florian called this activity “the night community”. We are like modern monks. But we only become a community when the space between us is filled with listening to the other. We need to hold back and become interested in what the other is saying.
We have two thresholds —sleeping and waking. In the night we digest the day. But in the day, we need to pay attention to what comes to us from the night. It’s a two-way process. Why is it that the person you need to talk to, suddenly show up? Or just the right thing happens. It is the angel sorting out your day. This is the morning call of “Michael.”
Here in Canada we are attracting students from all over the world. This year we have our largest, most mature, and most diverse group of part-time and full-time early childhood student teachers. Now more then ever, we need the support of the archangels to allow us to do our work.
Florian is adamant that to do this we need to get rid of limited pre-conceived ideas. As a result of this work, life can start to change as it does for example when a child starts to change during a focused child study.
Learnings from the Workshops
Jan was also able to attend three of the many workshops that were offered. One was about biography, looking at one’s own life as a treasure chest, a self-education process. Another workshop was in Psychosophy to develop skills to become your own counsellor and look at yourself more objectively. And the third one was on using art postcards to enliven our teaching.
Holly and Michael Soule lead a sharing workshop about how we prepare our students to meet the social dynamics in a Waldorf school and how to nurture social capacities in teachers.
Jan came away both enliven and with a stronger sense of the important role we play at the Rudolf Steiner Centre. Even though we are small in number, we still have the possibility of bringing a great light into the world, but in order to do this, we must first re-kindle our own light.
Jan Ney Patterson
Above: Jan walking by the river. Below: one of the colloquium sessions in progress.