Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
18 September 1923, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: Before I leave, we need to discuss the fate of the fifth grade, and I would also like to hear about your experiences.
The teachers who went to England will tell you about their experiences themselves. Haven’t you already reported your successes? It is a fact that the teachers’ activities made a great impression; seen from behind the scenes, each Waldorf teacher is a person who made a great impression. Everyone did that individually.
Baravalle made an enormously deep impression with his presentation of the metamorphosis of surfaces, which merges into the Pythagorean theorem. Miss Lämmert’s presentation on teaching music also made a very deep impression. Dr. Schwebsch then made an impression through his knowledge and ability, and Dr. Schubert was very convincing about the truth of the Waldorf School as a whole. We must, of course, say the same about Dr. von Heydebrand, an impression so large that most people said they would like to have their children taught by such a person. That was the impression she made. Miss Röhrle was more active behind the scenes, and I think she could tell you about her success herself.
Is the last issue of The Goetheanum here? I would like to recommend that you all read the book by Miss MacMillan, Education through the Imagination. In my copy, I wrote something I did not include in my essay: “It is as though someone were very capable of describing the dishes on the table without knowing how they were prepared in the kitchen.” What is so interestingly described in the book is the surface, an analysis of the surface of the soul, at least to the extent that it develops imaginative forces, but she does not describe the work that gives rise to them. It is excellent as a description of the child’s soul, only she does not understand the forces that give rise to it. I think that if you apply the foundation anthroposophy offers, it would illuminate everything. Every anthroposophist can gain a great deal from that book because a great deal of anthroposophy can be read into it. It is a sketch everyone can develop wonderfully for themselves — it is a reason for working thoroughly with anthroposophy.
Miss MacMillan would like to come with some assistants at Christmas. I would ask that you treat her kindly. For some, she is one of the most important pedagogical reformers. If you go into her school, you will see a great deal, even if the children are not present. She is a pedagogical genius. She wants to arrange things so that she will see some of your teaching. I already told her that if she looks at our school without seeing the teaching, she will get nothing from it.
We had planned the Zurich course, but when Wachsmuth and I came back from England and heard that it was being seriously undertaken, we both nearly fainted. We will need to change it to Easter. We will also present an Easter play for the first time. I have already arranged for that. It will be at Easter. Perhaps the teachers who were in England would like to say something.
A teacher asks whether such things as sewing cards are proper to use at the age of twelve for developing the strengths of geometry.
Dr. Steiner: That is correct. After twelve, they would be too much like a game. I would never use things at school that do not exist in real life. The children cannot develop a relationship to life from things that contain nothing of life. The Fröbel things were created for school. We should create nothing for school alone. We should bring only things that exist in real life into school, but in an appropriate form.
Some teachers report about their impressions of England.
Dr. Steiner: You need to take into account that the English do not understand logic alone, even if it is poetic. They need everything to be presented in concrete pictures. As soon as you get into logic, English people cannot understand it. Their mentality is such that they understand only what is concrete.
A teacher thought that the people organized through improvisation. He had the impression they were at the limits of their capabilities.
Dr. Steiner: All the anthroposophists and a number of other guests drove from Wales to London. All of the participants were from Penmaenmawr. There was an extra train from Penmaenmawr. We had two passenger cars and a luggage car. The train left late so it could go quickly. The conductor came along, and the luggage was still outside. Wachsmuth said it needed to be put aboard. The passengers saw to it that the train waited. That is something that is not possible in Germany. At some stations there was a lot of disorder. Here, people don’t know what happens, and there you have to go to the luggage car yourself. In Manchester, two railway companies meet, and the officials there had a small war. One group did not want to take us aboard, and the other wanted to get rid of us. They often lose the luggage but then find it again. These private companies have some advantages, but also disadvantages. No trains leave from such stations on Sunday because the same people who own the hotels also own the railways. People have to stay over until Monday because there are no trains on Sunday. I discussed the inner aspects of Penmaenmawr in a lecture.
A teacher: In England they spoke about the position of women in ancient Greece and how women were not treated as human beings. Schuré describes the Mysteries in which women apparently played a major role.
Dr. Steiner: Women as such certainly played a role, particularly those chosen for the Mysteries. They were, however, women who did not have their own families. Women who had their own family were never brought into public life. Children were raised at home, so everyone assumed women would not participate in public life. Until the child was seven, he or she knew almost nothing of public life, and fathers saw their children only rarely. They hardly knew them.
It was a different way of life that was not seen as less valuable. The women chosen for the Mysteries often played a very important role. Then there were those like Aspasia.
We need to divide the fifth grade. I would have liked to have a male teacher, if for no other reason than that people say we are filling the faculty only with women. However, since we don’t have an overwhelming majority of women and the situation is still relatively in balance, and, in fact, I was unable to find a man, we can do nothing else. As I was looking around for someone capable, I put together some statistics. I looked at how things are. It is the case that in middle schools women have a greater capacity. Men are more capable only in the subjects that are absolutely essential, whereas women can teach throughout. Men are less capable. That is one of the terrible things of our times. Thus, there was nothing to do other than to hire this young woman. I think she will make a good teacher. She did her dissertation on a remark in one of my lectures about how Homer begins with “Sing me, Muse, of the man,” and on something from Klopstock, “Sing, undying soul!” The 5c class will thus be taken over by Dr. Martha Häbler. I think she is quite industrious. I want you, that is, the two fifth grade teachers, to make some proposals about which children we should move from the current classes into the new class. We will take children from both classes. Dr. Häbler will be visiting, and I will introduce her when I come on the tenth. She will immediately become part of the faculty and will participate in the meetings.
That leads me to a second question. I am going to ask Miss Klara Michels to take over the 3b class. I have asked Mrs. Plinke to go to Miss Cross’s school in Kings Langley.
The gardening teacher asks whether they should create class gardens.
Dr. Steiner: I have nothing against that. Until now the garden work has been more improvised. Write something up. It can go into the curriculum.
The science teacher: From teaching botany, I have the feeling that we should grow plants in the garden that we will study in botany.
Dr. Steiner: That is possible. In that way there will be more of a plan in the garden.
A teacher asks about handwork.
Dr. Steiner: Mrs. Molt can turn over her last two periods in handwork to Miss Christern.
Since we have let a number of things go, I would ask you to present them now.
I would like you to take a serious look at S.T. He is precocious. He is very talented and also quite reasonable, but you always have to keep him focused. I gave him a strong reminder that he needs to take an interest in his school subjects. He has read Plato, Kant, and Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: A Philosophy of Freedom. He pretty much has his mind made up. If you think he needs some extra help, he should receive it. He would prefer that you analyze esoteric science for him. He has gone from school to school and was in a cloister school first. He will be a hard nut to crack.
A teacher asks about a second conference for young people and also about lectures for anthroposophical teachers outside the Waldorf School.
Dr. Steiner: We are planning another conference for young people, but you will need to decide how you want it. It is all the same to me, as I can adjust my lectures accordingly.
It would be good if we arranged to have lectures just for the teachers of the Waldorf School during the school year. That would be good. But it does not appear possible during the holidays. I don’t know about such a conference when so many deadly thoughts fly around between such beautiful ones. Those four days were terrible. Such conferences are not very useful for what we need here at school.
It seems to me, and I think we should discuss this, as though a somewhat different impulse is living here. That is what I think. I believe that an entirely new feeling of responsibility will arise out of the seriousness with which the pedagogy was taken up in England. That clearly indicates that we must develop very strong forces. I certainly think we need something. From the perspective of the entirety of Waldorf pedagogy, it would be desirable for us to speak about the effects of moral and religious impulses upon other subjects. We should speak about direct teaching experience, which we could do more easily at a youth conference. The youth conference will have open meetings. I think that is easier than if we have a conference where people sit from morning until evening. I will be here again from the tenth to the fourteenth of October, so we can plan to speak about this question in more detail then. Other than your participation, you will not have much to do with that conference. Since today’s youth want to be let loose, I think I will not have very much to do with such a conference either. It might be possible to have no school during those days, so that it would be easy to give a lecture.
I cannot easily be here at any other time; I have too many things to do. If we are to build, I must be in Dornach. During the fall holidays, we can speak about higher pedagogical questions, but only Waldorf teachers can attend. The public could attend the conference. We could arrange things so that everyone gets something from the conference, the parents as well as the teachers, but what they receive would be different. If I can present everything I have to say as something living, it will be that way.
(Speaking about a newly hired teacher, X.) I was satisfied with the periods I observed. He is really serious about the work and has found his way into the material well. The students understand him, but he needs some guidance. I have not allowed him here today because I wanted to say that. He needs to feel that you are all behind him. He needs to remain enthusiastic, which he is very much so now.
The music teacher asks about presenting rhythms in music that are different from those in eurythmy. He uses the normal rhythms and would like to know whether only the two-, three-, and four-part rhythms are important, or whether he should go on to five- and seven-part.
Dr. Steiner: Use five- and seven-part rhythms only with the older children, not under fifteen years old. I think if you did it with children under fifteen, it would confuse their feeling for music. I can hardly imagine that those who do not have the talent to become musicians would learn it alone. It is sufficient to go only up to four-part rhythm. You need to be careful that their musical feeling remains transparent as long as possible, so that they can experience the differences. It will not be that way once they have learned seven-part rhythm. There are certainly pedagogical advantages when the children actively participate in conducting — they participate dynamically, but everyone should do that. You can use the standard conductor’s movements.
The music teacher: Until now, I have only done that with all of them together. Should I allow individuals to conduct in the lower grades?
Dr. Steiner: I think that could begin around age nine or ten. Much of what is decisive during that period comes out of the particular relationship that develops when one child stands as an individual before the group. That is also something we could do in other subjects; for example, in arithmetic one child could lead the others in certain things. That is something we could easily do there, but in music it becomes an actual part of the art itself. A teacher asks about the order of the eurythmy figures.
Dr. Steiner: I had them set up so that the vowels were together, then the consonants, and then a few others. There are twenty-two or twenty-three figures.
You could, of course, put the related consonants together, in other words, not just alphabetically. It would be best to feel the letter you are working with and not be completely dependent upon some order. You should perceive it more qualitatively, not simply as a series of one next to the other.
If this were not such a terribly difficult time, I believe there would be a great deal living here. The difficulties are now more subtle. Before the children have learned a specific gesture, they cannot connect any concept with the figure, but the moment they learn the gesture, you should relate it to the figure. They must recognize the relationship in such a way that they will understand the movement, not just the character and feeling. The feeling is expressed through the veils, but the children are too young for veils. Character is something you can gradually teach them after they have formed an inner relationship to the movement. When they understand what the principle behind the figures is, that will have a favorable effect upon the teaching of eurythmy. Over time, they will develop an artistic feeling; when you can help develop that, you should do so.
How is the situation in the 9b class?
A teacher: T.L. has left.
Dr. Steiner: That is too bad.
A teacher: L.A. in the fourth grade is stealing and lying. She also has a poor memory.
Dr. Steiner: She is lying because she wants to hide that. It would be good if, and this always helps, you could dictate a little story to her so that she would have to learn it very well. The story should be about a child who steals and then gets into an absurd situation. Earlier, I gave such stories to parents. Make up a little story in which a child ends up in an absurd situation due to the course of events, so that this child will no longer want to steal. You can make up various stories; they could be bizarre or even grotesque. Of course, this helps only when the child carries it in a living way, when she has to review it in her soul time and again. The child should commit the story to memory just as she knows the Lord’s Prayer, so that the story lives within her and she can always bring it forth from her memory. If you can do that, that would really help. If one story is not enough, you should do a second. This is also something you can do in class. It would hurt nothing if others also hear it. The child should repeat it again and again. Others can be around, but they do not need to memorize it. You should not say why you are doing it, don’t speak with the children about it at all. The mother should know only that it will help her child. The child should not know that, and the class, absolutely not. The child should learn in a very naïve way what the story presents. For her sister, you could shorten the story and tell it to her again and again. With L.A., you could do it in class, but the others do not need to memorize it.
A teacher asks whether an eighteen-year-old girl who is deaf and dumb can come to the Waldorf School.
Dr. Steiner: There is nothing to say against it. However, it would be good if she remained at the commercial art school and took some additional classes here, for instance, art or eurythmy. She is completely deaf. An association can develop just as well with the movements of the limbs as with the movements of the organ of speech.
A teacher asks about the groups of animals and whether that should be brought into connection with the various stages of life.
Dr. Steiner: The children first need to understand the aspects of the human being. What follows is secondary. You can do that after you tell them about the major divisions of the head, rhythmic, and metabolic animals, but you cannot do it completely systematically.
A teacher asks about Th.H. in the fifth grade, who is not doing well in writing.
Dr. Steiner: It is quite clear that with this child certain astral sections of the eye are placed too far forward. The astral body is enlarged, and she has astral nodules before her eyes. You can see that, and her writing shows it also. She transposes letters consistently. That is why she writes, for example, Gsier instead of Gries. I will have to think about the reason. When she is copying, she writes one letter for another. Children at this age do not normally do that, but she does it consistently. She sees incorrectly.
I will need to think about what we can do with this girl. We will need to do something, as she also does not see other things correctly. She sees many things incorrectly. This is in interesting case. It is possible, although we do not want to do an experiment in this direction, that she also confuses a man with a woman or a little boy with an older woman. If this confusion is caused by an incorrect development in the astral plane, then she will confuse only things somehow related, not things that are totally unrelated. If this continues, and we do nothing to help it, it can lead to grotesque forms of insanity. All this is possible only with a particularly strong development of the astral body, resulting in temporary animal forms that again disappear. She is not a particularly wideawake child, and you will notice that if you ask her something, she will make the same face as someone you awaken from sleep. She starts a little, just as someone you awaken does. She would never have been in a class elsewhere, that is something possible only here with us. She would have never made it beyond the first grade. She is a very interesting child.
A teacher: Someone wants to make a brochure with pictures of the Waldorf School.
Dr. Steiner: I haven’t the slightest interest in that. If we did that, we would have The Coming Day print it. If we wanted such a brochure, we would publish it ourselves. Aside from that, we cannot go so far as to create competition for our own companies. It would be an impossible situation to undermine our own publisher by having publications printed somewhere else. Under certain circumstances, it could cause quite a commotion. Considering the relationship between the Waldorf School and The Coming Day, it would not be very upright. If we were to make such a brochure, I see no reason why we should not have it published by The Coming Day. We would earn more that way. For now, though, it would not be right.
Did one of the classes go swimming? I am asking because that terrible M.K. who complains about everything also wrote me a letter complaining about the school. I didn’t read it all. He is one of those sneaky opponents we cannot keep out, who are always finding things out. He is the one I was speaking of when I said it is not possible to work bureaucratically in our circles as is normally done, by having a list and sending things to the people on it. The Anthroposophical Society needs to be more personal, and we do not need to send people like M.K. everything. We need to be more human in the Anthroposophical Society. I mean that in regard to how we proceed, whether we are bureaucratic about deciding whether to send something to someone or not. He just uses the information to create a stir and to complain. He complains with an ill intent, even though he is a member.