The faculty of Manila Waldorf School has been quite busy after the semestral break with the visit of Gabriele Niemann, one of the mentors of MWS who has helped the faculty in many different facets of teaching in a Waldorf/Steiner school.
During her visit, she conducted a workshop on conflict management, giving teachers an insight on how to handle a collegial body. Gabriele also sat-in in lower school classes to give feedback on how the new teachers are doing.
Ms. Niemann has been teaching in Steiner schools for 33 years, having taken three classes from grades one to eight. She is currently in her fourth 8-year cycle, teaching sixth grade at Siegen Waldorf School in Germany.
One of the highlights of her visit was her talk during a public orientation on Waldorf Education on November 12. The orientation was held at the Alfonso T. Yuchengco Auditorium, Bantayog ng mga Bayani Memorial Center in Quezon City and was attended by the Waldorf community, students and other interested groups.
Gabriele’s talk consisted of an introduction to Waldorf education and themes that concerned today’s parents, such as the use of computers at home and at school, and the effects of television viewing on young children.
She gave insights on how the Steiner approach works. While each school may be located in very different surroundings, amid a different set of cultural, economic or sociological norms, one will always see that all Steiner schools are laid out similarly: the same wooden toys, the same classroom layout, the same shades of color on the walls.
Some highlights of her talk (her quotes in italics):
She explained why Steiner does not encourage television viewing for young children, and recommended the limited use of electronic devices, such as a computer, until much later:
“Creativity of building an image is fantasy, an inner power. This power leads us to freedom. When this power goes down, we have children who cannot listen anymore.”
“Creativity comes from things you never thought (of). In social life, you want to change the world. You have to create something that is not known. Creativity is for the future, and not from any source. Each step in the future is a risk. People don’t want to be free because they don’t want to take a risk. The world will only change out of something new. And this is also freedom.”
The visual images we see on TV may have long-lasting, and often subsconscious effects. We take this for granted, but it is ingrained deep within ourselves, such that we never hesitate to relate our life experiences with the situations and events that we’ve seen on TV and the movies. These days, parents need to be careful about this, and it is essential that young children do not get exposed to this if we want them to develop their minds to think of new ideas.
“Images from outside is branded in your soul. Violence becomes a funny thing, especially in cartoons.”
It appears funny, and some programs even emphasize the humor in physical comedy. But little children who can’t distinguish right from wrong yet will think that this is accepted behavior in society.
This controversial issue was further discussed in the open forum where someone in the audience asked how we can protect young children from the negative influences found in external sources like popular media:
“Protection is not isolation. You cannot shelter the child from all the influences. But it is necessary to know what your child is doing. This is already the protection.”
Simply put, parents need to be aware of what their children are doing and what they’re engaging in. This helps children become mindful of their actions, yet confident that they have an adult who can guide them to the proper path.
On why Waldorf schools do not have a Principal:
“Education must be run without any egoistical influences. That is why Waldorf schools don’t have a principal. There is a collegial body. Decision-making processes are much more difficult so the aim is (to do) what is really willful. Only those who are teaching can say how the administration should be for teachers. Parents and teachers should run the school as a community, as a joint undertaking. Our main business is to serve the children.”
On doing things out of freedom:
“When I want to do something for other people, I can only do it out of a free will. Nobody can force you to do it. It’s something that has to be brought out of freedom.”
On why it’s not always good to reward a child with material things for doing homework, or achieving high grades:
“Children must learn to take responsibility for their work and that they learn the worth of their work. This is freedom in education.”