Rudolf Steiner in the Waldorf School
Address at the assembly at the beginning of the sixth school year
30 April 1924, Stuttgart
Dear children, dear boys and girls! To begin with, you will have to listen quietly for a little, because the first people I want to address are the parents who have joined us for this great celebration, both the ones who have brought very little children here to us and the ones who have accompanied their older children.
Dear parents of our students! We can certainly value and appreciate this moment in your emotional lives. Anyone who has already covered a good bit of distance in life, as is the case with parents, knows that life tests us with sorrows and joys, that it presents us with tests that bring joys as well as suffering. Your children are the most precious thing that life has given you. We who are running the Waldorf School know very well what it means to decide where to send your child to school. You do that under the influence of everything you have been through in your own life; you want your child to be able to go through life in the best way you know of.
It cannot be my task today to talk about how we try to introduce the children into life through an appropriate and humanly worthy form of instruction that takes all of life as its background. You can rest assured, however, that one result of our theory of education, our art of education, is that we know what it means that you as parents are sending your children to a particular school in order to set a lasting course for their lives, and we respect it. We have a sense of all-encompassing responsibility in taking the children out of the hands that have brought them here today, and we assure you that we really know what this means.
May we also find ways to come together in this feeling of responsibility, and may the occasion of today be repeated often. In the Waldorf School, in a school that is not yet acknowledged in broader circles, we need what we can gain from energetically working together with the parents, so I ask you to come to the school often for discussions and other purposes. What we and you want for the children will be best achieved if we can work effectively with the parents at home. We in the school will attempt to carry this out to the greatest extent possible.
Now I would like to turn to the children who are in school for the first time today. You need not understand much at all yet. What is happening today is something you already know something about, something you have already had to start learning. You have loved your parents; that is something you know how to do. Now you must also learn to love your teachers. If you love your teachers, you will be able to learn everything there is to learn, with a little help from them. This will happen very gently. You will have to learn to sit still for a while from time to time, but when the lesson is over you may run around outside again, but not too fast, so that you don' fall and hurt your head. You must also always be very friendly to each other. The main thing is to learn to sit still, to love your teachers, and to make sure that you and the others stay healthy.
Right at the beginning, as you were sitting here, from the lowest right up to the highest grades, you heard something very important from the dear lady who is the first grade teacher. You heard that these little folks have become something very different from what they were before. They have become schoolchildren. That is what she told you. You can become a schoolchild. But now, in order to connect the lowest and the highest grades, I would like to tell you that you can never leave school again.
You will leave the Waldorf School, to be sure. Some of you will leave after the eighth grade and some will leave after a few more grades. Just now we have had to send the first ones to complete the highest grade out into life. But when all that is over with, that is when you really start going to school, because the most important and meaningful school of all is the school of life, and you enter the school of life only when you have left school. It is our job to be the preparatory school for the school of life.
That is what your dear teachers are here for, and last of all I turn to them. When I look at the school like this, I have to say that the most important schoolchildren are the men and women who are the teachers! It is very important that they have come to this school, because they are learning all the time. And do you know from whom they want to learn the most? From you! They want to learn the best way for you to be able to bear sorrow and joy; they want to learn how it happens that you are healthy or sick. They have so much to learn from you so that out of the fullness of their love for you, they can teach you to be people who can stand on their own feet in life.
For this to happen, there is one thing that is more necessary than anything else. I always say this, but I would like to say it again because it cannot be said often enough. In the Waldorf School, the teachers take great inner pleasure in what they do. They know that they are working on life out there by working on what is most important in it — on the beginnings of life. When I see these happy faces on the first day of school, and among them the boys and girls who have been here longer and who have always answered me when I asked if you love your teachers — when I see you all like this, there is something I would also like to say to you today. During the vacation you were away from your teachers. Now that you are back in school things will go well only if you can again answer a certain question for me. Sometimes people forget things, but there is one thing you are not allowed to forget. You have planted love for your teachers in your souls. You have told me so again and again. Now that you have been out there for a while, I am going to ask you whether you have forgotten your love for your teachers during the vacation. If you have not forgotten, answer me with a good loud “No!” [The children shout, “No!] That is what will take you into the school year in the right way. Then you will pay attention and work hard, and everything will go well.
Dear students of the highest grade of all — that is, dear teachers! In this new school year, let us begin teaching with courage and enthusiasm to prepare these children for the school of life. Thus may the school be guided by the greatest leader of all, by the Christ Himself. May this be the case in our school. Let us go forward out of enthusiasm for what we have to do and out of love for the children; they are such a great joy to their teachers, and their teachers can help them learn so much. Let us continue our work with love and enthusiasm in the hearts of the children, with love and enthusiasm in the hearts of the teachers.
Onward, dear children and dear teachers, onward!