The best job imaginable …

By Christof Wiechert, July 2020

As the Waldorf schools have taken the hurdle of the first hundred years, the time has maybe come to think about some things that could change. The idea, for example, that being a teacher is stressful.

Photo: © Charlotte Fischer

True, there was a time when a real, serious Waldorf teacher was fundamentally overworked and unapproachable – and as a matter of principle went about their business with a look of suffering. A teacher who displayed joy and good humour was suspect: not a true Waldorf teacher!

May we assume that these times have passed? That gradually teachers are beginning to see what a wonderful profession they have, for which they even get paid?

Why is it that the old cliché is so persistent?

When Rudolf Steiner spoke about the brilliance of the Swiss poet Conrad Ferdinand Meyer in the so-called karma lectures, he said that his whole creative power was due to the “upper” human being fitting properly into the “lower” human being. In order to explain what he meant, he described the “average person” and then continued: “In the average person of the materialistic age we are usually dealing with a very robust  connection between the soul and spiritual and the physical and etheric entities”.

Curious, because one would have thought that a robust connection in particular would have helped to create a healthy and stable balance. That may well be, but Steiner thought that such robustness led to the soul and spiritual entities being seated to firmly in the body and therefore only coming to appearance to a limited extent. If the physical barriers are correspondingly high, the emotional expressiveness suffers. (For those in the know, this is the subject matter of the so-called second meditation for teachers.)

How, then, can we avoid the connection between the upper and lower human being becoming too firm?

A lecture in Prague contains a further curious statement by Steiner: “An interest in the earth places us in a cosmic context. If there is a lack of interest, such a connection is not established.” Then he pointed out the damage which such a lack of interest could lead to in our health. It is always the interest that puts the human being in a healthy, dynamic equilibrium. It is a fluid equilibrium: being open to the world and within oneself. It is like breathing in and out or a pulsating.

Intensity provides energy

Now we have to be careful about giving advice for making life and work less stressful. Everything is individual in this field. And people don’t like to be told what to do. Hence no mention will be made of going for walks, hobbies, television, caring for the garden, surfing on the computer, making music, cooking, knitting or whatever else there is.

But what can and may be said on this topic on the basis of an extended understanding of the human being is the following:

Being completely engaged in (devoted to) an (educational) task or such work is not, as a rule, exhausting; but no or little engagement is draining.

Being completely present and involved in the teachers’ meetings and all discussions is refreshing; holding back and reservation are tiring.

The same applies with regard to pupils and classes: if we are fully present, we are tired in a healthy way at the end of the day – a pleasant sensation – but not burnt out. This is actually the case with all tasks: intensity gives energy, everything else costs energy.

The catch: everyone has to decide for themselves what full engagement means. No one can do that for anyone else. Hence we are ultimately dependent in this question on a concept which is much used but little practised: self-education.

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