guidelines for child study — working with angels, beings and children

A friend sent me the text excerpts below. Initially I thought it was a parody. To my astonishment, it was not. No, these excerpts are actually from a genuine work — by no other than Steiner Waldorf School Fellowship advisor Kevin Avison. These are guidelines for dealing with real children in real schools. It is what the SWSF chooses to present in a handbook — the Handbook for Waldorf Class Teachers. My friend read the 2004 edition, but I have been informed that the latest (2007) edition (Class Teachers’ Handbook; sold in SWSFs online book shop) contains the exact same advice and that there are possibly even more mad gems to be found in it.

Thanks for typing the stuff and for letting me post it!

Readers, remember this is for real. It’s not the discarded manuscript of some surreal comedy act. (If it were, I’d say it had been wrongfully discarded.) ‘The Class One child should have seen seven Easters on earth’ — not counting previous incarnations!

From the handbook:


Anthroposophy, when it is worn as a badge, is apt to divide people who may have very different perceptions of it.

Guidelines for Child Study

Stage 1

1. Soul Calender verse corresponding to week of child’s birthday is read a the beginning. Possibly a candle may be lit.

2. Describe the child objectively: (It can be helpful to show a photo of the child for those in the circle who do not teach the class)

a) Height, weight, build, proportions
b) How does the child sit, stand, walk and run? (colleagues may attempt to imitate these, describing their observations and what qualities they perceive)
c) Facial expression and gaze
d) Other features (eyes, nose, ears, and hands…)
e) Laterality

3. Speech qualities: volume, pitch, modulation and flow and any disturbances such as stammering or sounds incorrectly pronounced

4. Thinking qualities: memory, imagination, practical intelligence and ability to learn

5. Feeling qualities: enthusiasm or apathy, friendships and other significant relationships, emotional response, fears

6. Will qualities: ability to see something through once started, strong likes or dislikes towards foods, initiative, assertiveness

7. Brief background biography. Show some characteristic school work (both good and bad) If there is plenty of time, in special circumstances some of the above might be dramatised or drawing might be used to indicate certain qualities.

Stage 2

1. Soul Calender

2. Briefly review then characterise

3. Constitution, temperament, character type (adolescents)

4. If the child were a landscape, a plant, an animal, which and why?

5. From Class 6 upwards, imagine the child in a particular cultural epoch or historical setting – which, what and why? (All colleagues help to build these pictures trying to avoid any unconscious sympathy or antipathy by being aware of this danger for one another)

6. Finally if the child has a birthday verse this should be read by the teacher with some indication for the intentions within it.

Stage 3

What is this child asking of me as a teacher and of us all as colleagues in the school?

Shorter one-off studies of a whole class or group of children may also be held.

Appendix M

How to make it difficult for anyone else to teach your class – ever!

Tell the class frequently that they are a very special group (they must be to have you as a teacher) and let them know implicitly and explicitly that you are the only person fit and able to teach them. Alongside this, it helps to hint frequently that no-one else can or could handle them as you do.

Reports should be as personalised as possible. Of course only you know the ‘soul’ of each child.


9. Ensure that the parents, especially the most vocal ones, regard you as their friend.

13. If you speak about your class in College or Teacher’s Meetings, this should be as generalised as possible and done with the tone of a high-priest hinting at some deep experience in the holy of holies.


Keep a glowing personal profile about each child, but never allow anyone access to lesson notes or records, because as an inspired educator, these are unnecessary for you (anything indicating what the class might have learnt or covered in Morning Lesson should be ‘lost’ before you leave the school).


19. Let your parting be as emotionally charged as possible, but you might tell them, “I’m going to miss you all terribly an I’ll always be thinking of you. Please be as good as you can be for your new teacher” (a few tears at this point would be a nice touch).


Readiness for Class One

Decisions as to whether a child is ripe to leave the Kindergarten will have consequences right through the child’s schooling and call on the insights of all those concerned with the child. The Kindergarten teacher, prospective Class One teacher (if possible), College of Teachers, school doctor and the child’s parents need to be involved. Where there is any doubt, a detailed child study will be necessary involving further considerations than those listed here. It goes without saying that none of these should be made known to the child. [bold in original]

Date of Birth

The Class One child should have seen seven Easters on earth.

Bodily Proportions and Characteristics

Differences due to constitutional type should be taken into account.

1.9.3 Classes Four and Five Skills Checklist

Use combinations of colours including variations of brown

Section 2 Planning ahead

Our pedagogical meetings could become more productive if the focus was placed practically on the professional development of the teaching group. Such meetings would serve as a stimulus and opportunity for self-development (in this context this means the development of the teacher). For example, to actively take up and share experiences of working with some of the fundamental anthroposophical exercises, or to allow ten minutes at the beginning of each meeting for the sharing of an imaginative image used in our classroom work, might achieve much in creating and then nurturing the esoteric community which is the true heart of the Waldorf school (see Towards the Deepening of Waldorf Education and Republican Academies by Francis Gladstone).

Appendix A Movement Skills

Handedness and Speech

There is a lemniscatory or crossing action involved in the perception and co-ordination of movement.

The activity of speech is usually associated with the left hemisphere of the brain in right-handed people; this may be reversed for most left handers.The matter is complex and should lead anyone considering encouraging a change of handedness in a child to take careful and authoritative advice before commencing.

2.3 Review

5. Did I address myself (homeopathically) to at least two temperaments today? How shall I do so tomorrow?

2.5 And the Fourth “R”

The Ruckshau or “reverse review” or “daily rewind”.

Painful events, or ones that arouse strong emotion in other ways, once they have been ‘freeze-framed’ as indicated above, can then also be placed into the lap of one’s angel before sleep, with a prayer towards the wisdom (and possibly repentance) of the following morning.

2.6 The Curriculum

The fairy tale is a world in which art, science and religion remain inter-connected.

2.11.2 Morning Lesson Human and Animal


Temperamental qualities of animal types (class 5) e.g. the choleric wolverine, phlegmatic sloth, melancholic camel and sanguine prairie dog

2.12.1 Shaping the Morning Lesson

1. Incarnating exercise, register, Morning Verse

2.12.2 Elaboration of these points

The incarnating exercise would be very short, a clapping sequence, rhythm – later on a short concentration exercise to help overcome the fatigue of a car journey to school and to help the children to be fully present. Register also helps to call the ‘I’ to be present (the ego forms a connection with the full name – avoid shortenings).

2.12.3 The “problem” of Transitions – or how to get rid of them!

So, the truth is when we teach well, there are no transitions, the lemniscate of teacher-learner and learner-teacher adjusts dynamically and there is no need for elevator music or flight stewards serving refreshments to help fill the time.

2.12.5 Recall: Why and some Alternative “Hows”

Recall is a fundamental part of the Morning Lesson. That said, it can be one of the most difficult and as a result is easily squeezed out. But without active recall the teacher cannot claim to be including the spiritual world, the activity of the night, in the lesson. Recall time is the moment in the lesson when what is beginning to individualise itself in the child through their unconscious communication with the hierarchies (especially the Angels, Archangels and Archai – see for example, The Hierarchies as the Source of Action Speech and Thought, April 28, 1023 – GA224) during sleep can express itself.

2.14 Of Meetings and Learnings

While our educational work strives to be the highest possible expression of spiritual-cultural goals for our time, our meetings work into, and draw upon the intentions of the future (q.v. Towards the Sixth Epoch). The realisation of this presents an enormous challenge, and the very nature of it indicates that its fulfillment is not to be expected in the immediate, earthly present.

Appendix C

The “Seven Element Picture”

The interpretation of children’s artistic work for therapeutic purposes requires specific training.

The elements themselves can give useful pointers to what is working within the child with regard to the qualities indicated. But on no account should these indications be treated in the manner of pseudo-Freudian determinators of inner state, any more than when a child who goes through a period of using large quantities of paint should have to bear the label of being identified authoritatively as a “dark soul”!

the seven elements the children may be asked to use in composing a picture are:

Sun    Hill     Path     Water    Snake    Tree     Bird

Children may add other features, but these seven must appear. The interpretative indications are as follows:

Sun – may be taken as a picture of the connection with the spiritual. Consider whether the sun is drawn large or small, whether clouds cover it and the quality of the colour and the luminosity.

Hill – may give an indication of the child’s sense of (mainly unconscious) goals.
Are they barren and uninviting, or do they draw the observer towards them?
Are they distinct or partly veiled?

Path – may indicate a sense of the quality of the route towards the ‘goal’.

Water – may give a picture of unconscious qualities. Consider how much of the picture this takes up and the quality of it’s appearance.

Snake – may indicate basal or ‘animal’ energy, suggesting the way in which the unconscious (water) qualities are embodied.

Tree – may indicate the self’s picture of itself (think of the world tree of Norse mythology). Consider it’s uprightness or otherwise, the way it relates to the rest of the picture, whether it’s covered in leaves or wintry etc.

Bird – may indicate something of the sense of the quality of freedom

Appendix I: When Nothing Seems to be Working

Wrestling meditatively with a few paragraphs from Allgemeine Menschenkunde will also help, especially when accompanied by the angels of the children (interest in every detail of their development) and your own work with those Beings that concern themselves most closely with education.


65 thoughts on “guidelines for child study — working with angels, beings and children

  1. This is the REAL current handbook for UK Steiner Waldorf teachers available through the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship – the SWSF.

    I urge anyone interested to buy your own copy, as above. Possibly soon, before it’s withdrawn, like all the other terrifying woo that has disappeared from UK Steiner websites in preparation for Mr Gove’s generosity.

  2. True. Every parent considering waldorf education for their child ought to be fully informed about exactly those aspects this book concerns. These are the things waldorf schools ought to print in the borchures they hand out to parents. If you can’t accept the ideas and guidelines presented by Avison for the teachers, then waldorf school is not for you. It is that simple. The fact that they don’t volunteer this stuff to parents changes nothing — they don’t think parents need to be informed about it, but that is patently wrong. It’s precisely what they don’t say that parents need to be aware of. Maybe the school could have copies of this book and let parents borrow it, if it’s too expensive to print one copy for each family. As Thetis suggests, every parent can buy the book, but I can’t help but think that the waldorf schools would do parents a big favour in providing it for them. It would benefit the schools if parents really knew what they were getting themselves into. Less risk of parents being disappointed and mad later.

    I assume the waldorf school associations, like the SWSF, have provided all education politicians and departments with a copy of the book too, seeing as it is highly relevant to questions of authorization of the schools and the methods and even more to the issue of state-funding.

  3. Diana wrote on the critics list:

    ‘This is no parody or joke, this is exactly the way our child studies were conducted. I don’t recall the part about the Soul Calendar, but there were always related voodooish mumblings before commencing.’

  4. Ben Goldacre wrote, on Twitter, that

    ‘Someone sent me this to recruit ire, but I quite like the sound of some of the metaphors and rituals, as they go’

    After having engaged in some private email correspondence on this matter, I realized I need to clarify a couple of things. (I thought Ben was being ironic in his comment, and to me that’s a very reasonable approach.)

    If somebody should think that anthroposophists take these things as metaphors too, this notion is quite mistaken. They don’t. For many of them, it’s reality and dead serious. And when it is dead serious reality, it can certainly harm the children subjected to it. Think about the consequences of a teacher believing that the right course of action, when nothing else works, is to meditate with angels. Not symbolically, but as in having an encounter with real beings. Angels are no metaphors in anthroposophy. (More reasonable anthroposophists may of course view angels metaphorically — but I don’t think that’s the most popular idea.)

    Or when teachers let their approach to individual children be guided by prejudices about body shapes and temperaments. The children will suffer for that. I don’t see how these rather extreme (and mistaken) beliefs could not be influencing how the teachers approach their students.

  5. I do remember the initial attraction of Steiner Waldorf – and having a kindly attitude to its eccentricity. It didn’t occur to me that anybody would apply this to my children. Nor that the complaint familiar from hearing the stories of so many other parents that ‘the notes have been lost!’ was an institutionalised deceit.

  6. This is music to my ears, it’s so wonderful what Steiner are doing, I did not know about this book, I shall now buy it and treasure it.

  7. whale music… I had to turn it off. It reminded me of being in labour, or in a lift in an aquarium. With a glass wall. And a view of circling sharks.

  8. How very relaxing, Thetis. You’re supposed to be visualizing rainbows, angels, hand-dyed blue silk — representing water — and… I don’t know… mermaids, dolphins and oceans? I’m stressed just thinking about it…

  9. I’m a sodding sea-nymph zooey, why would I want to visualize more… sea?

    I once had a hand-dyed blue scarf from Morocco. I used to wrap it round my hair until it rained once & the dye bled down my face. I looked like an ancient Britain. Ye gods & little fishes, the shame..

    It was indigo, I remember. Curious.

  10. Seems to me people here do not understand metaphor, or irony. The Handbook is available to anyone. It’s not restricted. I do not teach in a Steiner school, but a friend gave me a copy of the book and I found it had some useful ideas for me.

  11. Well, of course it is available (I never claimed it wasn’t). If you order it or know someone who did and will borrow it to you. Or get it from a friend for that matter.

    It’s quite bizarre to claim the handbook for waldorf teachers is ‘irony’ though. It’s less bizarre, but still wrong, to see it as a metaphorical piece of work. It’s not. It’s a handbook. I don’t think anyone who reads it will come away with the impression it’s ‘irony’. Some will think it’s metaphorical, but I suggest these people think again. Sure, you could possibly gain a few interesting thoughts from it — but you’ll have to do a lot of digging to find them among all the rubbish it also includes.

  12. ‘The Handbook is available to anyone. It’s not restricted. ‘

    Did you not notice that in the post itself I even linked to the bookshop selling it? Specifically because I think people should buy it and read it — before deciding to send their children to a steiner/waldorf school. Steiner schools and teachers don’t talk to parents about what’s in that book — they don’t talk much about angels and spiritual guides and beings of various sorts. But these are going to be there — their kids are going to have to endure all that crap. Plus all what goes on behind the scenes — like teachers attempting to ‘solve’ problems with individual children using the ‘guidelines’ above and the help of angelic entities…

  13. If in a teachers’ handbook I came across an instruction to ‘lose records’ relating to a child in my school or read this:

    ‘Ensure that the parents, especially the most vocal ones, regard you as their friend.’

    I would not treat it as ironic. Unless the book was a end of year joke with a red nose on the cover.

    Having shared the above with a few real teachers in the last few weeks I think you’d have to be naive or have a reason of your own that you might not be prepared to disclose, not to be instantly alerted to the Steiner movement’s systemic mendacity.

  14. The ghastly thing is that it could be irony. It could be a splendid comedy as well. As far as the content is concerned, well, yes. But it isn’t. The whole thing is in line with what waldorf teachers believe — and that worldview surely isn’t ‘irony’. If it is irony, then they’re taking it all too seriously, I dare say — and as long as they take it seriously, we need to treat it as a seriously meant ‘explanation’ of how the world supposedly works. If it is irony, what guidelines are the waldorf teachers following? is there a similar but non-ironic handbook?

  15. if it does exist at all, it certainly hasn’t been made available through the SWSF webshop. Why restrict access to the non-ironic handbook? Apparently it’s the non-ironic handbook everybody needs. The ironic guidelines are fraught with possibilities for misunderstanding.

  16. They could remove the irony with a fine-tooth comb, leaving only the essential hairiness of the beast.

  17. Ladies,

    Please allow me to enter the discussion here in my capacity as “Tom, the Anthroposophical Answer Man.” (Remember that Steiner had an answer for everything, so if you read enough Steiner, you, too, will have an answer for everything!)

    You see, before we can discuss irony, we must first discuss iron.

    According to (the first) Herr Doktor S., the Hindu age of Kali Yuga ended in 1899 AD. Now Kali is a Sanskrit word that means: “conflict, quarrel, strife, evil, nasty,” so we could refer to this Age as the Age of Nasty. It began in 3100 BC and lasts 5,000 years, bringing us to ca. 1900 AD.

    But the 4 Hindu ages also have metals and planets associated with them: gold=Sun, silver=Moon, bronze=Venus+Jupiter, iron=Mars.
    Thus the Kali Yuga age is also called the “Age of Iron.”

    The next age is the Satya Yuga, or the Golden Age. Now what is the basic definition of irony? It is stating something literally but meaning the exact opposite of the literal meaning. Hence in the transition from the nasty age, also called “Dark Age” into the Sunlight age, which is very bright, we are still stuck using the “dark” expressions, but now striving to mean the opposite, that is, turning the old dark, nasty meanings into the new, light or bright meanings.

    Hence we could say that the Age that follows upon the Kali Yuga,

    or the Age of Iron is the Age of Irony!

    And my favorite guru, Swami Beyondananda, recommends a spiritual exercise to overcome “irony deficiency” (which can also lead to “anomie”). He calls it “pumping irony.”

    I leave you with a quoted from the Swami from his book Duck Soup for the Soul.

    Here is something ironic: We live at a time when our diets are richer in irony than ever before in human history, yet millions of us suffer from that silent crippler, irony deficiency . . . not so much a deficiency in irony itself, but an inability to utilize the abundance of irony all around us.”
    (Swami Beyondananda,

  18. Nice one. I think you’ve illustrated there ain’t no (irony) sanityclause that’ll save Waldorf’s bacon.

    (not so much Duck Soup as a Night at the Opera)

  19. … I wouldn’t join any early 20th Century esoteric society that would have me as a member…

  20. Wow. It all makes sense now.

    ‘… I wouldn’t join any early 20th Century esoteric society that would have me as a member…’

    But I’m not sure the Anthroposophical Society would have you as a member. So perhaps you should reconsider the joining!!

  21. Kevin Avison seems to have made a serious error here. It is not possible for someone who is not ‘in with the in-crowd’ to know what, in appendix M, is intended ironically and what is not.
    In the last paragraph I think one can see that he believes he is describing things NOT to do with a class, “…pushed towards the extremes of caricature, the same qualities tend towards a class that is set apart…”
    But it is not clear what is caricature and what isn’t, he seems to say some of the things he describes in this appendix are pemissible, “some of the points listed above have something positive in them, and may even be indispensible”.

  22. I think the difficulty is that there are many sections of Avison’s book which you’d hope were ironic but which obviously aren’t. Appendix M could be seen as something written in jest in an other context, but given the nature of and the contents of the rest of the book… it’s rather difficult to tell. Other pretty crazy, but seriously intended, ideas are presented pretty much alongside with these supposedly ironic statements.

  23. I realise that within a secret society, like the Masons, there is an ‘in crowd’ & that’s kind of a joke when it doesn’t involve anyone else. So what if Avison thinks he’s having a laugh – except that if he is it’s at the expense of sometimes young & inexperienced teachers or, even more importantly, children and their families. That’s not a joke. When it’s combined with a pedagogy based on spiritual insights, a grotesque mixture of wishful-thinking, spiritual racism and narcissistic spite, it becomes scandalous.

    But it’s not ironic. These people are not clever enough either to be ironic or to to lie effectively when they’ve been caught out. They do lose notes, they wriggle out of responsibility; they are, as a group, mendacious.

    Which is why, once again, I repeat:

    In my opinion no anthroposophist should be let near any child or vulnerable adult in any professional setting.

    More and more I am convinced that not only should the UK taxpayer not fund Steiner Waldorf schools, these schools must and will be exposed, and the inevitable and desirable consequence of this will be that they cease to exist. ‘Choice’ is not an issue – this is a farce, not a viable educational alternative.

    No irony intended.

  24. I’m not sure it’s that extreme, that is, I’m not sure being an anthroposophist, in and of itself, should be an obstacle to a teaching career. Waldorf schools, however, being anthroposophical institutions, don’t provide the ideal circumstances: there’s no critical evaluation, nobody who’d say ‘this isn’t ok’ if anthroposophy interferes with the education or with anything else. People who share the same worldview may often not see that problems are arising. (It really is an advantage if all teachers are not anthroposophists — and if the anthroposophists would listen to the non-anthroposophists more, because the latter may spot things the former just don’t see.)

    But there needs to be rather rigorous control measures from authorities to ensure the quality of the teaching and the results of the schools and of the teachers’ own education. Otherwise education that mixing in of any religious or spiritual elements is a real danger. Particularly if the belief system includes a longstanding tradition of obfuscation…

  25. I would like to be able to agree. I suppose if an anthroposophist kept their beliefs about children out of the classroom (one might not know they were an anthroposophist) it would be fine. At that point we’re not really talking about the same thing.

    To be absolutely precise: anthroposophists practicing anthroposophical ideas on children (en masse) should imo be very strongly discouraged.

  26. True. I suppose my point was that somebody might be a very good professional — a very good teacher — yet be an anthroposophist. Just as someone could hold any other religious or spiritual beliefs and be a great teacher. The problem is that the private spiritual beliefs of waldorf/steiner teachers are suppoesd to inform their entire professional life. This, I think, screws things up big time. It’s not so much about the teacher being an anthroposophist as it is about the role/function/meaning of a waldorf teacher.

  27. I’m sorry, having read through the piece above I have to say that nothing in it would cause me to have any concerns except for apoendix M, which I have to say talks in a completely different way to the rest of the article and smacks of a falsehood-I refuse to believe that a publicly available document would contain such ‘advice’. I have no idea who or why anyone would bother to perpetrate such a lie but something about this stinks

  28. Well, it did contain such advice. I’ve seen this publicly available document, as have many others.

    You could find out for yourself before screaming about lies. I have provided a reference to the document, which has been sold by the SWSF itself. I don’t suspect my friend who typed it to have been the perpetrator of a fraud — as I was also provided with a copy of the document.

  29. Yes, i checked now. AWSNA sells it:

    The SWSF sells it:

    They only tell us that it was first published in 1995, not whether there’s a new edition after the 2004/2007 editions — if there is, they could have made alterations. If you make sure you get the edition this post is based upon, it should contain this stuff. The 2004 and 2007 editions did — and when I wrote this post, one year and a month ago, it was the latter (2007) edition which was still marketed by the SWSF. As said, there may have been an update and a new edition during the year that has passed — it’s difficult to tell, since the SWSF doesn’t volunteer any such information.

  30. I bought a copy of Avison’s manual following this dialogue in August 2010. It is all there in the manual as Thetis and Alicia describe.
    It astonishes me that the SWSF don’t try to explain or justify the material, or at least remove appendix M, which contains totally unprofessional matter whether Avison is joking or not.
    It is very foolish and immature to publish ‘in crowd jokes’ in something available to the general public who will not know what is supposed to be ironic and what is not.
    Unfortunately the collegiate system these people subscribe to makes it almost impossible for them to discipline each other for professional lapses.

  31. No joke, definitely not. Anyone who has worked in a Waldorf school recognizes all this stuff – if not every specific detail, enough of the substance. It is all for real. To save face someone might later claim it’s a joke or intended ironically, but they know anyone who has attended their meetings recognizes it.

    Wishful thinking abounds in these replies. Ziggy: the actual problem is that appendix M does NOT read differently from the rest of the document; not if you’re used to reading such documents or hearing such Waldorf-teacher chatter. They are completely unaware of their megalomania and dead serious about making sure their class reverences them and considers them irreplaceable and infallible. It is indeed discussed openly and unironically how to foster these attitudes in your students.
    Falk: if only foolishly and immaturely publishing “in crowd” jokes were what was actually going on here.

  32. This:

    the seven elements the children may be asked to use in composing a picture are:

    Sun Hill Path Water Snake Tree Bird

    I can’t help feeling it is very interesting to consider this in light of Alicia’s many beautiful photos, which do indeed contain most of these elements (can’t recall ever seeing a snake photo here …) I happened to glance to the side while reading this post and saw out of the corner of my eye, a lovely winding path, in dappled sunlight, with beautifully proportioned trees … a composition that surely would indicate the composer’s balanced and wise soul.

  33. No, I… prefer to avoid snakes.

    Balanced and wise — ha! Maybe we create the pictures we do from what we can’t achieve within our own minds. It’s been fun to look at drawings made by me and my brother when we were children. Mine are harmonious — ugly but harmonious. Houses, trees, flowers. His are the opposite — war, people being maimed, bloodshed, guns… He has always been balanced; I never was.

    I agree that Avison’s appendix M was particularly unprofessional; and it would have been even if the booklet was sold only to teachers and teachers in training. In a real life situation, such ‘jokes’ may work, but in this context, and given the rest of the advice in this publication, they certainly do not. And even if there were a humourous tone, the advice is too close to reality to be taken as a joke. It’s not actually too far away from how waldorf teachers see themselves and their role, and the SWSF should perhaps rather counter such tendencies than reinforce them.

  34. I’m saying, appendix M isn’t a joke. I’m telling you, having attended their meetings, they talk openly about how to make your class reverence you. The notion that no one else should be able to teach your class is REAL. That’s the type of relationship the teacher is supposed to have with the class. I’ve heard them speak openly of “losing” written materials that might fall into the “wrong hands,” meaning, the PARENT. The particular soul relationship betw/ student and teacher must be preserved. Parents will “intellectualize” and talk to their children about their records and make the child “self-conscious.” If you want to avoid this, you lose or “forget” some of the child’s materials. They’ll also “lose” or “accidentally” break the child’s toys if the toys are spiritually damaging. I’ve heard these discussions. Parents who do not understand – which is most parents – are a real problem to Waldorf teachers, and they have various stealthy strategies to make sure the parent isn’t interfering. This refers usually to discusions the parent might have with the child at home (you know, the way ordinary parents do indeed discuss the child’s report card at home, or look together at materials the child has brought home from school, projects etc.) They don’t want these discussions to happen because they’re thought to be interfering with all the special astral stuff going on between the child and teacher. You know, you lose it if you talk “abstractly” about it – the child must not be aware of it, and the parent will bring it into the child’s consciousness. “Losing” the child’s things is a definite, deliberate strategy at times.

    I can easily see why people are assuming it is a joke, but it isn’t.

  35. I do understand that it reads like a joke:

    “Tell the class frequently that they are a very special group (they must be to have you as a teacher) and let them know implicitly and explicitly that you are the only person fit and able to teach them. Alongside this, it helps to hint frequently that no-one else can or could handle them as you do.”

    But when you recognize that this is all straight Steiner, you can see that it’s not. The teacher DOES tell the class frequently that they are a very special group and if not in so many words, also tells them that they are privileged to have him/her as a teacher. This along with the belief that this particular teacher is the only one fit to teach this class reflects the doctrine that the class + teacher constitute a karmic entity and the teacher does want the class to understand this, though he/she will not use the word “karma.”

  36. It sure does seem like a joke.

    I have very hazy memories of these things. It was self-evident to everybody that all the children were truly blessed to be in this paradise; which of course made it even worse for children who couldn’t fit in. It’s weird because why would anybody feel like this when these people are meant to be together? The worst people from kindergarten placed in your class. When you won’t go to school, who’s enlisted to help? Well, one of your old kindergarten teachers. As if perhaps the problem didn’t lie with them in the first place. No point protesting. Everything is for your own good, and you’re blessed so it’s all just great.

    I had things destroyed, but I don’t know why. I thought it was kids doing it.

  37. Thanks for all the post on here. Very thought provoking. How do they deal with Waldorf home-schooling if so much is to be kept for just teachers?

  38. Just ordered this book.
    Some of what I listened to in bewilderment years ago is becoming distressingly clear to me now.
    I wasn’t a pupil, but it is quite upsetting to understand what was going on in the staff room at school back then.

  39. The most shocking and distasteful part is the teachers discussing the childs appearance, shape etc. I really think this is unaccepatable. Possibly an offence under anti-discrimination law
    The part about indoctrination to make sure the class cannot be taught by anyone else is unprofessional, surely to the point of misconduct.
    ‘In -jokes’ in a teacher’s handbook? This alone should preclude Waldorf schools becoming free schools.

  40. Hmm maybe I should have waited ’til my copy arrives…I may suddenly find it has gone out of stock…

  41. ‘The most shocking and distasteful part is the teachers discussing the childs appearance, shape etc. I really think this is unaccepatable.’

    Yes. I’ve seen references to this in other documents produced by waldorf school organisations and similar institutions. And I’m sure other people have seen even more of that sort. Or heard as they’ve been present in these situations.

    The joke justification was truly weird.

  42. Yes, I have my copy.
    Very revealing, I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t read it in a book!!

  43. It’s, eh, special.

    The fact that so much of waldorf education — and what’s behind it — seems spontaneously incredible constitutes a very special difficulty to criticism of it. I’m pretty sure lots of people who encounter this for the first time (unlike you now) would be prepared to dismiss this as bogus invented by some malevolent enemy. Some of the statements in Avison’s text are so out-there. Including the supposed ‘humourous’ parts.

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