WHE Handwork Teacher Development Program Graduation Closing Words
from Elizabeth Seward 12-11-22
Graduations are fairly new to me. In school in England, we took exams, and got the results by mail, that was it. For my degree in Germany, we stopped by the office to pick up the certificate. The celebration has really only become real to me this year, with this graduation. We truly celebrate all of you. Using the word “commencement” has been a mystery to me too until fairly - very - recently, when I realized that this is actually the beginning of something new - we will never stop learning, this is the beginning of a new stage for you as graduating students and for Shellie and me as we celebrate our first graduating class.
I think in metaphors, here is one more: the wet-felted vessel. The important thing in a vessel is the empty space inside. You have all been in this vessel we have created together over these 2 years. We have formed and shaped it from the outside and the inside. With warmth, with bubbles, and with hard work. I can’t help but honor the process that brought us all together to this point. I believe this is the work we are all meant to do together, but it still amazes me to contemplate how it all came together.
Nearly 10 years ago, 2 overworked but dedicated handwork teachers were sitting on an outdoor bench at lunch time during a conference at Rudolf Steiner College in February 2013, and they discovered they had been nurturing the same vision - a summer retreat for handwork teachers. This idea took root, grew, and blossomed. Monica [one of our graduating students] came to these retreats in Southern California. I remember the couch we sat on in the lounge, and our conversation about how valuable it would be to have a local, accessible, comprehensive handwork teacher training. Years later, Jeremy [another of our graduating students] came to the February conference in 2020 - he held the same vision. But then the pandemic struck.
I thought it would be a good idea to invite Jeremy (who had already been teaching handwork online) to offer a zoom session about using an overhead camera. Several teachers came, and it seemed very important to meet weekly on zoom and exchange experiences and questions, and find some sense of community.
A few months later, everything accelerated: Shellie came to one of the Saturday zooms and asked “Why not a website? I could do that” she said. Good idea! We held our summer conference online, then a professional development series, then we had the courage to start this online handwork teacher training in January 2021. We thought if we had Monica and Jeremy, all would be well. Now here we are with 14 amazing graduates. This vessel has been shaped and formed over time, with warmth and hard work, from the outside and from the inside. Shellie and I and all of you, and those who have supported you through all this - family, friends, and colleagues - have made a firm, beautiful, and serviceable vessel which will serve teachers and children all over the world well into the future.
As I thought about what to say on this very momentous occasion, Shellie has said much of what I was feeling, and Steiner said the rest. The other day, at Starbucks, I found these words at the end of his 1923 course now called The Child’s Changing Consciousness as the basis of pedagogical practice. It was held just a few years after the opening of the first Waldorf school in 1918.
This is from the end of Lecture 8, lightly edited.
It is unnecessary to know every detail of the ins-and-outs of everything that must be done as long as we can penetrate properly to the very essence of all our tasks and duties. I [we] could only give you brief and superficial outlines of the fundamental principles and impulses, flowing from anthroposophical research, according to which the Waldorf school functions.
And so we have come to the end of this course.
At this point I would like to express once more what I already said during one of our discussions: If one lives with heart and soul, with the ideal of allowing education to grow into a blessing for all humankind in its evolution, one is filled with deep gratitude when meeting teachers from so many different places [for Steiner: Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia. For us, USA, UK, Romania, India, Nepal, Japan]; for you have come to this course to obtain information about the way of teaching that arises from anthroposophical investigation, which [we] have attempted to place before you. . . . I want to express my deep gratitude and inner satisfaction that it was again possible for a large group of souls to perceive what is intended to work on . . . and to fructify life in general.
Two thoughts will remain with you, the happy memory of the gratitude, and the happy memory of the inner satisfaction as I expressed it just now. And the more intensely these thoughts can be inwardly formed, the more hope will grow that, in times to come, this way of teaching may yet succeed for the benefit of all of humanity. Such hope will intensify the loving care for this way of teaching in those who already have the will to devote themselves to it with all their human qualities. It should also be said that it was not only the Waldorf teachers who may have given you something of their practical experience, because those of you who have been present here as visitors [I interpret this as 'fellow students and guest teachers'] have certainly given equally to them. By allowing us to witness what lives in us begin to live in other souls as well, you have fanned the glow of love that is both necessary and natural, and just that can engender genuine enthusiasm.
And we may hope that out of feelings of gratitude and inner satisfaction, of hope and love that have flowed together during this course, good fruits may ripen, provided we can maintain the necessary interest in these matters, and that we are inwardly active enough to sustain them. Ladies and gentlemen, my dear friends, this is what I want to pour into my farewell, which is not to be taken as formal or abstract, but as very concrete, in which gratitude becomes a firm foundation, and inner satisfaction a source of warmth, from which hope will radiate out, bringing both courage and strength. May the love of putting into practice what is willed to become a way of teaching for all human beings be turned into light that shines for those who feel it their duty to care for the education of all humankind.
So this is indeed a momentous commencement. We wish you well.