Pulling the plug or the duty to be lazy

By Hans Hutzel, December 2022

Are you also familiar with these mostly male colleagues who, when asked for a meeting, begin by emphasising how important they think the request is, but unfortunately do not have a date free in the near future and, moreover, their weekends are also fully booked until Christmas (or summer holidays)?

My guilty conscience immediately kicks in because there are actually gaps in my diary! Obviously I’m not doing enough for the Waldorf movement, world salvation or other eminently important things. I then admire the energy of the other person and humbly agree to send my ideas by email. The overflowing diary, often dramatically displayed in public and at the same time eloquently complained about, is a status symbol.

People who do not take time for freely roaming, aimless and unrestrained thinking and perception keep being stuck on the same paths. The challenges ahead are recognised, named and often complained about, but no new answers are found. Frantically we then try to respond to new questions with old, baked-in and often standardised answers. With an incredible amount of communication and coordination. Too often I allow myself to be drawn into this static hustle and bustle, having the hunch that this hectic pace and this industriousness is actually only going ever faster round in circles. I lack the courage to consciously dare to interrupt. So I try to fit one more appointment – at least via video – in between two others. I react against the feeling of futility of this endeavour quite simply: with another appointment.

Yet it would be smarter to simply pull the plug and take some of the time we don’t have anyway. Pause, step back and, out of the mode of doing nothing, take a relaxed look from above at what we are so busy doing.

Can the hyperactivity that burns out creativity be a model for the pupils we confront with this restlessness every day? I have the impression that they have a very healthy sense that this is not an ideal worth striving for. The hyperactive may be dedicated teachers, but they are the opposite of a role model. They are not suitable for encouraging young people to consider becoming (Waldorf) teachers in order to contribute something meaningful to society. For a significant proportion of those potentially interested in the teaching profession, these perspectives act as a deterrent. They admire the 24/7 commitment, but it is not suitable as a role model for them. Finding new answers requires time and leisure and luxurious rambling, as philosopher Byung-Chul Han describes in his new book Vita Contemplativa. I am not speaking here on behalf of the low-performers we are familiar with, who can be found in every team or faculty and whom we should support and put up with without gloating and anger. (Who knows what important team function they fulfil in each case?) I plead for an obligation, a duty to be lazy, especially for the highly active ones who present themselves as so important.

Hans Hutzel, born 1963, is a board member of the German Association of Waldorf Schools and director of teacher training; he is also a lecturer in adult education. Among other things, he holds a degree in political science and has worked as a teacher and chief executive, most recently at the Emil Molt Academy. Hutzel is married and has two daughters.

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