Rudolf Steiner in the Waldorf School
Address at the assembly at the end of the second school year
11 June 1921, Stuttgart
My dear children! 1When he was in Stuttgart, Rudolf Steiner always spoke at these final assemblies, as he did at the opening assemblies. In the early years all the teachers also addressed the children. I must speak to you first of all. You have now put a year of school behind you. When you entered the classes you are in now, you were one year younger, and now you have grown one year older. This can remind you of how you are always growing older, and this in turn will bring you to the thought that someday you will have grown from being children to being adults, big people who will have to be good and capable so that they can work and really carry out what the world and other people ask of them.
Now recall how you were once very small. Remember how you all used to be very little babies who could not speak. You learned to speak and you learned many other things, and when you had already learned a lot, you came here to us to go to school. Your parents sent you here to go to school with us. Think about your parents and about how they thought about you. When you were babies, when you were very small children, your parents were concerned: “What will become of my boy? What will become of my girl? Will they grow up to be good and capable people someday, so that when I am old I will be able to have confidence in my children?” That is what your fathers and mothers said. And you know, dear children, that your parents brought you here, you who are nearest and dearest to them, so that you would grow up to be people like that. Your parents were concerned that you grow up to be good, capable people, and they brought you here to this Waldorf School because they believe that the teachers here can teach you to grow up to be good and capable people.
Remember that you must learn! Your parents brought you here and entrusted you to your dear teachers, and you must bring home a present to your parents at the end of each day and especially at the end of the year — a present that they will like a lot and that will make them say (if it is a good present), “My boy, or my girl, has learned something real.” You must realize that it is something really nice for them when you can go home at the end of the school year and say, “Father and Mother, I really tried hard to learn something good.” If you can do this, dear children, you give your parents great pleasure and take away one of their greatest worries. This is something we especially want to think about today. Let us think about being here in this school to fulfill what our parents intended when they brought us here.
After that, let us think about growing older each year, and about being grown-up people someday. Life is coming, with its pain, its destiny, and its joy, and with its work, too. Life, my dear children, will ask a lot of you. It will have very specific requirements for you. Now, dear children, there is one thing that always will give you strength, always be a sun for you, and that is being able to remember being here in school and gradually coming to love your teachers more and more. You do love your teachers very much, dont you? [“Yes!” answer the children.] Later, if you can think back to how you once learned something, to a nice day when your teacher spoke to you with love and it was a real joy for you to be in school, then you will really have a sun that shines into our life. Someday when you are really old and have gray hair, you can think back and remember learning something nice. And if you remember being in school in the right way, you will see that this gives you strength, and that something of it will last until the day you die.
There is something that makes remembering unpleasant, something that clouds our memory, and that is if we have to think, “Oh, I was such a lazy character!” It is not good later on in life if we have to think of how lazy we were. It has a very bad effect on our life if we have to remember that we did not love our teachers and that we had no love for the subject or for what was on the blackboard or for what was being said or read out loud. It is always lovely later on if we can remember working hard and loving the teacher, but it is painful when we have to say to ourselves, “I was a lazy kid. If I hadnt been so lazy, I would be a skillful person now.” Maybe it was fun to be lazy, but later on you will regret it bitterly. Similarly, if you did not pay attention, you will understand nothing of life, and then your whole life will be like a sun with a big cloud in front of it that covers the whole world with hailstones. That is what it will be like if you have to remember not loving your teachers or not loving what you were taught. Keep this in mind, and your thoughts will be good when you think about working hard and paying attention and loving.
That is why you are here. You are here to grow up to be good, strong, capable people in life, and that can happen only if you can remember your childhood as a time when you tried hard to pay attention and to love your subjects and your teachers. That is what you should feel in every lesson. When you come to school in the morning and say your morning verse, you should remember that you are here to become a good and capable person. When you go home from school, you should be thinking about how every minute in which you are not hard-working, attentive and loving is a minute wasted because you are making your parents worry. You bring the best thing home to your parents if they say when they see you coming, “I can tell by looking at my children that they are bringing something good home from school today.” Think about coming home to your parents after school. They should be able to say to themselves, “My children will grow up to be good, capable people.” I want to tell you this, dear children, because we grow a little older each school year, and we remember how we are growing older.
Now that I have talked to the children, I would like to speak over their heads and say a few words to their parents. What unites this school’s faculty is the recognition that a divine spiritual element pervades all human activity, and that people can devote themselves to this divine spiritual element. They must do so especially when they have tasks such as those that teachers have. Our teachers always must be aware that their task consists in calling the spirit of the world down into the school, and they must live in this awareness. This awareness, ladies and gentlemen, is best established among our faculty through the relationship we need to have to the parents of the school children. This relationship should be such that we really think together with the parents, that our feelings are in harmony with theirs, and that what we try to do in the school is the same as what the parents are trying to do with their dear children in realizing their ideals. Our teachers’ philosophy hammers this into their hearts and souls every morning. By looking at the souls of the children, our teachers learn the value of the human soul and know the value of what you have given them by bringing your children here. You have given them the gift of being able to guide the spirit into human souls. It is with this deep feeling of gratitude and of good intentions that our teachers receive what is nearest and dearest to you, the children you bring to this schoolhouse. This is the source of our teachers’ efforts to give something back to you, in love and gratitude and to the best of their abilities, in the souls you then see when your children come home from school or when they leave school to make their way in life. Our teachers receive a gift from you in the form of faith in human development; they would like to give a gift in return by educating your children to be good human beings. To be able to do this, they need to be in full agreement with you. You can be certain, ladies and gentlemen, that when you as parents strive toward this agreement and express it in the right way, harmoniously and with fellowfeeling, as you did just now, our teachers then feel that they have solid ground under their feet, regardless of whatever opposition and enmity they may encounter from other directions. May our teachers seek the impulse for their activity in this harmony with our parents.
There is still a third thing I would like to say to you, my dear teachers. You are united with the spirit of a spiritual worldview. With the best forces you have rooted in you, you try to understand the souls of growing human beings and to work on these souls, not in the sense of a school promoting a single philosophy, but in the sense of permeating an entire system of education with a thoroughly spiritualized attitude. This is the best way to learn two things, my dear friends.
The first is what wells up in freedom from creative strength, from within the human being. We gradually come to recognize that we must constantly learn what is good for the children from the children themselves. We learn to recognize that only what we create in freedom, the best in us that arises from our interactions with the children, can work into the children’s souls. Our creative strength educates us, in the best sense of the word, to be able to do this, and we regard this as the best thing we can do in all of our work.
The other point is that because of our world-view we have developed a deeper connection to the idea of destiny. We work in an artistic manner on the souls of the children, but what we are working on is not like an outer work of art made of marble or wood; it is something that unites with us through destiny. When we stand in front of our children each day, trying to embody, ensoul, and enspirit them with the right insight that is present in the background, we unite with these souls for eternity as a matter of destiny. In the realm of eternity we will be met by what we have shaped during these different transformations, and by how we have done so. In a world-view such as the one we have, the teacher’s true responsibility flows out of a feeling for freedom and destiny. It is out of the spirit of this responsibility that you, my friends, spoke earlier, both to the children and over their heads to their parents. I merely wanted to sum up your words.
Once again, let us say to you, children, “Come back to school next year with the same joy in paying attention; learn to love your teachers even more than you have until now; think of how your teachers’ minds are focused day and night on having you grow up to be good, capable people. Your teachers show their love for you in their efforts to educate your souls, your spirits, and your bodies so that you will grow up to be good, capable people.” Let us impress this deeply upon ourselves as we conclude this school year, and let us begin the next school year with the appropriate strength. Resolve to work hard and pay attention, to love your subjects and your teachers. Then things will go even better than they went this year.