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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
GA 300

Sixty-Seventh Meeting

2 June 1924, Stuttgart

A teacher reads aloud the ninth lecture from Practical Advice to Teachers and the curriculum directions given until this time as summarized by Mr. B.

Dr. Steiner: The foreign-language teachers were interested in hearing what directions have already been given. We should not forget there has been a certain difficulty in the foreign language class. In the past, students of the most differing ages came to us, so that we also needed to take new students in the higher class. We could assume that if a nine-year-old child came, he or she had already learned a certain amount. That was, however, not the situation with foreign languages. Children who had never learned a single word of French or English came into the fifth grade, so we could not establish a strict curriculum. It is still a question whether we are able to set up a specific curriculum for a given year or whether we can have only a general perspective we would follow as best we can throughout all the classes when we accept new children into the first grade.

Our teaching of foreign languages is somewhat independent. We consider what is taught in the first two hours to be the basis of education. In the future, we must treat our foreign language teaching somewhat more freely.

In general, we should teach a child in the first grade a foreign language, and we should teach foreign languages through speaking until the end of the third grade. We should avoid having the children learn words or phrases through translation. Instead, they should learn things directly from the word or phrase. Therefore, we should not associate a foreign word with the corresponding German word, but with the subject itself, and should always speak in the foreign language. That is particularly important until the end of the third grade. During that period, they should not even notice that grammar exists.

In working with longer pieces, do not be disturbed if the children learn a verse or a poem purely by sound, even though they may have little understanding of the content. In an extreme case, a child may learn four, six, or eight lines that he or she remembers only by the sounds. Under some circumstances, that could be of considerable help in learning the language, since the child would later learn to understand things memorized by sound. Quite clearly, poetic material is to be preferred over prose during the first three years. It is quite clear from this that we cannot view the individual years separately. Instead, we must handle them completely equally.

We now come to the fourth grade. Then it is best to no longer avoid the beginnings of grammar. However, do not make the children learn rules, but make visible the texts they have already learned. Thus, you develop the rules of grammar inductively, and once they have been formed, you should require the children to remember them, so that they then have rules. You should not fall prey to the extreme by thinking that children should learn no rules at all. Instead, you should develop the rules inductively, so that they will know them by heart. Remembering rules is part of the development of the I during the period from nine to ten years. We can support the development of the I by giving the children the rules of grammar in a logical way based upon the structure of the language.

You can then go from poetry to prose. Until the end of the third grade, you should hold prose to a minimum. Beginning in fourth grade, you can choose material such that the grammar and the material can be learned in parallel. For that, you should select only prose. We would make poetry pedantic if we only used it for abstracting grammatical rules, but prose can certainly be used for that. While using prose, you can gradually move into a kind of translation.

Of course, the foreign language teachers have tried to teach in this way until now. Nevertheless, it has come up that the teaching has been more from the direction of lexicography, and that you have not sought the connection between the subject and the foreign word. Instead, you made the connection between the German word and the foreign word. That is easier for the teacher, but it results in teaching languages in contrast to one another, so the feeling for the language is not properly developed.

We need to begin that in the fourth grade, but we need to limit ourselves primarily to teaching how words are formed.

In the fifth grade go on to syntax, continuing with it in the sixth grade into more complicated syntactic forms. The readings would, of course, follow in parallel. You should not have the children translate from German into the foreign language. Instead, have them write short essays and such things. You should work with such translations only by saying something short and then having the children express the same thing in the foreign language. Thus, you would have them say in the foreign language what they have heard in German. That is how you should work with translations until the end of sixth grade. In any event, you should completely avoid having them translate longer German passages directly into the foreign language.

On the other hand, the children should read a great deal, but their readings should contain much humor. The class should have an enjoyable discussion of everything connected with the readings, particularly concerning customs. You should discuss the living situations and attitudes of the people who speak the foreign language. Thus, you should include, in a humorous way, a study of the people and customs in the fifth and sixth grades. Also take idiomatic expressions into account in the fifth grade by including the sayings and idiomatic expressions contained in the foreign language, so that the children have a corresponding saying in that language for the various occasions in life where they would use a German saying. These are often expressed in a much different way.

For the seventh grade, the instruction should take into account that a large number of children will leave the school following the eighth grade. In the seventh and eighth grades, you should emphasize reading and working with the character of the language evident in sentences. Of course, it is important that they learn about the things that would occur in the everyday life of the people who speak the language. They should practice by reading texts and retelling things in the foreign language so that they gain a capacity for expression. You should have them translate only rarely. Have them retell what they have read, particularly dramatic things. Do not have them retell lyric or epic readings, but they can retell in their own words the dramatic things they have read. In the eighth grade, you should also teach them rudimentary things about poetry and meter in the foreign language. Also, in these two last classes, you should give a very brief overview of the literary history of the respective language.

We now have ninth grade. There, you need to review grammar, but do it with some humor by always giving them humorous examples. Through such examples, you can go through all the grammar of the language in the course of the year. Of course, you do that in parallel with the exciting readings the class does.

In the tenth grade, emphasize the meter of the language by reading primarily poetry. In the eleventh grade, the readings should be mostly drama in parallel with some prose texts and a little about the aesthetics of the language. You can develop poetry from the dramatic readings, and you should continue that into lyric and epic poetry for the twelfth grade. There, the class should read a number of things related to the present and to the area where the foreign language is spoken. The students should, therefore, have some knowledge of modern foreign literature.

That is, then, the general curriculum we will want in the future. You should never read anything without making the children aware of the entire content. In the fourth and fifth grades, you can begin with the basics of grammar, but see that the children also speak.

I would like to say something else in regard to drama in the seventh and eighth grades. You could find, for example, some longer passage from one of Moliére’s comedies that you want to read. In a humorous way, you need to tell the children the content— be as detailed and dramatic as possible — then have them read the passage.

In the course of the past years, we have made small additions to what was said earlier, and we should leave it that way, in principle. They should begin their written work only at that stage presented in the course.

The teaching of ancient languages has, of course, a particular position, and it actually needs a special curriculum, which I will work out in more detail and give to you. You probably already know what we did previously and the things we slowly changed.

A teacher requests a seminar on languages and Dr. Steiner agrees.

Dr. Steiner: I would now like to hear about some of your teaching experiences since Easter.

A teacher asks about Bible stories for the third grade.

Dr. Steiner: I have seen that some of you use the Hebel edition of the Bible. My feeling is that we should use only the Schuster edition because of its exemplary structure. It is better not to work exactly with the text of the stories, but to present them freely. You should give only free renditions to the children, and the book itself is only a help for remembering and reviewing. In that case, the older Schuster edition is still the best; the new edition is not nearly so good. As interesting as it may be to read Hebel, if you want to read something you already know, it is not appropriate for teaching about the Bible, quite aside from the fact that the printing in the present edition is terrible. I think we should stay with the old Schuster edition. Its structure is really very good. On the other hand, it is rather pedantic and Catholic-oriented, but I do not think you run any danger of being too Catholic.

A religion teacher asks about the difference between working with the Bible stories in religion class and in the main lesson of the third grade.

Dr. Steiner: You can learn a great deal if you recall the principle for working with Bible stories in these two different places. When we teach Bible stories in the main lesson, that is, in the actual curriculum, we treat them as something generally human. We simply acquaint the children with the content of the Bible and do not give it any religious coloring at all. We treat the stories in a profane way; we present the content simply as classical literature, just like all other classical literature.

When we work with the Bible in religion class, we take the religious standpoint. We use these stories for teaching religion. If we approach this difference with some tact, that is, without giving any superficial explanations in the main lesson, then we can learn a great deal for our own pedagogical practice by working with this subtle difference. There is a difference in the “how,” an extraordinarily important difference in “how.”

What was told before is then read so that it is firmly seated. I cannot believe the Schuster Bible is poor reading material. The pictures are quite humorous and not at all bad. Perhaps a little cute, but not really sentimental. It is good enough as reading material for the third grade and can also serve as an introduction to reading Fraktur.

A teacher asks about difficulties with new students in the stenography class.

Dr. Steiner: The only thing we can do is to make stenography an elective. We will make it something the children should learn.

Suppose a student comes into the eleventh grade. In previous years, he had a Catholic teacher for natural history. Now he comes and says he wants to learn only Catholic natural history. There is nothing we can do to free him of that.

We are teaching the best stenographic system, Gabelsberger’s, and it is obligatory because in our modern times it is needed for a complete education. I do not think it is prejudice at all. It is the only system that has some inner coherence. The others are all simply artificial. We need to think about having this class in a lower grade.

A teacher: Don’t the first-grade children have too much school because of the language class?

Dr. Steiner: If you see the children are tired, it would be better to drop that subject in the first two grades rather than to try some sort of tricks. I would prefer that we teach the little children only two hours a day if that were possible.

The school doctor asks about curative eurythmy exercises.

Dr. Steiner: That can be only a question of using the time most efficiently. Some children are given curative eurythmy exercises for a particular period, and they should be done daily. The children will have to leave class for that. If they are doing some curative eurythmy exercises, then they are sick. Since it is a therapy, you should be able to remove the children from class at any time except during religion class. If they miss something in class, it is just karma. There can be no difficulties if curative eurythmy is given the importance it is due. No one should hold curative eurythmy in such low regard that a child is not allowed to go.

A teacher asks about Cavalieri’s perspective in twelfth-grade geometry.

Dr. Steiner: Cavalieri’s perspective is more realistic. In it we see everything in small pieces. That perspective should be used wherever possible. It is designed for architecture. The architrave in the first Goetheanum was done in Cavalieri’s perspective, as though you were walking around a room while looking at the walls.

I want the children to have an equal opportunity to do all of the geometric constructions, for example, the sections through a cone, to sketch them freehand. They can do the actual drawing, the real construction, with a compass and a ruler.

A teacher asks about year-end reports.

Dr. Steiner: There is not much to say about the reports. The first school-year reports were really very interesting. Not giving grades was new; instead you evaluated the children in your own words. Many people received that in a very good way. You wrote the sentences with tremendous love. If you look at those reports today, you will see they were written out of love.

When I read some reports because someone complained, I found that for a large number of teachers writing the reports had gradually become a burden, just as in other schools, so that the teachers were happy when they were done. You can see they are no longer written with love. They have been formulated in the driest prose. It would be better if we used the 4, 3, 2, 1 grading system. We need to be more careful about how we write and be somewhat more creative. You should be more diligent and more loving, otherwise the result might be something like, “Can’t do anything, but will be better,” or, “Behavior leaves something to be desired,” and so forth. Then, the reports would no longer serve any purpose. I have nothing against it if you think it is too great a burden. Then we will have to swallow the bitter pill and give regular reports. That would be a shame, though. We cannot allow them simply to be written in the last week, but we cannot have any rules about them, because we would need a special rule for each student.

I was disturbed by S.T.’s report. When I decided to accept him, I said explicitly that we could not do so if we were going to be stuffy about it. We would have to be more open. That was when I was in J. We cannot have a Waldorf School and depend upon support if we set ourselves outside the world. It would have been much easier to say that we cannot accept such a student. The question was one of solving a more difficult problem, and thus that young boy came to us. I certainly did not hide the fact that we were subjecting ourselves to a real problem. I said all of that at the time. We needed to solve a problem: a boy who was very gifted for his age came into the ninth grade. Look at the questions he asked, but on the other side, he couldn’t do anything. He was lazy in every subject. But then he received a report that neglected everything that was said at the time. This drives me up the wall! It was written very pedantically, with no consideration of the special circumstances, and with no consideration of his psychology. I was just mortified by the faculty here. The report had no meaning for the boy, and his mother lost her head. The report was a wonderful example of disinterest. In this case, you did not seem to be as talented as usual. You wrote in the style of a very average middle school teacher.

You should write the reports for those who are to learn something about the child. You can tell the children what you have to say in a much more direct way throughout the year. The reports are for others to read. This report gives no indication whatsoever that the boy went through the most important year of his life and was very different at the end of the year than he was at the beginning. The positive things that occurred are not at all visible. We did not need to bring him to the Waldorf School to get such a report. Of course, you can take the position of a schoolmaster, but we should actually be much more open.

You need to write the reports with more love. You did not do that. You need to look at the individual students with more love. This report is sloppy, even superficially. Something like this looks bad. A report like this should be well organized and carefully written. You may have to describe the inner development of some children. If our teaching fails, it would be better not to take any risks if we fear things will get worse because the care needed for such an individual is not here.

A teacher asks whether L.K. from the third grade should go into the remedial class.

Dr. Steiner: Her mother is horrible. She was that way already as a young girl. It would not be appropriate to put the child into the remedial class where we should really have only children with some intellectual or emotional problems. K. is simply bad, and that would only be a punishment. She would not fit into the remedial class. Don’t put everyone in the remedial class.

A teacher: Should we consider K.E. in the fourth grade as normal?

Dr. Steiner: What is normal? You cannot draw some line. K.E. is not abnormal, but under such circumstances, you could put such a child in a lower grade.

A teacher asks about R.A. in the fifth grade, who had stolen something.

Dr. Steiner: For four years he has stolen nothing, but now he is beginning to steal. It is our task to make him into a proper young man. There must be something missing in the contact between the faculty and the children. If the children have genuine trust in the teachers, it is actually not at all possible for such moral problems to arise. You should certainly keep him in the class. He is not a kleptomaniac. He did it alone. You need to understand the children’s psychology better. It is possible that sometimes children do things because of a dare. It is also possible a hidden laziness exists. I certainly told him my mind quite clearly.

A teacher asks about a course in voice eurythmy.

Dr. Steiner: The eurythmy teachers and Mr. Baumann should have been at the tone eurythmy course in February.

In this case, the question is somewhat different. I began tone eurythmy in 1912. At that time a number of students came, Kisseleff, Baumann, and Wolfram. The course expanded when a number of eurythmists also came. Lori Smits continued it, but something foreign came into it then. This course should be used to make a new beginning. We will have to see how far we get. This is something that could be especially important. Since eurythmy is also done here in school, it could lead to closing the eurythmy class.

Dr. Schubert, Dr. Kolisko, and anyone else who can should attend the curative pedagogy course.

Miss Michels will go to the agricultural course. Someone will have to take over the children at that time.