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Rudolf Steiner: Practical Course for Teachers

Here are extracts from a lecture by Steiner, given in Stuttgart 21st August, 1919. Some may seem amusing and some confusing. But when seen in their full context (setting) much may clear up.

Dr Steiner considers aspects of the art of teaching. That is a cornerstone in Waldorf education. Another is to nourish the growing children according to the developmental stages they are in, and do in with a sense of humankind's history too,

We are concerned with a certain harmonizing of the spirit and soul with the physical-body, of rightly developing the soul and body forces of the individual.

We are teaching the soul and the spirit when we teach the child music, drawing, or anything of that kind.

We can combine these three impulses, the super-physical in the artistic activity, the semi-super-physical in arithmetic, and the entirely physical in reading and writing, and thus bring about the harmonizing of the individual.

We must be quite clear that we always want to let three things work in unison: will, feeling, and thinking.

To secure the strengthening of the will by artistic means, teaching in painting, artistic instruction, and musical training should be employed.

From the first we shall attach great importance to cultivating the artistic element in the child.

Letter-forms have arisen from pictorial shapes, so we must begin, in teaching to write, with the artistic drawing of the shapes - of the sound and letter-shapes - if we want to go so far . . .

It is not enough merely to form these shapes before the child with our mouth, for that makes people what they have become today.

In teaching artistically, we must transport the child, in a sense, into earlier cultural epochs - yet with quite a different disposition of soul and spirit.

We proceed by letting every child cultivate something to do with drawing and painting. We begin, too, with the musical element, so that the child is accustomed from the first to handle an instrument, so that the artistic feeling is awakened in him. The whole of our teaching must be drawn from the artistic element. All method must be immersed in the artistic element. Education and teaching must become a real art. What we are aiming at in reading and writing can naturally not be built up exclusively in the way just described, but . . .

The way of human nature is seeing the sum first, and then dividing it up into the separate addenda: we must teach the child to add in the opposite way to what is usually taught; we must start with the sum and then go to the addenda.

Between seven and fourteen years of age the feeling for authority should be cultivated, and what is necessary can flow from the very method of instruction itself. Its influence is present like an undertone. That is the secret. "Any artificial training of the feeling for authority must be excluded by the method or technique itself."

In the first stage of the second period of his life, the child is most susceptible to authoritative teaching in the form of art and in this period [we] can achieve the most for him with art.

[Art often] resembles nature. Nature is not copied. We shall have to bear this in mind how a mere correct imitation is of secondary importance. Resemblance to the external world should only appear as something secondary.

In a human should live an impulse of becoming one with growing forces of the form itself. One must have, even when drawing a nose, some inner relation with the nose-form itself,

The inner meaning for forms one would never be able to awaken between the age of seven and fourteen by merely copying the forms outside. One must realize the inner creative element which can be developed between seven and fourteen. Yet there are exceptions, when an individual can still recover some omitted experience.

This ability to secure an artistic footing in the world's rush must be our gift as educators to the child.

"We draw with the hands, and we model with the hands - and yet the two things are completely different."

"The physical body and the etheric body are always particularly cultivated from the head downwards. The head radiates what really creates the physical man."

If [the individual] hears plenty of stories to rejoice over and even feel sad about, the astral body will develop from the lower individual.

The educator and teacher . . . must see that the whole being is moved. Think, then, from this point of view, of telling legends and fairy-tales, and if you have a real feeling for this, so that you convey your own mood when you tell the child stories, you will tell them so that the child re-lives with all his body what he has been told. In this way you really appeal to the child's astral body. The astral body radiates an experience into the head, to be felt there by the child. We must have the feeling that we are moving the whole child, and that only from the feelings, from the emotions we excite, must the understanding for the story come. Make it, therefore, your ideal, in telling the child fairy-tales or legends, or in drawing or painting with him, not to "explain," or to act through concepts, but to let the whole being be stimulated, so that only afterwards when the child has gone away from you, understanding dawns on him.

"Try to educate the ego and the astral body from below upwards, so that the head and the heart only come later." Tell stories so that you evoke in the child - within limits - certain silent tremors of awe, so that you excite pleasures or sorrows which move his whole being so that these still linger and resound when the child has gone away, and only then understanding dawns on him and interest in their meaning awakes. Try . . . to let the interest grow from the child's own nature. It is quite easy to achieve with a single child. One only needs to move the whole being, not only the heart and the head.

If we become one with what we impart to the child, our action takes hold of the whole child. The child needs to understand from soul to soul.

The development of the individual is mysterious.

Rudolf Steiner photo modified
Rudolf Steiner


Rudolf Steiner Education, Waldorf Education, Literature  

Steiner, Rudolf. 1937. Practical Course for Teachers. 1st ed. Tr. authorised by Harry Collison. New York: Anthroposophic Press.

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