Welcome to Waldorf

By Mathias Maurer, November 2017

Once again almost 7,000 pupils are joining a class 1 in a Waldorf school. And their parents are looking expectantly to their future with many questions. How will my child develop? Will they learn? With what qualifications will they leave school? Was the decision to send them to a Waldorf school the correct one?

Every Waldorf school is different: some have more of an arts and crafts orientation, others tend to be more intellectual. City Waldorf schools have a completely different aspect from rural ones, which might also be linked with a farm. Then there are Waldorf schools which are intensely committed to inclusion while others take hardly any children with disabilities or divide the pupils into different streams after the class teacher period. There are schools which were founded on the initiative of parents or teachers and as a result varied in their character from the beginning.

But the crucial factor for the development of the child will not be the published profiles and mission statements but the invisible inner attitude of parents and teachers. Because every school is only as good or bad as the teachers and parents who are part of it. Ever since John Hattie’s Visible Learning and Hartmut Rosa’s Soziologie der Weltbeziehung (Sociology of our relation to the world) there can be no doubt: the personality and its effects are the be all and end all of education. Learning itself here occurs only as a side-effect. It is a disaster for a school when ultimately parents and teachers do not pull together.

What differentiates Waldorf education from other systems of education, however, is its spiritual background and specific view of the human being, in the context of which Rudolf Steiner stipulates an even more radical approach: the child is taught and the teacher learns – and he formulates an educational creed: “Accept the child with reverence, bring them up in love, and let them go in freedom.”

The teacher serves simply as a role model and companion in the individual learning process which becomes all the easier the more they free their mind of all educational ideas and intentions and display the greatest interest in what they are teaching. In other words, education is a practical discipline, a didactic art. While the teacher should prepare their lesson, once in the lesson they should forget what they intended to do and enter into what is happening at that moment, dealing with the questions that arise for the pupils.

That all sounds rather utopian in comparison to what happens in the everyday reality of school when the children are undisciplined, did not get enough sleep and are lacking in concentration, and the voice of the teacher can hardly compete against the volume of noise in the classroom.

If teachers see themselves as lone warriors they will find it increasingly difficult to master the situation. If they see themselves as part of the whole ecosystem of the children and parents with their varying life circumstances, a common sense of being in a learning community arises. Welcome to Waldorf.


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