‘how can we see our children more clearly?’

asks the Steiner Waldorf School Fellowship in the UK [pdf]. I have a suggestion: remove the esoteric glasses. They seem to cause the strangest blur to your vision. Anyway, ‘How can we see our children more clearly?’ is the title of an SWSF conference taking place at the Rudolf Steiner House in London over Easter this year. The program is spectacular.

Every human being incarnates in a unique way, and everything he is can be found in the impression he makes in the substance of the earth. It is our task as teachers to learn to read the impressions made by our students – the way they speak and move, their likes and dislikes, the things they create, everything they do. If we really learn to do this, what we discover can form the basis of our work. The aim of this conference is to raise awareness of the need to develop the faculty of truly seeing and to look at some ways in which this can be done.

The assumption — not questioned, but taken for granted as an established fact — is that the human being incarnates. I suppose it’s too late to ask for any evidence backing up this belief. By the way, what’s the ‘substance’ of the earth? It’s nice to see them admit that speculation about how a child ‘incarnates’ forms the basis of their work. I wish they had been more explicit about what ‘the faculty of truly seeing’ means, though. Not that it’s terribly difficult to interpret. Needless to say, perhaps, it involves putting on those glasses. And learning to use the supersensible eye. Being spiritual initiates, they don’t realize how blurry the vision really gets. The world looks just paradisiacal, as long as the world adapts to their worldview and doesn’t require anything from them. This isn’t necessarily the most realistic manner of seeing; and those children, they live in the real world.

Brien Masters, who wrote a doctoral thesis on waldorf education, is going to speak about birthday verses and he notes that:

The farthest that observation of children can lead us is arguably the insight it gives of their karmic background.

Now it isn’t about the child’s incarnation process as it supposedly unfolds in front of the supersensible seer, or Steiner teacher, it’s about reincarnation — the perspective of multiple lifetimes — and of karma of previous incarnations influencing this one. The child’s karmic background is what the child has experienced before his or her present existence on earth.

Ken Powers will talk about the tool used to explore a child’s incarnation process and karmic background:

Child Study: A Conscious Picture-Building.

Child study. It continues:

Colleagues from various schools will present studies of individual children (anonymously) and will lead us through the methods used in their schools, so that we can build up a picture of how Child Study is being worked with in this country. Conference participants will be able to contribute and ask questions during the studies so that it becomes a research activity from which we can all benefit.

‘what higher beings have done before birth’

In a publication [pdf] by the pedagogical section at the Goetheanum, there’s an article by Christof Wiechert on ‘An Education for our Time’. In it I read:

‘It is pointed out [by Rudolf Steiner] that the religions tend to focus on the after-life as the time where everyone’s future lies while forgetting about the time before birth. It is the teacher’s task to explore the life before birth: ‘Our form of educating can have the correct attitude only when we are aware that our work with young people is a continuation of what higher beings have done before birth’.2

‘How can this be achieved in practice? Think of a child study: the first step is the forming of a picture of the pupil as he or she appears in space and time. In order to understand this picture we have to go a step further. How did the pupil come to develop in this way? It is easy to find out as long as one avoids the temptation of applying superficial psychology (which never leads to any insight or knowledge). We come to an understanding of the inner essence of a pupil if we ask how ether body and physical body, for instance, relate to one another; or how the soul (astral) works on the ‘learning body’ (ether body).’ [The footnote (2), refers to: Rudolf Steiner, The Foundations of Human Experience (CW 293), Lecture 1, 21 August 1919.]

Wiechert then goes on to talk about meditating on students and to say that a teacher’s inspiritation ‘arises out of the interest in the pre-earthly aspects that reveal themselves in the different parts of the human organisation.’ It’s a highly interesting article, for many reasons. Read!

child study

From The Significance of the Child Study, a document found published on the Irish Steiner Kindergarten Association’s website.

Original intentions have to do with the essence of the will in each individual child and the resolve to incarnate and integrate the heavenly into the earthly with the help of higher powers.

The teacher should ‘listen’ to the child, without jumping to conclusions (but let’s get back to that later…)

The hearing is as if one is trying to listen to what the angel of the child could be revealing to us at this initial, profound moment.

Why not listen to the child instead of some angel? What kind of information is an angel able to give about children that the children themselves are incapable of conveying directly? And how do you verify to which child a particular angel belongs?

When working with others we can create meditative conversations that may lead to a healing response. A complete physical description of the child is a helpful place to begin. Often, when observing a child in this way there are details that are noticed that serve in understanding the child. Rudolf Steiner states, ”Through intensive study of the physical configuration of the body, characteristics of soul are revealed.”

So much for taking an unprejudiced approach to the child. What is this, if not saying that the physical reveals something about the child’s mental characteristics? Is this not going to affect the way the teacher treats the child, perhaps in a manner negative for the child’s well-being and development?

Further down in the document we learn that

if we can bring our thoughts of the child into sleep with us into the spiritual world, asking for inspiration from the child’s angel on behalf of the child, we again are striving towards another kind of hearing. To create a ‘hallowed’ space in ourselves, a kind of inner manger, where the birth of the child’s being can find it’s way to us is a kind of reversal form that takes place in the inner life of the teacher.

The whole document can be downloaded here (pdf). The organization has an articles section.

A previous post.

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! Continue reading “guidelines for child study — working with angels, beings and children”