By Henning Kullak-Ublick, November 2018

“Today it’s the school’s birthday!” calls Lena full of anticipation as she puts on her costume for the class play with which she and her class 2 will welcome the new and muuuuuch younger class 1 pupils in an hour.

A year earlier, she had jumped up on to the stage with such alacrity, hardly was her name called out, that everyone in the auditorium began to smile; something of which she, of course, didn’t notice a thing, so eager was she to work and start learning. Not every class 1 pupil can break loose from the protection of their parents with such lightness of foot for the step over the threshold from early childhood to this place of learning and work is a very big one in the life of a person. 

It is always fascinating to accompany the development of the children through their initial years of school, then through puberty and to the end of their school years, and in so doing to recall this first moment. Through all the great and small transformations – sometimes suddenly occurring, sometimes only gradually appearing – by means of which their being works its way forward down as far as their appearance and actions, the walk from their parents to their class teacher and their new classmates remains like a signature in the memory of the path which they will follow from that time onwards: the one will walk slowly and deliberately towards the stage, another will stomp and rush forward with powerful steps, the third will make themselves almost invisible, and the fourth one starts to chatter before they have even reached the stage. And while each child treads this path in their very own and unfailingly amazing way, the children from now on also form a whole: a class community which can give them the security, protection and envelope which they need to be able to grow through and with one another as well as each one for themselves. 

An important prerequisite for this is the trust which their parents place in the people who from now on will spend a lot of time with their children and will experience them in a complete different setting from the parental home. Trust cannot be demanded but it can be given. Children have a very subtle sense of what adults think about one another. One does not have to like everything the class teacher does but the younger the child is, the more it needs the security of such reciprocal trust between the adults with whom it spends most of the day; because what else is there which it can use as a guide? 

Some animals have to shed their skin in the course of their development to be able to grow. That is something that needs to happen but makes them temporarily vulnerable. Some children also feel a bit raw and vulnerable as they enter school. Rhythm, love, humour, good stories, the pleasure of being able to do something, fun shared with classmates, the feeling of being seen and the secure knowledge of not only having the best parents but also the best teachers in the world together create a new, strong envelope. And a year later they will celebrate the school’s birthday once again with the new little ones. 

About the author: Henning Kullak-Ublick, class teacher from 1984 -2010 at the Flensburg Free Waldorf School; board member of the German Association of Waldorf Schools, the Friends of Waldorf Education and the International Forum for Steiner/Waldorf Education – The Hague Circle, as well as coordinator of Waldorf100 and the author of the book Jedes Kind ein Könner. Fragen und Antworten an die Waldorfpädagogik.


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