Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
26 May 1921, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: We need to discuss the ending of school. You have a number of questions.
The following are discussed: A question about how to handle promoting the students this year. General questions about the tenth and following grades. A request for a course about educating children over fourteen years of age and also the instruction of religion. Questions about “bourgeois methods” in the school and how to eliminate them. A question about teaching instrumental music. A question of whether third graders should write foreign language or only speak it. A question about social studies and social understanding. A question about a special course for eurythmy. Questions about a teachers’ meeting, pedagogical conferences, and a newsletter.
Dr. Steiner: I think we could handle the individual questions more easily if the teachers first discuss promoting the children and the end of the school year. We can then more easily discuss the question of promoting the children. I think we should begin with the ninth grade. I would ask the teachers to present the experiences they had at the end of the school year.
Each class is discussed, beginning with the ninth grade.
Dr. Steiner: I was present during the Jean Paul discussion. Were you satisfied with the way the children participated?
What is there to say about eurythmy? That lethargic child, U.A., is not really lethargic. He only makes a lethargic impression.
In the event we create a tenth grade, all the children would have to move on to it.
Now we come to the eighth grade. Are there any students so weak we should hold them back?
A teacher: We should consider H.K. and whether it would be better to keep him in a lower grade so that he will progress better.
Dr. Steiner: My impression is that he does not need to be held back. Is he one of those who is more behind in particular subjects?
A teacher: He literally falls asleep.
Dr. Steiner: He is physically weak. He took part in the Quaker meals.
A teacher: The situation at home is very bad.
Dr. Steiner: The question is whether you think he will be a disturbance next year in the ninth grade, or whether you will be able to carry him along. With such situations, a shock like that is not exactly desirable.
A teacher: I do not think he will be a disturbance.
Dr. Steiner: Can you achieve something with him in eurythmy? A eurythmy teacher: He is trying. P.R. is deformed. Should we have a look at him specifically?
Dr. Steiner: Do we have a number of such children in the different classes? You need to do the best you can to come to grips with the children in the same groups. We can’t put P.R. aside. Is there anything to say regarding languages?
We should think about H.K. I think there is some doubt we can take him into the ninth grade. Perhaps I will come by the class tomorrow morning or the morning after. We need to have a remedial class. We need to think about that. In a lower grade, such a student would be just as disturbing.
A teacher: The children in my sixth grade class have a poor memory. There must be an error in my teaching.
Dr. Steiner: You can’t say every child’s memory is weak.
A teacher: The children cannot retain things. They don’t have any clear pictures of Egypt, for example.
Dr. Steiner: How do you attempt to teach them a pictorial idea? A report about teaching geography is given.
Dr. Steiner: The children remember the pyramids and the obelisks. You need to ask yourself whether you did everything in detail. Did you give the children a picture of the true situation in Egypt, so that they do not have holes in their pictures of Egypt? If you simply emphasize Egypt and do not give a picture of how the children get from here to Egypt, if they don’t have a living picture, then it is very possible that they cannot remember. Perhaps you need to pay more attention to going into all the details so that the children have a completely living picture, one with no holes in it, about the location of Egypt in relationship to their own. The child would know something about pyramids and obelisks, but not that they are in Egypt. You should really think about whether you did all of these things that come together as a complete picture. Have you had the children draw only Africa? Perhaps you should make a special map, including Europe, which would give them an overview of the connections.
A teacher: I asked in which direction of the compass they would look for Egypt.
Dr. Steiner: Perhaps you should have them find the cities they would pass through if they went from here to Egypt. This kind of memory problem arises from some kind of holes in what they have otherwise learned. Without doubt, the memory would be better if the children had a complete picture. That was not the situation in Mr. O’s class. The children were interested, they understood everything and were enthusiastic. They remembered nothing, though, because he emphasized specific things and did not give them the overall connections. A good way of improving memory is to create the large overview.
That is true in various ways for other areas of instruction. It is particularly true for such things as geography, but also for certain things in natural history. It is, of course, particularly true for history. In history, it is important that you find every possible way of giving the children concrete images.
When you discuss things like the Persian Wars, never neglect to emphasize some person, at least where there are important connections. Today, you did the Athenian runners. I would never have neglected creating a real picture for the children of how these people lived long ago. You could, for example, go back through the generations, grandfather, son, and so forth. I would construct the series right back to the Athenian runner. The result would be fifty-five or fifty-six people lined up in a row. In that way the children would have an idea of how far back the timeline reaches. I would ask, for instance, which one was a contemporary of the Mystery of Golgotha. Use such pictures and let the children think about them. Speak about Egypt and then show them how they can get from Stuttgart to Egypt. You could stop in Venice, and then try to lighten things a little with a joke about Venice. There should be some humor in the instruction since otherwise memory will suffer.
A teacher speaks about some of the weaker children in the 6a class, particularly W.G. He is so sanguine that he is nearly an idiot. He doesn’t write the letters together nor complete words. He says whatever occurs to him.
Dr. Steiner: In his soul, this is a young child. He is at the age of seven or eight in the development of his soul. The situation is that he would not care very much if you held him back. The question is, how do we handle the whole question of promoting children in principle? This child, W.G., is one who would come under consideration. It would be good for him to go through the material a second time. We should discuss the principles of the question.
A teacher: I would be unhappy to give him up.
Dr. Steiner: He would be the only one of those you have mentioned. We could put E.W. into the extra class.
A teacher: Many of the children cannot write properly yet.
Dr. Steiner: They would all come into the remedial class. W.E. is a clear candidate for that class. He cannot properly collect his thoughts. How is he in music? Most of them will be musical. He will also not be particularly diligent in handwork class. W.E. would be hypnotized by vibrant colors.
We need to give some consideration to forming a class for remedial instruction.
There is some discussion about some of the children in the fifth grade, particularly about E.E.
A teacher: He is not keeping up, but he is gifted in languages. He is clever and sly.
Dr. Steiner: You will need to pay attention to him, to speak with him with particular attention to his individuality. You need to vary that, but give particular attention to him.
A teacher: Shouldn’t he go into the remedial class?
Dr. Steiner: What would he do there? He loves being different. It would affect him deeply if you had him make a pair of shoes. We should do something like make shoes so that he can nail things together. They should be real boots for someone else. We should have him make shoes in the handwork class, that would be something good. He would have fun putting on the soles. He could even double-sole the shoes.
Discussion of the fourth grade.
Dr. Steiner: I was in the class, and I have to say it is going well, with the exception of three or four who will quickly catch up on what they cannot do. Some are weak in arithmetic, but others are quite good. I think it is a class that has suffered very little from having had three different teachers.
We can promote the whole class to the fifth grade. The previous teacher was extremely good in discipline. She was what people in bourgeois schools refer to as strict. The children liked her a lot. Then you came. Today, their discipline was exemplary.
A teacher: I made myself strict.
Dr. Steiner: You will see the result only after you have been with them for a longer time.
L.H. certainly has weak eyes and the axes of the eyes need to become more parallel. They converge too much. Try to get him used to holding his book a little further away, just a half finger’s length more than what he is used to now. Move the location of where his vision crosses a little further from his face.
I noticed B.E. He awoke for a day. The children were all very surprised that he said something.
A teacher: M.I.’s mother is quite concerned that he inherited something from his father.
Dr. Steiner: He has a touch of childishness. He is apparently a Prussian, a little one. He is not actually disturbed, but if you wanted, you could call him weakly disturbed. He was born in Berlin and has something sweet about him through the language. With good guidance, he can become quite normal.
A teacher: He is gathering statistics about electrical trains. He keeps himself apart.
Dr. Steiner: You need to guide him lovingly. The only concern is the statistics about railways. You need to try to get him interested in something else and to break him of that. He should learn German writing.
In the second grade, you have several children who are quite good. Your problem is that the class is so large. The disturbed children, G., H.N., and M.H., should also go into the remedial class. B.R. is not quite normal. He should receive particular help in the afternoon. That is difficult with some of your children. His brain is too small. You need only look at him. He is smaller than he should be. We should try to counteract that characteristic. It is not possible for him to completely pay attention. You should call upon him more often and discuss things with him in the corridor or on the street so that he has to think while he listens. His mother is just like him.
A teacher: Many children in the first grade already have new teeth, but some do not.
Dr. Steiner: None of the children in the first grade can have finished teething. That happens only at the age of eight. What is important in connection with school age is only that they have begun to change their teeth.
O.Nr. should also be considered for the remedial class. He transposes words. We could have him for a time in the remedial class where we can work with each child individually.
A teacher mentions T.M.
Dr. Steiner: The problem with T.M. has diminished. He is already healthier.
A teacher: He has asthma attacks at night.
Dr. Steiner: You should treat him with moderate amounts of arsenic in the form of Levico Water. The boy has an irregularity in the astral body that we could cure physically. Give it to him twice a week diluted in a quarter glass of water. You will then be taking all of your students into the second grade.
A teacher asks about F.O. in the present 1a class.
Dr. Steiner: The remedial class should help him so that he can come into the present second grade and the future third grade. Now we are all done with the individual classes.
A report is given about foreign languages.
Dr. Steiner: You can try to achieve something by dividing into groups. We can put them into groups so that we have all those with the same knowledge and capabilities together.
A teacher: I think it would be good if we gave the sixth grade something printed to read.
Dr. Steiner: How old are they? You would have to look for a moderately long story. You would need to find a short story, something that has some substance and is not superficial. They could read something historical from Mignet. They would also learn quite a bit from it.
We will need to divide the foreign languages differently. It is so difficult to satisfy the children there. You need to ask the children questions often in foreign languages. There is a prevalent opinion that the children are unhappy. They learn the most from the lectures. It is helpful when they find their way themselves into a good lecture. Rote learning is only a crutch. You should proceed sentence by sentence and with the younger ones, only speak.
A teacher: Should the children also write in the third grade foreign languages?
Dr. Steiner: You can begin writing short, easy sentences that express some simple thought.
A teacher asks whether three songs from Dr. Steiner could be printed.
Dr. Steiner: You can certainly give these choruses to the publisher in Dornach. They will sell well.
A teacher: Can we count upon having texts for the children?
Dr. Steiner: There is already something for the youngest children. The “Springtime Song.” The instrumental music class is only a substitute, but we will have to leave that for now.
A teacher: I have used some things from curative eurythmy. Should I continue with that?
Dr. Steiner: I was very satisfied with what I saw today. In the fifth grade there are a number of boys who could have a class in gymnastics. Our school program already should include one hour of that. We will make it more spiritually expressive as soon as we can.
A teacher: We have already begun modeling in the ninth grade.
Dr. Steiner: I was satisfied with what I saw.
Now I would like to ask you if we should prepare the reports as we did last year. Doing the reports that way is good, just as we did last year.
A teacher: We kept them positive.
Dr. Steiner: It is important to phrase the sentences properly. If you are not individual enough, something that is difficult, if you phrase the sentences too harshly, they will put people off. If someone is dawdling, you should write that it would be desirable for him to pull himself together next year. The way you say it is important. You should express deficiencies positively, but be careful about how you say it.
Then we agree that we will do the reports as we did last year. Give as true a picture as possible. At the bottom of each report, write a verse for each child that expresses the child’s individuality, that can act as a leitmotif for the future. I would also like to see, since the child will keep the report, that all of the teachers who worked with the child sign it. I would like each child to have all the signatures. It is important that the children have all the signatures of the teachers who worked with him or her. The class teacher’s name should be first, along with “Class Teacher,” so that the child knows to whom it belongs. The others should be below. It would be good if each teacher wrote some text. The class teacher should write the most and the others should write short remarks.
Concerning the question of promotion.
Dr. Steiner: We actually only have these two P. children, and then there would be almost no one else except F. H.M. could go into the remedial class, all the others would move ahead. Now we come to the question of the remedial class. The question is whether we need another teacher. Dr. Schubert should take it. A list of teachers who are to teach the main subjects is created.
Dr. Steiner: How would it be if we had Dr. Schwebsch from Berlin come by? He is supposed to be coming here on June 11.
In the fall, we will have Dr. Röschl for Latin and Greek. That will certainly be a very good addition. We also need help, a new teacher, for modern languages. Perhaps young Englert. He is still quite young. He should come here on June 11 or perhaps before to Dornach.
A report is given about the independent religious instruction. A class teacher mentions he had attended the religion class of his class to see that they behaved. He felt like a barking dog.
Dr. Steiner: In a certain sense, a kind of exception is possible. We should keep to what is included in our pedagogy. We must assume that the class and the teacher belong together. Since different classes are together in the religion class, I certainly think it is possible that the class teacher be in the classroom while another teacher gives the instruction. We can hardly get around trying to form smaller classes.
A teacher: There is not always an inner participation. There are too many children.
Dr. Steiner: The groups are too large. That is something that should not be if the children are to take in the instruction.
We need to awaken a feeling for the seasons in the children. We also need to pay more attention that the children have a living picture of Christ. That should be the center of their thoughts at all levels. We should always return to that and see that the earthly life of Christ is the center. We must care for the personal relationship to Christ, even at the lowest grades, so that it becomes a kind of inner religion. Care for the personal relationship of the children to Christ. We must create an ideal religion in the period. Symbolism and pictures should play a role so that they strongly carry the feeling along.
As a religion teacher, you are not a part of the school. You give it as though you were a minister in an anthroposophical church outside the school and only came here.
Concerning education from the age of fourteen, that is, the pedagogy for those over fourteen years of age, we will have to see that we have some time when I return on June 10. That relates to what you referred to as “bourgeois methods.”
A teacher: Last year we included social understanding as a part of technology.
Dr. Steiner: That is connected with the academics for the upper grades. We can best teach social studies, but then we would have to drop languages. The older teachers, those who have been here at this school for two years, would have to take on such things.
Concerning a special class for eurythmy.
A eurythmy teacher: The performance was extraordinarily fruitful. It did a great deal to make the Waldorf School known. It appears we will form an extra group.
Dr. Steiner: We can do two different things. Either we can give performances with the children of the Waldorf School, in which case we simply select some from the regular group of children, or we can forego that and form a group. The group would not be the children of the Waldorf School, so we could no longer present that to the public as an achievement of the Waldorf School. We can do those two things. Either we give performances with children from the Waldorf School, in which case we cannot form a special troupe, or we form a special department for eurythmy at the Waldorf School that operates in parallel. That is something we can do quite officially, but then we would say, “Performances with children of the special class at the Waldorf School.”
A teacher: If the children were to sing in a chorus, they would also need to be selected.
Dr. Steiner: It would hardly be positive if we formed a chorus of individual students. Either we accept the achievements as they are or we create a special department for eurythmy. We can do either, perhaps depending only upon sympathy or antipathy. There are a large number of capable eurythmists we can use in that way, but we can no longer claim it is a performance of the Waldorf School.
A teacher: We could form a group from the older girls.
Dr. Steiner: We may well be able to do that if we give performances from the Waldorf School, but the littlest kids have the greatest success. There could be a special group of the more advanced eurythmists. We would, however, excuse those who are also professional eurythmists from normal eurythmy practice. We could do such things. You would have to create something separate from the school.
I think there are some who have a burning desire to do eurythmy. However, I think it would be nice if at least some of the boys were included. In Dornach, we only have S., and he needs half a year to prepare for a performance, so we never see male eurythmists on stage. You can see what eurythmy really is in Munich. There, the men performed. We debuted with four men. But then masculinity moved more and more into the background. The women are more agile. Here, the students are very capable. It is quite curious that women are much better doctors than men.
A teacher: The children in the upper grades who want to develop themselves musically need to begin practicing. Could we excuse them from those classes that inhibit their dexterity with difficult physical work?
Dr. Steiner: We could change the curriculum for individuals. That is certainly possible. We should also think about having special practice rooms. What provides human education should remain, otherwise you can specialize.
A teacher: The children have asked about a student library, and whether they could read Dr. Steiner’s books. Should the older children get something socially directed?
Dr. Steiner: When we have the tenth grade, we can use reading to educate. In general, it is too early to give them such things. On the other hand, perhaps you could give them some cycles if they are appropriately printed. Christianity as Mystical Fact, perhaps. Or, maybe Theosophy. We would have to work out the preliminaries.
A teacher asks whether students could attend Dr. Steiner’s lectures.
Dr. Steiner: Do you think that such a lecture would be helpful? We will probably not be able to get around leaving such things up to the parents. We cannot make any rule about it. The parents need to do that themselves and also be responsible for it.
A question is asked about publishing a newsletter and also about putting on pedagogical conferences for teachers. The discussions with the teachers were quite favorable.
Dr. Steiner: What did you discuss there?
A teacher: We talked about the relationship of the school to the state and also a number of pedagogical things.
Dr. Steiner: I think it would be superfluous. People misunderstand the most important points. If you want to progress in the movement, you have to approach the consumers, not the factory owners. You can do that as a pleasant chat, but nothing comes of it. I have never resisted that. If you think you should do it, then go ahead. We have already wasted so much strength by always beginning new things that have no real possibility of success. In Switzerland you can enjoy the luxury of working with teachers. During the Easter course, I had the experience that the Swiss said their schools are independent. But, the Swiss schools are really only slaves. I don’t think that we need to hurry.
We can make the Waldorf School principle only a model. We will not be able to create a second school. It will remain a model, so we need do nothing more than maintain this school as a model until people get angry enough. The only thing that would make sense would be to oppose the school laws through a worldwide movement. It is high time for the World School Association to do something. It is important to bring the World School Association to life so that a gigantic movement for the independence of education and for the freeing of the school system arises throughout the world. For that reason, I think we should make this school with its students inwardly as complete as possible and extend it upward. Add a class each year and extend it upward.
Due to a lack of help, the newsletter will not be possible. Pedagogical conferences are a luxury. Is there something else?
A question is asked about the closing ceremony.
Dr. Steiner: We can hold the closing ceremony in the main hall of the art building. If it gives the children a closing point and they receive a few thoughts, then it would be good. It is a part of their soul experiences, for otherwise the children would simply leave and then begin a new school year. In the end, they would become indifferent. The closing ceremony is the conclusion of the entire school year. The fact that the holiday is only a week is an exception. Each class will begin a new year. That should not be prosaic.
Why have we not had any more monthly festivals? That is too bad. I think we should have them.