Rudolf Steiner in the Waldorf School
Address at the assembly at the beginning of the fourth school year
20 June 1922, Stuttgart
Dear children, dear boys and girls of the Waldorf School!
I am going to speak to the very little ones first. Dear children, you have not been to school at all yet, and for you things will be different now than they were before. If you look back a bit, you know that you used to get up in the morning and rub your eyes, and then you got washed and dressed and had something for breakfast. Then many of you saw how your father had to leave very early for work, and how your mother worked busily all day long. Perhaps you spent the morning playing; you could do what you wanted until lunch time. You went out in the street or in the yard or somewhere else; you could do whatever you liked. Then you had your lunch. You had already gotten hungry and tired. Your father and mother gave you your lunch, and then they had to go back to work. After that you could play again or do something else. You did not need to work yet. That is the way things went until suppertime. You had your supper, and then you went to sleep again. The next day was the same.
Now you have grown bigger, and your parents knew that it was time for you to go to school. Some of you were glad and looked forward to it. All of you will be glad to be in school, but things will be different for you. Now you cannot always run around or sit down wherever you like. Or if you are sitting with your friends, you cannot pull their ears or their hair. Now you have to come into the classroom where the desks are. It is crowded, and you have to learn something. Write that on your hearts, write it really well: You have to learn something. You have to sit at those crowded desks, and you cannot pull your friends” hair. You have to pay attention to what the teacher is saying. You have to begin to be well-behaved, to be good. But I hope you will like being good. Why do I hope that? Your parents had to work, and they had worries. You had no worries yet. Your parents had to work to make sure that you could live. If your parents hadn't worked, you would have had nothing to eat. You would have had to go hungry.
Each of you has more than just a head, you also have a heart — in here. There is something living in your heart that you don't know about yet. There is a soul living in your heart. It is something very different from your head. There is a soul living in each one of you. If your parents had not talked to this soul, but only to your ears, you would not have learned to speak. But you can speak, and speaking is something you do out of your soul. Your parents made sure that you became a human being. You will need to learn a lot more than you have already learned, and that will make you a real human being. Now you are just a bit human. You will become real human beings only by learning something — you can become a human being only if you learn how to work.
Your good teachers will teach you all this, and you should like your teachers. You can learn only if you love them. When you go into your classroom every day, think about the best way to love your teachers. If something hurts you or you are unhappy about something, then go to your teachers; think about how you love them, about how they will help you. Learn to love your teachers just as you learned to love your parents. Think about how your parents sent you to the Waldorf School. They wanted to do the very best thing for you. So do the best you can, too, by really paying attention to what your teachers are doing. That will show your parents that you love them, and they sent you to this school.
So, dear children, if you really come into your classroom in the morning with this feeling, and imagine that you need to grow up to be proper human beings, then everything will be fine, and you really will grow up to be proper human beings.
Now I would like to talk to the children who have already been in school, who have already learned how you begin to find more and more in your soul, in your inner person, and how you learn to really love your teachers more and more. This is what we have to promise ourselves again and again — to really love our teachers. Then we will be able to accomplish our very best.
Your teachers are always thinking about what they can do to teach you to grow up to be proper human beings. More and more, you must learn how to be children who work hard and pay attention, to be children who love their school. Your school is trying to teach you things that will make you good, capable human beings and good, capable workers for all the work humanity needs to have done. Here in this school, we are thinking more and more about what we need to bring to you, the students, so that you will be able to go through life in the best way. You have learned things that were all intended to teach you to be good, proper, capable human beings. If you work so hard and pay attention so well and love your teachers, your life will be different than if you are lazy and never learn to love your teachers. By taking in all that you can take in in school, you will become able to work for your fellow human beings, to be something of value to them.
The worst thing in life is for a person to lead a life that has no value for his or her fellow human beings. Then people don't want to have anything to do with you because there is no work you can do for them. What school gives us is finding a place in life that makes us able to do something for our fellow human beings, able to work for them, able to give them something of value so that they can love us for doing something for them.
People doing things for other people — that, my dear children, is what life is all about. We are constantly trying to get to the bottom of this here in the Waldorf School — how to guide children into life in the best way so that they will be able to do something for their fellow human beings, so that there can be joy in their lives and not just sorrow.
Those of you who are still in the middle grades can rely fully on your teachers. You can look up to your teachers. They are already fully involved in life. They have become people you can love, people from whom you can learn a lot. The best way to make progress is to tell yourself that you want to become like your teacher.
If I may still say a few words to those in the highest grades, I would like to say that you are now beginning to hear something that comes from a different direction. You do not yet know exactly what it is that you are hearing, but we will call it “the seriousness of life.” When you get to be fourteen or fifteen, something of what we can call the seriousness of life is already coming toward you. It already resounds in your soul from time to time. In school you are presented with what you are supposed to learn, but when you have left school, there you stand in life. That is when your real life is supposed to begin.
What you should inscribe on your souls, especially this year, is to commit yourself to school, now more than ever. This school knows how to deal with the seriousness of life; it knows what to bring to children so that they can find their way into life’s seriousness as they grow up. When we experience suffering, we must have the strength to bear it. We are meant to acquire this strength from what we gain in school. We must have the strength to bear life’s suffering. But life also brings joys, and they are sometimes more dangerous because they make us thoughtless and dull our feelings. Here, too, school helps you learn to keep to the middle, to make your way between the joy and suffering in life.
Life today has become very complicated. Young people cannot always judge what they need in life or what will be useful to them. Your teachers are busy day and night trying to find out what life will be like ten or twenty years from now. You will need to love people in order to take your place in life in the right way. You know, my dear children, that I will never tell you at the beginning of the school year that you can learn here by playing. That is not true; it cannot be. There must be real seriousness here, so that you learn to take life seriously when it is hard to take. This seriousness will allow you enough time for human feelings. Here with us, this is supposed to go all the way up into the highest grades. You are meant to feel your way into what is really there in a human being. You must learn to understand that people have to learn by working, because if they do not, they cannot be real human beings.
It is now my pleasure to warmly welcome the teachers who have been here with you, who have already given you their love, as well as those who are working here for the first time this year. If every student knew what effort it takes on the part of the faculty, then love for your teachers would be a matter of course; it would be in the very air you breath here in the Waldorf School.
We are also trying to bring human beings into the right connection to the spiritual worlds. Our teachers have sought this connection to the spiritual world for themselves, and thus they will be able to be prophets and missionaries for you, transmitting what can only be brought into this world from the spiritual world. It is necessary for people to take this up and incorporate it into the earth as a spiritual force. Otherwise our earth would become barren. Here, through our loving and energetic work with each other, what makes a person a true human being is meant to awaken.
Now I would like to call to mind for all of you, especially the students in the upper grades, what we find out there in life. Our time in life is filled up with work, but now and then we stop working and celebrate certain festivals. At these festivals we remember what their value is for us: They give us enthusiasm. We must acquire enthusiasm in order to see beyond what each day brings. What is happening here today is meant to be a festival for you. When you enter a new school year, you who are in school and growing up should experience it as a festival that is incisive for your souls. You should tell yourselves to feel especially aware of the need to work hard and pay attention in school and to be connected to your teachers through love. You should experience something like a religious service in this and know that its forces are what illuminate and shape all of life. You should feel this to be something that is human in the highest sense of the word, as a special festival for your hearts, your souls, and your spirit.
Let us sense today what we have from being able to be in school to become real human beings. We will now begin working in school as proper, faithful human beings who love our teachers. This work is work for life. Today, with all our strength and out of the love that has been given to us, let us recall that human beings come into the world from the spirit, and let us promise to celebrate the festival of working in school, of a work that is carried by love.
If we have this awareness, we will work seriously; we will work out of love for our teachers; we will work in a way that allows what approaches us to enter our hearts. By being good students we will grow up to be good, capable people who will be the salvation of the other people in the world.