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WHE at the Goetheanum

In mid-April, I was happy to attend the 1st ever world wide conference of teacher educators on behalf of Waldorf Handwork Educators. Many of you may have seen my photos and brief notes on IG or facebook. Here, I will share some of the thoughts and inspirations in more detail.

225 – 230 people attended; there are about 250 TT institutes around the world; 80 of these were represented during the closing plenum (some institutes sent 5 or more members). Remarkably, but not surprisingly, these teacher trainings educate class teachers, Early Childhood teachers, or are new High School initiatives. WHE was the only institute represented for subject teachers, and the only one 100% online as a way to make teacher training accessible and affordable to all.


This was a five-day conference, the first and last days were shorter (4-5 hours), otherwise 9am-9pm with lunch and coffee breaks. Most lectures were in English, with simultaneous translation into other languages, the speakers came from many countries such as Brazil, France, Taiwan, India, UK, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, and many more. In my small discussion groups were colleagues from Poland, Israel, Denmark, Ukraine, Scotland, Malaysia, Thailand, and more.

In conversations, we established that every situation is unique, and there are common questions and challenges. These were most evident both in the morning ‘conversation’ groups where we exchanged ideas and responses to the previous evening’s lecture and the related morning panel discussions, and in the afternoon work groups focused on specific interests and questions.

The lunch breaks were long and generous and the food (vegan, gluten- and lactose-free) exceeded everyone’s expectations. It was delicious, as was the strong coffee in the shorter breaks!

In the breaks, I really enjoyed meeting people in ‘3D’ whom I had only known over the digitized airwaves (and I took a lot of selfies!). I found my way into many ‘accidental’ conversations and discovered many surprising links. As an example, one woman whose accent seemed familiar, but who is from Denmark, and whom I had enjoyed meeting and sharing ideas with during ITEP[1] zooms had lived in a small area of London (Wimbledon Park) where my father grew up, my grandparents lived, and where my mother met my father. I met a number of people who had come from, or passed through Edinburgh, where my mother was from. The people I met and connected with are all around the world now and they are now aware of this new potential in teacher training – that we use digital media to reach and connect colleagues who might otherwise feel isolated and unsupported in their striving to understand and apply Waldorf Education. One conversation started with “Oh, you live in Kuala Lumpur now, do you know xxx?” These personal connections will support our work together, and the adult students we serve.

But what was the conference actually about?

There were four main topics as leaders of Waldorf Teacher Training Institutes came together to share and learn from each other:

  • Social responsibility of the Waldorf movement – not only to educate children, but to seed different (better) ways of working together.

  • Impact of digitized life – Most children (and most teacher training students these days) grew up in a world unfamiliar to most of us. How do we meet their needs?

  • Place of Anthroposophy – Is it an ‘all or nothing’ option?

  • Diversity – true inclusivity as Waldorf Education spreads to all corners of the globe

These four main explicit topics were like the warp through a piece of fabric. The weft threads included the place of arts, and working with our hands, creativity, music, and more. There is such a lot to share, I will go into more detail in the next blog. These topics will also emerge in our conference in July.

A couple of my personal ‘take-aways’:

  • Arts, movement, sculpture, drama, etc are even more crucially important in today’s world – for the children, but also especially for future teachers. We already know the central position of handwork!

  • Casual conversations are so valuable: listening, asking, showing interest one-to-one

  • The high number of people with advanced degrees was encouraging. It is no longer a stigma to have an academic background. In fact, in a main opening conference for the Anthroposophical Society, Steiner invited well-known speakers from various academic disciplines, and they spoke about the potential of Anthroposophy to enliven and invigorate their scholarship.

  • This Pedagogical Section[2] conference was open to non-members. The conference was hosted by the Section, which in previous years I had experienced as rather exclusive and elitist. It is important to be inclusive here too, and to value those who are doing the work, whether they choose to join the section or not. 

  • Taking the questioning, heuristic approach to Anthroposophy as a tool for future teachers: asking not “Do you believe this?" but “How could this be of value in connecting with students?”

 

I will explore some of these main topics in the next blog. Meanwhile, on a personal note, here are some of our colleagues I was lucky to meet in person and work alongside:




[1] ITEP = "International Teacher Education Project" – today and in the future we need people who adapt Steiner's educational impulse to their own culture and implement it in a contemporary way. The project 'Teach the Teachers' by the Pedagogical Section. Find more info on the website listed below.

[2] Pedagogical Section – From the website https://www.goetheanum-paedagogik.ch/en: The Pedagogical Section has the task of researching and developing anthroposophically inspired pedagogy. In doing so, it is a great concern to set new impulses and to support colleagues in their daily work. This task is carried out in dialogue with the Waldorf Steiner schools and their organs worldwide. 

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