Rudolf Steiner in the Waldorf School
Address at the assembly at the beginning of the fifth school year
24 April 1923, Stuttgart
Dear children, dear boys and girls! [Dr. Steiner turns to the first graders and says:] Many teachers have spoken this morning. I am sure you know what a teacher is. A teacher is a good person. But we need to know why a teacher is a good person. You have already learned from your parents what a good person is. Good people have many qualities, but there is one quality they have in particular: Good people love children. Your parents are such good people because they have loved you so much. And because they love you, they are sending you to school here, where you will have teachers who love you.
What should you do if you know that a teacher is a person who loves children? What should you do then? The ones who have already been here can tell you that, so ask the boys and girls whether they love their teachers. [The children loudly shout, “Yes!”] You see, they love their teachers.
Your teacher will be your second benefactor. Just think, you will learn what that means. Just like your parents, who have been and still are your benefactors, your teacher will also be your benefactor. The older children have already noticed something of how the teachers love them. And the further you go into the upper grades, the more certain you will become that you can grow up to be a good and capable person only if you learn something real and if you learn how to behave in life.
Dear children, many of you will not know what it means to be really good, and some of you think being bad is better than being good. Even while they are still in school, the older students are noticing that they are getting closer and closer to “real life,” as we call it, to having to find their way in life. They have a special reason to think about how you can never actually be a real proper person in life if you did not really love your teachers for being your great benefactors.
I want you to inscribe that in your understanding and your feeling, and also in your conscience. Just think of how deepseated that will be later on in life if it is inscribed in your understanding, your heart, and your conscience. You will really be able to think about what school made of you if you can inscribe it on your souls in this way.
Now, you are all coming here after a time in which each of you had to remember that there are benefactors among human beings, and that ultimately Nature is also our benefactor. But the last few days reminded you of humanity’s greatest benefactor, of the One who underwent suffering and death nearly two thousand years ago out of love for humanity, who gave the spirit to humanity through His resurrection. It was a time when you could remember this great benefactor of the earth and of humanity, the Christ. We are now entering the spring of Christ, of humanity’s greatest benefactor.
But by looking up to Him, by feeling what the Christ is, we learn what other benefactors can be. And you see, the reason why your teachers will be such good teachers for you is that they have tried hard to get to know the Christ; they have tried hard to turn their feelings toward the Christ in the right way at Easter, in the spring. But that is what you should have in mind right from the very beginning — that your teachers are filled with the strength that comes from this greatest of all humanity’s benefactors. Dear teachers, I know that I do not need to say this in any demanding way, but only as a fact: How you raise and instruct these children will really make them feel throughout their lives that the strength that enters your hearts through the Mystery of Golgotha makes it possible for you to be their benefactors.
Last of all I would like to turn to you parents, and to put it to you in a few words that you bring your children to the Waldorf School because you see something special in the being of the Waldorf School. This special character of the Waldorf School is not something to talk about now; we will do that another time. But I would like to briefly characterize the star we have chosen to guide our work, so to speak, as what is meant to flow into education and child-rearing as a result of observing the human being. This is meant to deepen the feeling of responsibility of all of those who work here in the Waldorf School.
That is why, dear parents, it should be especially emphasized today, as if we were taking a vow, that we are aware that the holiest of things has been brought here to us. We have nothing to offer in return except our deep feeling of responsibility. On one side we have what the teachers see in the parents’ decision to entrust their children to this faculty; on the teachers’ side is their intention to work devotedly, full of the responsibility and strength that is needed to make the children grow up to become what they should become in school. When we see this decision on one side and on the other the feeling of responsibility of a clear-sighted heart, we feel what this means; we see that the children who have come here are God’s gift to the earth and that they must grow up to be proper human citizens of the earth.
It is the purpose of any school to turn the children of God into citizens of earth. This will be a conscious matter for us and we will do it in the best way it can be done, out of our feeling of responsibility. I especially want to have said this to the parents.
This is the spirit we are trying to work out of, the spirit that you, my dear teachers, are trying to work out of. I would like to ask you parents to look into our school in this spirit and find out whether we are really in a position to do what you expect of us. It will be the greatest possible satisfaction for us if those who look at what we are doing with understanding are satisfied that we are striving to turn children of God into citizens of earth.