Discussions with Teachers
26 August 1919, Stuttgart
Translated by Helen Fox
RUDOLF STEINER: It is most important that, along with all our other work, we should cultivate clear articulation. This has a kind of influence, a certain effect. I have here some sentences that I formulated for another occasion; they have no especially profound meaning, but are constructed so that the speech organs are activated in every kind of movement, organically. I would like you to pass these sentences around and repeat them in turn without embarrassment so that by constant practice they may make our speech organs flexible; we can have these organs do gymnastics, so to speak. Mrs. Steiner will say the sentences first as it should be done artistically, and I will ask each one of you to repeat them after her. These sentences are not composed according to sense and meaning, but in order to “do gymnastics” with the speech organs. 1Elsewhere, Steiner stated: “In giving artistic shape and form to speech, healthy cooperation and harmonization of body, soul, and spirit manifests. The body shows whether it can incorporate the spirit correctly; the soul reveals whether the spirit truly lives in it; and the spirit is vividly present, working directly into the physical.” Creative Speech, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1978, p. 33. The original German speech exercises may be found in the appendix.
Dart may these boats through darkening gloaming
Name neat Norman on nimble moody mules
The N is constantly repeated, but in different combinations of letters, and so the speech organ can do the right gymnastic exercises. At one point two Ns come together; you must stop longer over the first N in “on nimble.”
Rattle me more and more rattles now rightly
In this way you can activate the speech organs with the right gymnastics.
I would recommend that you take particular care to find your way into the very forms of the sounds and the forms of the syllables; see that you really grow into these forms, so that you consciously speak each sound, that you lift each sound into consciousness. It is a common weakness in speech that people just glide over the sounds, whereas speech is there to be understood. It would even be better to first bring an element of caricature into your speech by emphasizing syllables that should not be emphasized at all. Actors, for example, practice saying friendly instead of friendly! You must pronounce each letter consciously. It would even be good for you to do something like Demosthenes did, though perhaps not regularly. You know that, when he could not make any progress with his speaking, he put pebbles on his tongue and through practice strengthened his voice to the degree that it could be heard over a rushing river; this he did to acquire a delivery that the Athenians could hear.
I will now ask Miss B. to introduce the question of temperaments. Since the individual child must be our primary consideration in teaching, it is proper that we study the basis of the temperaments with the maximum care. Naturally when we have a class it is not possible to treat each child individually. But you can give much individual treatment by having on one side, let’s say, the phlegmatics and melancholics, and the sanguine and choleric children on the other side; you can have them take part in a lively interchange, turning now to the group of one temperament, and then calling on another group for answers, saying this to one group and that to another. In this way individualization happens on its own in the class.
A comprehensive picture was presented of the temperaments and their treatment.
RUDOLF STEINER: You have given a good account of what was spoken of in our conversations together on this subject. But you may be going too far when you assert, with regard to the melancholic temperament, that it has a decided inclination toward piety. There is only one little word lacking: “often.” It is also just possible that the melancholic disposition in children is rooted in pronounced egoism, and in no way has a religious tendency. With adults you can leave out the little word “often,” but in young children the melancholic element often masks a pronounced egoism. Melancholic children are often dependent on atmospheric conditions; the weather often effects the melancholic temperament. The sanguine children are also dependent on atmospheric conditions, but more in their moods, in the soul, whereas the melancholic children are affected more unconsciously by the weather in the physical body.
If I were to go into this question in detail from the standpoint of spiritual science, I would have to show you how the childish temperament is actually connected with karma, how in the child’s temperament something really appears that could be described as the consequence of experiences in previous lives on Earth. Let’s take the concrete example of a man who is obliged in one life to be very interested in himself. He is lonely and is thus forced to be interested in himself. Because he is frequently absorbed in himself, the force of circumstances causes him to be inclined to unite his soul very closely with the structure of his physical body, and in the next incarnation he brings with him a bodily nature keenly alive to the conditions of the outer world. He becomes a sanguine individual. Thus, it can happen that when someone has been compelled to live alone in one incarnation, which would have retarded the person’s progress, this is adjusted in the next life through becoming a sanguine, with the ability to notice everything in the surroundings. We must not view karma from a moral but from a causal perspective. When a child is properly educated, it may be of great benefit to the child’s life to be a sanguine, capable of observing the outer world. Temperament is connected, to a remarkable degree, with the whole life and soul of a person’s previous incarnation.
Dr. Steiner was asked to explain the changes of temperaments that can occur during life, from youth to maturity.
RUDOLF STEINER: If you remember a course of lectures that I once gave in Cassel about the Gospel of St. John, you will recall the remarks I made concerning the relationship of a child to his or her parents. 2The Gospel of St. John: And Its Relation to the Other Gospels, Anthroposophic Press, Hudson, NY, 1982. It was stated there that the father-principle works very strongly in the physical body and the I, and that the mother-principle predominates in the etheric and astral bodies. Goethe divined this truth when he wrote the beautiful words:
From my father I have my stature [connected with the physical body] and the serious conduct of life [connected with the I], from my dear mother my happy nature [connected with the etheric body] and joy in creative fantasy [connected with the astral body].
There is extraordinary wisdom in these words. What lives in the human being is mixed and mingled in a remarkable way. Humankind is an extremely complicated being. A definite relationship exists in human beings between the I and the physical body, and again a relationship between the etheric body and the astral body. Thus, the predominance of one can pass over into the predominance of another during the course of life. For example, in the melancholic temperament the predominance of the I passes into the predominance of the physical body, and in a choleric person it even cuts across inheritance and passes from the mother element to the father element, because the preponderance of the astral passes over into a preponderance of the I.
In the melancholic temperament the I predominates in the child, the physical body in the adult. In the sanguine temperament the etheric body predominates in the child and the astral body in the adult. In the phlegmatic temperament the physical body predominates in the child and the etheric body in the adult. In the choleric temperament the astral body predominates in the child, the I in the adult. But you can only arrive at a true view of such things when you strictly remember that you cannot arrange them in a tabulated form, and the higher you come into spiritual regions, the less this will be possible.
The observation was expressed that a similar change can be found in the sequence of names of the characters in The Guardian of the Threshold and The Souls’ Awakening. 3See Rudolf Steiner, The Four Mystery Plays: The Portal of Initiation, The Soul’s Probation, The Guardian of the Threshold, and The Souls’ Awakening, trans. Adam Bittleston, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1983. The four plays will be published individually; see The Souls’ Awakening: Soul and Spiritual Events in Dramatic Scenes, trans. Ruth and Hans Pusch, Anthroposophic Press, Hudson, NY, 1995 (the other plays will follow).
RUDOLF STEINER: There is a change there that is definitely in accordance with the facts; these Mystery Plays must be taken theoretically as little as possible. I cannot say anything if the question is put theoretically, because I have always had these characters before me just as they are, purely objectively. They have all been taken from real life. Recently, on another occasion, I said here that Felix Balde 4Felix Balde is a character in the Mystery Plays. was a real person living in Trumau, and the old shoemaker who had known the archetype of Felix is called Scharinger, from Münchendorf. Felix still lives in the tradition of the village there. In the same way all these characters whom you find in my Mystery Plays are actual individual personalities.
Question: In speaking of a folk temperament can you also speak of someone as belonging to the temperament of one’s nation? And a further question: Is the folk temperament expressed in the language?
RUDOLF STEINER: What you said first is right, but your second suggestion is not quite correct. It is possible to speak of a folk temperament in a real sense. Nations really have their own temperaments, but the individual can very well rise above the national temperament; one is not necessarily predisposed to it. You must be careful not to identify the individuality of the particular person with the temperament of his whole nation. For example, it would be wrong to identify the individual Russian of today with the temperament of the Russian nation. The latter would be melancholic while the individual Russian of today is inclined to be sanguine.
The quality of the national temperament is expressed in the various languages, so one could certainly say that the language of one nation is like this, and the language of another nation is like that. It is true to say that the English language is thoroughly phlegmatic and Greek exceptionally sanguine. Such things can be said as indications of real facts. The German language, being two-sided in nature, has very strongly melancholic and also very strongly sanguine characteristics. You can see this when the German language appears in its original form, particularly in the language of philosophy. Let me remind you of the wonderful quality of Fichte’s philosophical language or of some passages in Hegel’s Aesthetics, where you find the fundamental character of German language expressed with unusual clarity. The Italian folk-spirit has a special relationship to air, the French a special connection with fluids, the English and American, especially the English, with the solid earth, the American even with the sub-earthly — that is, with earth magnetism and earth electricity. Then we have the Russian who is connected with the light — that is, with earth’s light that rays back from plants. The German folk-spirit is connected with warmth, and you see at once that this has a double character — inner and outer, warmth of the blood and warmth of the atmosphere. Here again you find a polaric character even in the distribution of these elementary conditions. You see this polarity at once — this cleavage in the German nature, which can be found there in everything.
Question: Should the children know anything about this classification according to temperament?
RUDOLF STEINER: This is something that must be kept from the children. Much depends on whether the teacher has the right and tactful feeling about what should be kept hidden. The purpose of all these things we have spoken of here is to give the teacher authority. The teacher who doesn’t use discretion in what to say cannot be successful.
Students should not be seated according to their attainments, and you will find it advantageous to refuse requests from children to sit together.
Question: Is there a connection between the temperaments and the choice of foreign languages for the different temperaments of the children?
RUDOLF STEINER: Theoretically that would be correct, but it would not be advisable to consider it given current conditions. It will never be possible to be guided only by what is right according to the child’s disposition; we have to remember also that children must make their way in the world, and we have to give them what they need to do that. If in the near future, for example, it appeared as if a great many German children had no aptitude for learning English, it would not be good to give in to this weakness. Just those who show a weakness of this kind may be the first to need to know English.
There was a discussion on the task given the previous day: to consider the case of a whole class that, incited by one child, was guilty of very bad behavior; for example, they had been spitting on the ceiling. Some views were expressed on this matter.
RUDOLF STEINER interjected various remarks: It is a very practical method to wait for something like this to wear out, so that the children stop doing it on their own. You should always be able to distinguish whether something is done out of malice or high spirits.
One thing I would like to say: Even the best teacher will have naughtiness in the class, but if a whole class takes part it is usually the teacher’s fault. If it isn’t the teacher’s fault, you will always find that a group of children are on the teacher’s side and will be a support. Only when the teacher has failed will the whole class take part in insubordination.
If there has been any damage, then of course it is proper that it should be corrected, and the children themselves must do this — not by paying for it, but with their own hands. You could use a Sunday, or even two or three Sundays to repair any damage. And remember, humor is also a good method of reducing things to an absurdity, especially minor faults.
I gave you this problem to think on to help you see how to tackle something that occurs when one child incites the others. To demonstrate where the crux of the matter lies, I will tell you a story of something that actually occurred. In a class where things of this kind often happened, and where the teachers could not cope with them, one of the boys between ten and twelve years old went up to the front during the interval between two lessons and said, “Ladies and gentlemen! Aren’t you ashamed of always doing things like this, you good-fornothings? Just remember, you would all remain completely stupid if the teachers didn’t teach you anything.” This had the most wonderful effect.
We can learn something from this episode: When a large proportion of the class does something like this because of the instigation of one or more of the children, it may very well happen that, also through the influence of a few, order may be restored. If a few children have been instigators there will be others, two or three perhaps, who express disapproval. There are almost always leaders among the children, so the teacher should pick out two or three considered suitable and arrange a conversation with them. The teacher would have to make it clear that behavior of this kind makes teaching impossible, and that they should recognize this and make their influence felt in the class. These children will then have just as much influence as the instigators, and they can make things clear to their classmates. In any situation like this you must consider how the children affect one another.
The most important thing here is that you should evoke feelings that will lead them away from naughtiness. A harsh punishment on the part of the teacher would only cause fear and so on. It would never inspire the children to do better. The teacher must remain as calm as possible and adopt an objective attitude. That does not mean lessening the teacher’s own authority. The teacher could certainly be the one to say, “Without your teachers you would learn nothing and remain stupid.” But the teacher should allow the correction be carried out by the other children, leaving it to them to make their schoolmates feel ashamed.
We thus appeal to feelings rather than to judgment. But when the whole class is repeatedly against the teacher, then the fault must be looked for in the teacher. Most naughtiness arises because the children are bored and lack a relationship with their teacher.
When a fault is not too serious it can certainly be very good for the teacher to do just what the pupils are doing — to say, for example, when the pupils are grumbling, “Well I can certainly grumble too!” In this way the matter is treated homeopathically, as it were. Homeopathic treatment is excellent for moral education. It’s also a good way to divert the children’s attention to something else (although I would never appeal to their ambition). In general, however, we seldom have to complain of such misdemeanors. Whenever you allow mischievousness of this kind to be corrected by other children in the class, you work on the feelings to reestablish weakened authority. When another pupil stresses that gratitude must be felt toward the teacher, then the respect for authority will be restored again. It is important to choose the right children; you must know your class and pick those suited to the task.
If I taught a class I could venture to do this. I would try to find the ringleader, whom I would compel to denounce, as much as possible, such conduct, to say as many bad things about it as possible, and I would ignore the fact that it was this student who had done it. I would then bring the matter quickly to a close so that a sense of uncertainty would be left in the minds of the children, and you will come to see that much can be gained from this element of uncertainty. And to make one of the rascals involved describe the incident correctly and objectively will not in any way lead to hypocrisy. I would consider any actual punishment superfluous, even harmful. The essential thing is to arouse a feeling for the objective damage that has been caused and the necessity of correcting it. If teaching time has been lost in dealing with this matter, then it must be made good after school hours, not as a punishment but simply to make up the time lost.
I will now present a problem of a more psychological nature: if you have some rather unhealthy “goody-goodies” in the class — children who try to curry favor in various ways, who have a habit of continually coming to the teacher about this, that, and the other, how would you treat them? Of course you can treat the matter extremely simply. You could say: I am simply not going to bother with them. But then this peculiarity will be turned into other channels: these “good” children will gradually become a harmful element in the class.