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To Be a Teacher You Need to Be a Learner!

As we prepare for this year’s online February handwork conference, we asked our guest teachers a question: What do you hope participants will gain from this 3 day conference? Here are some of their replies.

To Be a Teacher You Need to Be a Learner!

By Kevin Avison

If you have taken an airline flight anywhere you will probably remember what to do if - as the announcement goes - "oxygen masks should appear above your head". You will have been told to "Fit your own mask before helping children or others who may need help with theirs". Of course, that's important advice because, in the desire to help someone else, it's easy to overlook the fact that you can only give help if you haven't been overcome by lack of oxygen yourself.

The same principle applies to teaching. To be able to meet the needs of children we ourselves should be in a fit state to do so, something that cannot be simply taken for granted. The first requirement Rudolf Steiner described as necessary for anyone wishing to achieve knowledge of higher worlds is "to pay heed" to maintaining & strengthening mental & physical health. You may not, perhaps consider yourself a candidate for seeking spiritual perception, yet that advice is surely no more than a matter of common-sense. Rudolf Steiner may appear to have held high expectations for the teachers of the Waldorf School & these can sometimes appear almost extreme: teachers aren't saints (or rarely so, in my experience). But the point is not to deny or attempt to hide our vulnerabilities. Rather it is to work towards becoming better. As we work to support the healthy development of our children & young people, we also work on ourselves. The value of conferences & courses like this is to find colleagues in that endeavor, & possibly some prompts & help for the journey. To be a teacher you need to be a learner!

At the end of the two week intensive course (now published in one volume by Ratayakom, Thailand, 2020, as Anthropological Foundations) with which Steiner prepared the first Waldorf teachers for the inauguration of the school, he gave them the well-known threefold motto: Become infused with the strength of imagination,/Take courage for truth./Hone your feeling of soul-responsibility (author's rendering). He also proposed four attitudes: initiative, interest, uncompromising truth seeking, & remaining alive & fresh of soul. Together let us turn our attention to how we might make these into intentions that are livingly practical…

Africa, Important or Not?

By Betty Staley

A seventh grade boy raised his hand, and in a challenging voice, ­asked, “Why did I not know this?” His class was studying the geography and history of Africa, and they had just learned about the great medieval kingdoms of West Africa – Ghana, Mali, and Songhay. By this time in his education, he had become aware of many civilizations, their people, their trade routes, and their great contributions. However, he was still carrying images of Africa with people walking around scantily dressed, everyone lived in jungles, wild animals stalked everywhere, most people suffered from HIV, and the slave trade was the most important historical fact. He couldn’t remember where he had learned these things, maybe from television programs or cartoons, but he felt cheated, and he was mad.

Fortunately, by the end of the block, his teacher had done extensive research, particularly guided by my book Africa, a guide for teachers and parents, and had introduced him to the great contributions of this continent.

The seventh grade boy was excited, stimulated in his imagination by fascinating stories, biographies, and descriptions. Motivated to learn more, he felt satisfied, even smug, that he really understood Africa. He delighted at the thought of quizzing his parents, proud to show them what he knew about Africa, and hoping to change their images also.

During this conference, I will speak about seventh and eighth graders, their enthusiasm for learning, and why teachers need to examine their own preconceptions about Africa, and how important it is for them to understand what Africa has to offer the world.

Pine Needle Baskets

By Naoko Bishop

I completed the Waldorf Handwork Educators Handwork Teacher Training course in 2022 and am currently working as a Handwork Assistant at the Woodland Charter School in Southern Oregon. For my final graduation project, I did a presentation about my experience making pine needle baskets with 8th graders. I am not an expert, but I was able to make baskets with the children. It turned out to be a great project as each basket is not only functional and pretty but allows for expression of creativity and makes us think about the local environment and Native American history. I would like to share how to make pine needle baskets.


We still have a few spaces available. Sign up today for our February handwork conference, Exploration, Revolution, and Handwork on February 18, 19, & 20th!

Join handwork teachers from around the world on this journey of lifelong learning!

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