Teachers for the future

By Johannes Kiersch, November 2019

The story was often told at the Stuttgart mother school that Rudolf Steiner – not without a touch of self-criticism – had let himself be carried away to say: “If I could start again from scratch, I would change tack completely towards the artistic.”

When might he have said this and why? And did he mean the new school movement or possibly its source, the college of teachers? This much is certain: in the third year following the foundation of the school, he had to admit to himself that his preparatory courses for the college of teachers had remained theoretical. The comprehensive empathy he strove for and the power of individual initiative he had expected did not sufficiently take hold. The enthusiasm of the new beginning of 1919 had noticeably waned. There was too much “lecturing” in the lessons and as a result the contact with the children fell short. Thus Steiner looked for new paths and discovered – in the course of the last year he was able to work – modelling, musical listening and speech exercises as a special educational training tool. 

These three “teacher’s arts”, as they are often called today, came together in the movement art of eurythmy: as sculpture in motion, visible song and visible speech. We may be certain that in the college building planned next to the new Waldorf school building, Steiner would have placed the active immersion in the forms of expression of the three arts at the centre of the new form of teacher training he envisaged – which is still waiting to be developed and tested more broadly today. Anyone who intends to engage seriously with exercises in the arts needs time for that. And that changes the emphasis. 

In the future Waldorf training programme, the necessary informational knowledge, important as it is, will move to the sidelines. A broadly based accompanying school practice will deepen further what has been experienced through the exercises. The theoretical elucidation of lived practice will replace abstract dryland courses – at a comparable academic level.

Has the Waldorf movement sufficiently understood what Steiner’s late advice about the development of its teacher training institutions means? Will the advanced and supplementary courses, which are so urgently necessary due to the current teacher shortage, provide sufficient room for manoeuvre in this respect? And what are we doing to strengthen the basic institutions which have developed over the last forty years in such a way that they gain visibility as art colleges, also and very particularly as training centres for the artistic profession of Waldorf class teacher?

Can they be organised in such a way that they become attractive for educationally gifted young people  who today go into more creative jobs because what we offer them is too boring and fails sufficiently to challenge their individual productivity? The most important curriculum of the teacher, as we have known at the latest since John Hattie, is their person. This develops poorly through the acquisition of knowledge. Above all, it needs learning through doing.

Johannes Kiersch was a Waldorf teacher and since 1973 has been involved in the development of the Institute for Waldorf Education in Witten and as a lecturer in Waldorf education. He has published about Waldorf education and anthroposophical esotericism.

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