I am reflecting on our July 2022 handwork teacher conference - Handwork & the 12 Senses. These past 4 days have been filled with so much rich content to consider and reflect on. This week we have had the honor of hearing from so many amazing guest speakers. Chiaki Uchiyama brought us a beautiful perspective on the 12 senses as windows to the soul. Betty Staley brought the practical applications of the 12 senses in handwork. Dr. Gary Etting opened our eyes to the importance of visual processing skills and how often they are overlooked. Kristin Palen OT shared with us the vital importance of sensory processing skills. She showed us how to recognize challenges through handwork and gave us a treasure trove of activities we can do with our students every day. And Kevin Avison enlightened our understanding of the 12 senses as they enliven and ensoul the developing human being.
We have learned to juggle with Theadora Mason, do leather work with Shai Porath, and make fidget marble mazes, jump ropes, and wet felted vessels. Yoriko Yamamoto shared a simple but mind bending fabric card case project. And Dahlia Haberman shined a light on her way of bringing hand sewing through the grades. In this Dahlia truly embodies the ideal that we are always either building a foundation or building on a foundation. It really is all connected.
Why did we bring this amazing group of teachers together this week? What is it all about? As we planned this conference over the past many months, we held a question in our hearts as the guiding star.
What is our REAL work as handwork teachers? What is the real work of any teacher? Is it to ensure that every child is capable of knitting a square? Or sewing a button? No, it is so much more than that.
We believe our REAL work as teachers is to help every child develop to their full and unique potential.
That may seem like a daunting task. How do we do that?
First, we must come to know each child who stands before us. We must see them for who they really are, see their full and unique potential. For every child truly is unique and has their own true destiny. We must observe carefully so we may see the obstacles that stand in their way, the unique areas where they need to grow and where they hunger for learning.
When we find ourselves in those moments, (and we’ve all been there), where it’s all too easy to say: this child is acting out, resistant, defiant, lacking will, etc. Can we pause….. Take a deep breath…. And say, this child is dysregulated or off balance. How can I help them to find their center? to find inner balance? To find grounding and inner comfort so they are able to take up the task of learning and spiritual growth??
I am reminded of a quote from Steiner:
Our rightful place as educators is to be removers of hindrances. Each child in every age brings something new into the world from divine regions, and it is our task to remove bodily and psychical obstacles out of their way, to remove hindrances so that their spirit may enter in full freedom into life."
Rudolf Steiner The Oxford Conference, summer of 1922, 15-29 August
Again, you may ask, how do we do that? Where is the golden answer? What is the magic curriculum? Which is the book that has all the answers?
There is none. THE CURRICULUM does not exist. THE ANSWER is not written in a book somewhere. And I honestly think that was Steiner’s intention. He did not write a curriculum. He gave us indications, suggestions, and windows into understanding human development so we can better understand the development of each unique child who comes into our care.
What he gave us is freedom within form.
The FORM is Understanding child development and age appropriate handwork skills. The FREEDOM comes when we as individual teachers select or create projects, lessons, and activities to meet the unique group of children in our care.
In order to help children to develop to their full and unique potential through the teaching of handwork we must take interest in each child, observe each child, and get to know them on their unique path. We must study child development and consider the indications for what handwork skills are appropriate at each stage of development. And we must strive to fill our tool box by learning more and more every chance we get.
In the programs we offer through Waldorf Handwork Educators we hope to bring you many various windows to look through to observe your children as well as a wide variety of tools to choose from to meet their needs.
Because in addition to helping the children reach their highest potential, we too as unique individuals and as teachers, must always strive to reach our own soul’s highest potential. We as adults must always strive to learn and to grow, to increase our own inner capacities on our own unique spiritual journey of human development.
We do not have THE ANSWER but we are so grateful to be on this never ending journey of growth and development together with all of you. And we are honored to be able to bring together participants and amazing guest teachers from around the world to share their unique perspectives, and new windows that we can look through as we fill our tool boxes and help each child grow.
We all learn from each other. Thank you for joining us in this incredibly important endeavor for the future of humanity. Blessings on your work everyone!