Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
23 June 1920, Stuttgart
A teacher asks if the school should set up a public first-aid station since bandages and so forth would then be cheaper.
Dr. Steiner: I think we will have to buy those things by the case ourselves. Without doubt, it would be desirable if we had a room where we could take the children. On the other hand, it would not be so desirable if people from outside mixed in with that. There is no real value in that. It is good to have Dr. Kolisko here. The faculty should take care of that. Obviously, this can’t happen a couple of times every day, but with three hundred children, minor things will happen where we need a bandaging room we can sterilize and disinfect. Perhaps something will happen once a week, and it will be sufficient if we have a room. I think it is important that we have a doctor on the faculty, but the more we can close ourselves off from the outer world, the better it is. We should try to obtain bandaging material cheaply.
I had thought that there would be a number of questions. As I already said, we have generally made great progress. In the first year it was apparent that you struggled with the subject matter, but you made progress in all areas. What is important though, is what kind of progress you made and that in the coming years we work more with those ideas that are consistent with and related to the Waldorf School. I believe that progress lies in what the students have learned, as well as what the teachers have slowly discovered about how to treat the students. Everything has progressed, even the pranksters. The pranksters have become strong pranksters, but that doesn’t hurt anything. That is simply a side effect. Many have even become better behaved, more cultivated, more intellectual. That is very good and hurts nothing.
In my opinion, we must put more value upon psychology in the future. We must work with psychology. You should not understand that as abstractly or theoretically as it may appear. That might look as though we wanted to analyze the children. When we become accustomed to understanding the children psychologically, we will slowly find a relationship to them that results purely from our activity. That understanding of the children will not remain as a mere recognition, but will become another relationship if you really try to understand them. There is still much we need to catch up on in creating a proper relationship to the children. We need to be clear that when so much depends upon personal activities, as it does here, an intensive analytical understanding of the children is necessary. Then things that have occurred in the past will no longer happen.
It is difficulty to characterize individual cases, but that is not necessary. We should act psychologically. If you think about that, you will discover what I mean. I don’t so much mean that the children must achieve this or that, but that you ask yourselves what the children can achieve in accordance with their psychological makeup. Always work from the standpoint of the children. You can change individual behavior only if you really try to understand children in their different variations. Each child is interesting.
Miss Lang showed me a prankster, B.N. She had cried terribly, but today she skipped school again. That is interesting, and we will have to study it. I cannot promise she will keep her word. It may last for years. I can imagine that she spent some time with tightrope walkers; that is certainly a reason for being interested in her, isn’t it? If you create expectations about what a child is, you can easily define things. However, you can achieve a genuine psychological understanding of a child only through intense study. One of my thoughts is that we should consider learning to understand the children as one of the main things in the first year. We should never assume they must be one way or another.
There is something else that strongly disturbs me in nearly all classes. We should continually strive to integrate anthroposophy organically in the instruction. That truly enlivens the children’s strengths. Just the way that you, Dr. von Heydebrand, have done in anthropology and you, Dr. Stein, have done in history. That is something that is present intuitively with many of you. You cannot do eurythmy without Anthroposophy. You need to try to bring Anthroposophy into your teaching without teaching anything theoretical.
In my opinion, you include a great deal of Anthroposophy when you attempt, and that is the ideal, to bring what we call rhythm into your work. For instance, when you try to connect what the students learn in music, singing, and eurythmy with handwork. That has an extremely positive effect on the children. I would recommend that you read Karl Bücher’s book Work and Rhythm. We should have this book. All work is based upon musical work, threshing, blacksmithing, plastering. Today, you hardly hear that anymore. But if you had gone out into the country at an earlier time and listened to the threshing, you would have heard the flails swinging in rhythm. I think we can bring that into our work. That is what I mean when I talk about bringing the spirit into it. You will find that principle in Work and Rhythm, even though he states it rather pedantically.
Of course, I am also carrying the question about the end of school, about the closing ceremony. I definitely think it should include a certain amount of festivities. Today is the twenty-third, and I will not be able to attend. I simply cannot be there, though I surely would like to be. We need to begin the summer holidays on time. In my opinion, the teachers have done enough, and they will collapse otherwise. I would really like to be at the closing ceremony. Each teacher should give a short speech. Perhaps Mr. Baumann would be kind enough to take care of the musical part. Perhaps you could write something that could be presented through eurythmy, not a normal eurythmy presentation, but something that represents the close of school. It would be really wonderful if we could do that. Begin with a eurythmy presentation accompanied by music. Then go on into a musical presentation alone and close with eurythmy again. I would suggest your composition be connected with the closing of school. Perhaps Miss Röhrle could do something with two or three of the older girls. Then we must have something, and this is very important to me, that is a kind of speech about life, to let the children go and to receive them again. Something that has a connection with the children’s leaving school and their return.
Someone had written on a blackboard, “The sky is blue, the weather is nice, we want to go for a walk, dear teacher.” Dr. Steiner was rather angry about that.
Dr. Steiner: You haven’t seen that? Sometimes when the weather is too hot, you can let the children go. I don’t think it would be right to close earlier, though. I am not in favor of letting the children go as long as we can keep them here. We let them go earlier than we really should. We can, of course, make it easier for the children, but only when it is too warm. It would almost be better if we kept them and took them some place, but stayed with them. Don’t you think it is better when the children go to kindergarten. The longer we have them, the better it is. In that way, we can have the children who do not yet go to school. Right now we can generally take the children only when they begin elementary school. When the age of imitation ends, then we can begin. It would be nice if we could bring something into the child’s education during the first seven years. We will have to have something for the earlier years, later is less important.
Some people want some temporary school buildings, but I think we should discuss that in detail after school has closed. It is settled in general, but, nevertheless, we need to discuss it. There are some things we need to decide that cannot wait until after school has begun. We must expand the singing class, and we need a teacher for it. There are many other things we need to discuss if we have an additional grade. We must also carefully consider who will take over the first grade. We cannot assume that Stockmeyer’s and Stein’s work will cease. These are all things we need to discuss at an early enough time. For those reasons, I will have to be here when school ends unless something significant hinders that. I will probably need to be away only for four to six days. Today is too early.
How should we handle those children who arrive too late? I had to wait today as I came into the school. Three girls were coming in. They simply went in, not the least disturbed that they were late. The person I was walking with said to me, “It seems quite all right with them that they are late.” So, what do we do with the children who come late?
A teacher: Have them come a quarter of an hour earlier.
Dr. Steiner: Then we run the danger that they don’t come at all. We must avoid under all circumstances giving them a punishment we cannot carry out. We may never place ourselves in a situation where we may have to relent in a disciplinary decision. If we say that a child must come earlier, then we must enforce that. We must order the child to come earlier. The girls today were in the seventh or eighth grade. We lose all control the minute we look away. We will find ourselves on a downward path and will continue to slide. With punishment, we cannot relent. It is better to let it go. Under certain circumstances, it can lead to the opposite of what we want, with the children forming a group among themselves and saying, “Today I come late, tomorrow, you.” I don’t think that would work, because it would make us somewhat laughable. Of course, it’s just laziness. Having the children come earlier is not so good; it would be better if they stayed a quarter of an hour longer. That is something the children do not like.
Have you tried that to see if it works? If a child comes ten minutes late, having him or her stand for a half hour. If they have to stand three times as long, they will certainly think about every minute. Let them stand there uncomfortably. Your boy rubs the back of his head on the wall and amuses himself with all kinds of things. I think that in such cases, when there is some punishment connected with the misbehavior, you can be particularly effective if you allow them to stand in some uncomfortable place. The older children will then be careful that they do not come too late. We could also buy a number of little sheds, and then they will not come too late as a group. They may even get some cramps in their legs. We could have the sheds built in the shop class.
A teacher: What should we do if a teacher comes too late?
Dr. Steiner: Then we will have the children put the teacher in the pen. It is important, though, that we differentiate in such things. I would not punish the children as severely in winter as in summer. The moment the children notice there is some reason for the disciplinary action, they will agree to it. In the winter, we could discipline them less intensively and have them stand only twice as long. We need to stir them up. There are some who are inattentive. The industrious children will hardly come too late.
A teacher asks about the windows.
Dr. Steiner: Sometimes, when you go by, you want to climb in yourself. We will need to put some mesh up, so that they can’t climb in.
Concerning F.R. in the fourth grade.
Dr. Steiner: That is a very difficult case. If he leaves school, that will be a real problem, something not particularly desirable. On the other hand, he should not suffer. We should not serve our school on a silver platter to the school he next attends. There will certainly be teachers there who will happily hear that someone comes to them saying he could not stand it here. Tomorrow, I will take a look to see what we can do. This is a very difficult situation.
Here, we have the question of whether to try a parallel class. Right now, there is hardly anything else we can do other than place him in the previous or the following grade. I definitely do not want him in the previous class, so he would then go in your class in the next higher grade. I don’t think there is any other solution, but that will cause considerable upset with the children. We will need to do it in such a way that it appears to be an exception. We will have to think about how we will handle this. It would be a bad story if people knew we did this for personal reasons. Of course, we also run the danger that the children will say, “Well, he got out, we could also try.” What should we do with such a boy though, if we do not want to send him away? Perhaps I will visit the class tomorrow. He is actually not the problem. That is something he inherited, and it has a continuous effect upon him. It is something in the family. It would be best if we could help him past that hurdle. Perhaps he might even become a really good person. He is certainly enthusiastic about eurythmy and singing, he simply does not want the normal class instruction. He finds it horrible. Then there are other things that people take too seriously. He took five marks, but only in fun. You can reach him, he just needs a certain kind of objective treatment because everything at home is so subjective. We have all tried that. His father is a person like the teacher who says when a child is excited, “I will teach you what being relaxed is, I’ll show you what relaxed is.” That is how his father is.
We cannot allow him to remain in the fourth grade. We would run the danger that he would jump overboard, and that would certainly not be pleasant. I still recall a very horrible situation. At that time, I was at an engineering school.7 The janitor’s son was very ambitious. A teacher who was very hot tempered grabbed him by the scruff and walloped him. The boy left the class. He knew from his father where the cyanide was; he took it and poisoned himself. After that, the teacher became red when someone left the class during the period. (Speaking to Dr. von Heydebrand) I only mention all this because he will be coming to you in the fifth grade. He does not belong in the fourth grade. We made an error there.
Act psychologically! We must study the children’s feelings.
A teacher asks about lace making and embroidery.Dr. Steiner: That work takes a great deal of time. These things are always done under the most horrible situations so that nearly all the people who do them become ill. Brussels lace is a terrible thing. I would not bring that in. The things you are now doing in handwork are very beautiful. We need to be very careful about handwork. Today, I saw a girl sewing without a thimble.
A teacher: Should we have school on Peter and Paul’s Day?
Dr. Steiner: We can take the day off. “Peter and Paul is always quite lazy.”
The following was also noted.
Bad teeth, the cause lies in the soul/spirit.
Connection between eurythmy and the formation of teeth.
Handwork. Knitting develops good teeth. The children gain dexterity through knitting.