Tools for Teaching

Time and the Teacher
By Eugene Schwartz

One of Rudolf Steiner’s most remarkable discoveries is that Michael, the archangelic guardian of the Waldorf school movement, is in a process of joining the ranks of the Archai. One of the most important consequences of this development is that Michael’s mastery of
Space, a salient characteristic of an Archangel, will be enhanced by a dynamic relationship to Time, the realm overseen by the Archai. With this in mind, it should not surprise us how much energy humanity now devotes to measuring time, managing time, overcoming wasted time, and hopefully embracing “quality time.”

It is no wonder, then, how large a role Time plays in Waldorf education. Rudolf Steiner made it clear that the seven-to-eight-year relationship that the class teacher forged with her students was no less important than the content she taught. The centrality of the idea of the “age appropriateness” of all that we teach and the profundity and complexity of our concepts of child development allow us to access the support of the Archai, who collectively may be termed the
Zeitgeist, the Spirit of the Age.

It has also been said that “Time is Money.” Although it may be argued that the Waldorf movement stands opposed to such a materialistic degradation of Michael’s mission, I would argue that this motto has played a significant role in many approaches to Waldorf teacher training and teacher development. In fact, it is the challenge of overcoming the pervasive equation of time and money throughout the Waldorf movement that led to the creation of the Online Conferences.

In the decade that stretched from the late 1980s through the 1990s, the leaders of the North American Waldorf teacher training and conference centers realized that the number of students enrolling in full-time, 2-year teacher trainings was declining at an alarming rate. As they spoke to potential applicants, it became clear that two factors were involved: time and money. As the pace of life accelerated at the twilight of the second millennium, people fresh out of college could not spare two more years of non-remunerative study. A significant number of young people knew they were interested in Waldorf education and did not want to spend one whole year learning about Anthroposophy, the arts, and world culture rather than plunging directly into the courses that would get them a job. The idea that they needed
time to digest Steiner’s research, time to “find themselves,” time to formulate their unique life questions, and time to understand their own childhood before guiding the childhoods of others – all of this left them cold.

The result of this enrollment crisis was to unfold in the twenty-first century with the demise of Emerson College in the UK, the contraction of Rudolf Steiner College, and the near shutdown of Sunbridge College (now Institute) in the USA. The fact that the American programs survived at all was due to the creation of part-time training programs that allowed people enough time to earn the income they needed to become Waldorf teachers. In the Waldorf movement, as much as anywhere else, time was, indeed, money.

Although a great deal of ingenuity has been lavished on part-time trainings, they are incontestably . . .
part-time. Their stress on the “practical” aspects of Waldorf teaching means that short shrift is often given to the deeper and less immediately applicable anthroposophical underpinnings that give Waldorf education its unique stamp. In one training, the ceaseless practice required for a teacher to master Form Drawing may be elided, while another training can’t fit much of the robust History curriculum into its abridged curriculum overview. Above all, there is little opportunity for the trainee to spend the hours, days, and months experiencing the inner transformations, big and small, that will make him into a pedagogue who can enthuse and inspire his students. There just isn’t enough time!

In recognition of these deficits in their training programs, students are promised that the summer grade-specific conferences they will attend will fill in the gaps and prepare them fully for the year to come. On paper, the schedule appears to offer 25 to 30 hours of child development, curricular content, movement, art, discussion, and so forth. Experienced conference-goers are well aware, however, that hours of the promised time is nibbled away by announcements about meals, dormitories, and parking, as well as infomercials about new programs offered by the training center. Hardly does the lecturer get started than a question is shouted out and in her effort to answer, she gets off track, and more precious minutes are lost. In order to utilize the speakers with maximum efficiency, the training center has them teaching two or three grades in the same week, jumping from one group to another (and sometimes losing track of the grade level of their next lecture). A number of lectures are jointly attended by teachers of three grades, making them generic to the point of offering little help to anyone’s specific grade level. After a few days, it becomes clear that, like teachers in a small school with low enrollment, the conference lecturers have little time to think and plan, and less time to breathe out; they, too, are but cogs in the Time is Money machine.

In my many years as a summer conference teacher at Rudolf Steiner College and as a faculty member and Director of Teacher Training at Sunbridge College, I was witness to the financial and time pressures at the century’s end. Such pressures compelled the poor decisions that led, inexorably, to the shrinking of the time allotted to teacher training and summer preparation. I was determined to restore the Michaelic element of Time to summer conferences, and it was out of this impulse that the Online Conferences arose.

Each Online Conference offers between 30 and 50 hours of content (depending on the grade). Instead of the 5 – 6 days proffered by face-to-face summer programs, the Online Conferences give participants 14 days to work with all that is offered. The recorded lectures are divided into 15-20 minute segments to afford the listener ample breathing space in between segments, and an exhaustive print table of contents makes it easy to find specific topics. Student work for each grade is presented in high-definition videos, with commentary explaining how and why each drawing or composition came to be done, while “Teachers’ Guides” videos provide thorough, step-by-step instruction in subjects as varied as Form Drawing and Algebra, Physics and Chemistry. And because the conference content is pre-recorded, a participant can pause, rewind, and replay as much as he wishes, all the while taking notes on his device’s word processor.

The Online Conferences are unabridged. No one interrupts the lecturer with irrelevant and time-consuming questions, and there are no announcements about the colors on your meal ticket. You will find extensive descriptions of each grade’s developmental changes and challenges and the anthroposophical rationale underlying the curriculum. A good deal of time is spent on working with parents, planning parent evenings and family conferences, and facing the concerns and objections and fears that the Waldorf curriculum increasingly evokes among today’s parents. At the course’s conclusion, like the over 1500 teachers who have already taken the Online Conferences, you will feel confident and ready to meet the new school year.

Rather than rigidly set the dates and site of the summer conferences, the Online Conferences allow participants to choose any fourteen-day period that suits them from June 1
st through September 30th. (Conferences may be split and extra days may be added at a nominal cost.) The entire conference is on the Internet so that it may be accessed on a computer, smartphone, or tablet, taken along on a vacation or retreat, viewed and heard almost anywhere, at any time. Conference tuition is generally about half of the tuition of most summer conferences, even though we offer much more content and almost triple the number of days. There are no costs for travel, for accommodations, or for dining.

Rudolf Steiner tells us that a good teacher should spend eight hours of preparation for every one hour that she teaches. By working
with Time, by living in Time, the teacher experiences the intuitive forces of the Archai – Michael among them – who guide the content of the curriculum to the capacities and potentialities of her students. These capacities and potentialities, which unfold over the course of time, are nourished and enlivened by a teacher who has made Time her own. The Online Conferences are designed to provide every participant with the possibility of moving through the rich content at her own pace and of having two weeks of time in which a true in-and-out breathing experience is possible.

For more information,
Phone Raine Springer, Registrar, at: 610.310.6659

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