Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
20 June 1922, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: The first thing we need to take up today is the organization of the school. Then, in the next few evenings we need to look at the pedagogy, particularly in regard to extending the instruction this year and also in regard to the lower grades.
Today, I would like to begin with the eleventh grade, which will be the highest class. I would like to discuss in relation to some of the things I said in the short introductory course at the beginning of the school year, and in relation to what I said about those students when they entered the tenth grade. I said we would have to be especially careful with those children because they are, in a sense, at a difficult age. As I already mentioned to some of you, I could do nothing else other than listen when the tenth grade invited me to meet with them. Since then, I have been able to further develop what I observed at that time and what the children said, and I can now say that I have the impression that the Waldorf School was really not able to cope with that group of children last year. I also have to admit that the situation of this highest class is very troubling for me. Today, we certainly do not need to help foster the opinion that is arising among a small number of people in regard to the Waldorf School. We must, of course, seriously consider how we can learn to cope with students in the upper grades.
There is a great deal we can say about that. I hope that you, the faculty, will express your opinions also, but I would like to say that I have the impression that the children’s relationship to the faculty has not at all taken on a desirable form. The situation is actually such that these specific students do not feel genuinely connected to the school. You could certainly object that some of the children are lazy and disinterested, but I have already taken that into account. It is unimportant to me that there are some lazy children; some are difficult to handle, although I have taken that into account. Nevertheless, I need to say that the school could not cope with the highest grade last year, and that we unquestionably must find a way to correct the results of the previous year, regardless of the personalities involved. It is important that we correct much of what occurred.
The main problem in this class is that the children are not really present during instruction. They have no inner connection to the instruction. In a certain way, they distanced themselves from the material to be learned. Some of the children thought they learned too little in that class, but that is a judgment and children form judgments after they finish puberty. That is a fact. Now that this judgment has arisen, if we want to maintain the good name of the school, we will have to see that this attitude is, in fact, corrected.
If you did not believe that we must make a fundamental correction, I would certainly be troubled by the school organization. The previous tenth grade is causing me much trouble. Now, however, I would like to hear what you have to say about this class so that we can all decide how to proceed. In such things as these, we must speak extremely clearly and be aware matters have gone beyond our control.
A number of teachers discuss the matter.
A teacher: The children do not have the sense of security provided by a strict upbringing, a rigid structure. They have the feeling they are at loose ends.
Dr. Steiner: That is true only of those who have been brought up strictly. Deeper things are taking place here, but, of course, teaching according to various periods of development has the advantage of giving the students guidelines, they have something to hold onto. The feeling of being at loose ends arises from the way you are presenting this. Being at loose ends is a good term for this feeling. There is no real working together, and that is terribly dangerous. That is what I attempted to counteract by having one class teacher for as long as possible. That offers some protection against being at loose ends. But even in those cases where different teachers need to have the class, we should not come to this feeling.
N.G. is one of the most absent-minded children, he is one of the most difficult to handle. He is pulled this way and that.
A teacher: The children know what they should know, but they do not have the will to work independently.
Dr. Steiner: That is a problem that lies with the children, and one that we do not need to discuss. What is important now is how we cope with the children.
We have not taken the things I mentioned about these children at the beginning of the school year sufficiently into account. At that time, I intentionally said, but it was not taken into account, that the children are moving into an age that is really the most difficult. Afterward, it will become easier. This age is the most difficult, and we have not taken that into account.
A teacher says he did not have any difficulties. He had a good relationship with the students.
Dr. Steiner: I don’t mean the personal relationship. What I do mean is the relationship that results from the subject matter and the actual teaching. There is a real difference, and it needs to be clearly stated. The children say to themselves that a teacher is a real nice person, but they do not want to be taught by that teacher. The problem we have here is that an attitude has arisen such that the children do not know what to do with what they are taught.
A teacher: They resisted French.
Dr. Steiner: The children are wondering why they should learn that. They should not have such thoughts.
You also need to be able to cope with the boys. I can imagine going through Cicero and really awakening their enthusiasm. Remember, you have the children at an age when you as the teacher must be much more interested in the material than when you had a lower grade. Think about how you teach when you are enthusiastic about the material yourself. You can’t go wrong if you are enthusiastic about it. You can learn so much yourselves, and then come into the class with enthusiasm. In that case, you cannot miss the mark so easily.
A teacher: They ask, “Why are we learning that? We already did that in the beginning.”
Dr. Steiner: There you can see how little you need to really arouse interest.
A teacher: They want a deportment class.
Dr. Steiner: They like that.
A number of teachers mention there has been a great deal of change in the classes.
Dr. Steiner: That ruined things, all this being pushed about.
What disturbed the children the most was that they asked questions and did not always get an answer.
That is something that begins at this age, and you cannot protect the children from it. They could go to quite different lectures.
A significant problem is that the children do not have enough opportunity to fail and be absurd. They listen to the teacher. There is a great deal of lecturing instead of teaching. They have a tendency, from the very beginning, to judge. When you do not lecture, but instead ask questions so that the children have an opportunity to be corrected, something their souls long for, then that problem does not occur, and they will become more modest. When they say something and are then rebuffed, they will be less pretentious. That is something that you use too little in your teaching.
A teacher: The children want more drawing and painting.
Dr. Steiner: The children in the lower grades paint enough. In the upper grades, they are theoretically past that, at least in the three upper classes. They did not get into working together. They are losing their ability for teamwork. The tenth grade has no firm inner foundation. They were completely at a loss. What I am speaking of is in connection with the main lesson and some of the other things related to it.
A teacher: I was to present meter, poetics, The Niebelungen and Gudrun. There was a bad feeling that came into it because I did not well understand what I needed to teach. I was uncertain with this material.
Dr. Steiner: That is not at all true, my dear professor. I do not believe that was the main problem. I think that the somewhat negative, skeptical attitude of the faculty found its way into the class. There is an attitude that some do not agree with some things, and that is often emphasized. A kind of negative skepticism, a certain reserve of judgment, affects your teaching, particularly when you overemphasize that the “children must believe it.” That is unnecessary when you cover the material thoroughly. That is an expression of one of the intangibles.
The main thing is that if we want to confirm the good name of the Waldorf School, we must do a number of things in connection with this class, since a great deal needs correction. We certainly all need to be clear that the success of the Waldorf School is of highest importance in our hearts, and for that reason, we cannot shy away from a certain kind of forthrightness. I would, therefore, like to propose what I believe is necessary, namely, that we must make changes for this class in a very careful manner. I would ask you not to feel insulted when I say how I believe we need to divide some subjects among you, because other things will depend upon that.
Since it is not possible to do otherwise, we will develop the curriculum in a particular way. I would like to give German literature, history and everything connected with that for the eleventh grade to X. Everything connected with aesthetics and art would be done by Y., who will also do French and English. I have given considerable thought to this, and my suggestions are focused in a specific direction. I cannot get rid of the problems in any other way. I also want Z. to take over mathematics and physics and U. to do natural history and chemistry. Those are the most important subjects, and this is what we simply have to accept as necessary for correcting this class. This division of the classes is important. You will see that there are a number of reasons why I believe it is necessary. The rest of you can follow what we previously agreed upon.
Then there is another question about how we can bring handwork into this class. This class should have that, too, as well as a continuation of what has been done in the technology class. I think we need to include Mrs. Leinhas as our fourth handwork teacher. We also need to be quite clear that this class needs to learn bookbinding, and that they should also study waterwheels and turbines, and also papermaking. All this could be done in technology class. What is clear is that the theme is connected with waterwheels, turbines, and paper factories. We will include medicine in chemistry and natural history. Religion, music, and stenography remain as they were, and surveying will be included with mathematics. Greek and Latin remain, as does shop. Tomorrow, we can begin with mathematics and physics, logarithms and trigonometry. For tomorrow, try to prepare a way of relating the Carnot theorem to the world. Then we also have the languages.
A teacher asks a question about English. The class has read The Tempest.
Dr. Steiner: I would recommend you don’t drop that. Discuss the work with the children regardless of whether one or another knows more or less. Discuss it from what they do know, so that the children have to give an answer and can continue the discussion.
A teacher: We read Corneille’s Le Cid in French.
Dr. Steiner: That could be done in dialog. Prose needs to be read. I do not believe that it is impossible to read Taine, Origines, or the essays. You could also do some work on the philosophy of life, for instance, Voyage en Italie.
Then we have the former ninth grade, now tenth grade. I certainly hope that with this tenth-grade class, we do not repeat the whole story.
A teacher: The children would like to know more about modern literature.
Dr. Steiner: They are still too young for modern German poetry, but you could do Geibel and Marlitt. You could also do C. F. Meyer, but it is still too early for that. They need more maturity to understand Jordan, that is something they can understand only when they get to the twelfth or thirteenth grade. If you go through it like a governess, it is not worth doing. The children need to be sixteen or seventeen before doing Demiurgos. In general, it would be rather misleading to go through the most recent streams in literature with the children. Right now, what is important is what we can do tomorrow. What will you begin with so that you don’t spend all night going in circles of self-destructive skepticism?
French and English, those are things that are important because the children have gotten out of shape there. Won’t you give it a try, Mr. N.?
Natural history and chemistry need to be separated because natural history was done carelessly. That is something we cannot do carelessly. Mineralogy, crystals, botany, cells, and plant taxonomy.
Someone asks a question.
Dr. Steiner: In doing that, we should remember that this class has students who came from outside. We had to treat certain things in a way that took into account what they had previously learned. We need to do natural history and chemistry in the tenth grade.
In the eleventh grade we need to connect medicine with natural history and chemistry, and mechanics and surveying with physics. The eleventh grade should be singing solos in music. Begin with a development of taste, and then go into the critical aspects of music.
The tenth and eleventh grades can remain together in independent religious instruction.
They discuss teaching assignments for the remaining classes and subjects.
Dr. Steiner: Tomorrow, I want to give you a short lecture about pedagogy.
The school inspector received some complaints about discipline in the Waldorf School. Is this some sort of denunciation? This is something we will need to answer.
A teacher: Some of the religion teachers are not punctual, so the children become restless and run around before class.
Dr. Steiner: I can imagine that the children want to skip class. Given that these things have occurred for such a long time, can’t we complain to the school inspector about these religion teachers? We have fallen behind because of this. We should have complained, and then we would be ahead. It is important that we do not ignore these things. If there are other such occurrences, they should be looked at by tomorrow so that we can discuss them.
We need to try a number of things. The things that have happened are only symptoms, but they are symptoms nevertheless. For example, Mr. M. was in Stuttgart. He is in the process of trying to start a school in Norway. However, he heard all kinds of things here and returned to Norway and told people there that people are talking negatively about the Waldorf School. But, nothing he heard is true. He returned to Norway with the information that our work is not careful enough. People everywhere are paying attention to this school, but when people everywhere say that the children are always getting slapped, then we will fall behind in our work. We need to be extremely careful so long as the whole world is looking at the school. In the school, we must keep to the principle that people can complain and do what they want, but we must be correct. I certainly want to be able to say that we are always correct. The Waldorf School needs to be a prime example of an anthroposophical institution.
A teacher: F.S. has declared that he wants to flunk.
Another teacher: He is writing poems about one of his girl classmates.
Dr. Steiner: I thought so. There are some boys there who say to themselves, “We are going to class only because we can find some adventure there. We are not interested in the rest.” We cannot act clumsily. We need to tell him we think he is so capable that we simply cannot flunk him. We must take the risk that this splendid boy leaves us.
A teacher: I have a girl in my first-grade class who can already read.
Dr. Steiner: Let’s talk about that tomorrow.
A comment is made about O.R.
Dr. Steiner: It is certainly clear that this R. cannot be other than he is. Due to his environment at home, you cannot assume he will be other than he is. We need to help him. He is one of those whom we did not treat properly in the tenth grade. He’s a sleepyhead, but his father is even more so. Both of his parents are not particularly wide awake.
A teacher: His younger brother, W., is quite awake.
Dr. Steiner: There you have something else. He has other difficulties in his character. Only people who do not want to be disturbed choose such an environment. If you were to put R. out of the class, then you might risk destroying what it is that is asleep in him now and should awaken in him later. I would not throw him out.
I have seen that although we closed later, we did not achieve anything more than we could have achieved by Easter. We have actually lost the time from Easter until now. If we close at Easter next year, none of you will be finished. We are now past the middle of June, and we will have to change our curriculum accordingly.