Waldorf Education

A Christmas Address by Rudolf Steiner to the Children of the First Waldorf School

Address at the Christmas Assembly,
December 21, 1919

Rudolf Steiner

 

Dear children!

Several weeks ago, when we all came to this school for the first time, I visited you more often. Then there were a few weeks when I had to be quite far away from here, but each morning when I got up and went to work, I wondered, “What are my dear Waldorf children and their teachers doing now?” This thought came to me often during the day. And now, in the festive Christmas season, I have had the privilege of being able to visit you again. I went into all your classes and asked many of you, “Do you love your teachers?” [“Yes!” shout the children.] And you see, you answered me warmly, just like that. And then I said to you, “That is an especially nice Christmas gift for me!”

And it is a nice Christmas gift for me. You see, dear children, I have to think about how you have been spending your days since Herr Molt gave us the gift of this Waldorf School. After resting from evening until morning in the divine spirit that watches over your souls from the time you go to sleep until the time you wake up, and after you have washed and dressed and gotten all ready, you come up here to this beautiful schoolhouse. And I believe that many of you, maybe even all of you, look forward to everything that will be here for you in this beautiful schoolhouse. [“Yes!” shout the children.]

Dear children, you have reason to look forward to it. You see, while I was away from you I thought of you often, and in my thoughts I wondered, “What are my dear Waldorf children doing?” And I also said to myself, “They will be doing just fine, because they have nice capable teachers, and these nice capable teachers approach them with real love and are working very hard so that something good will come of the children.” And then I had to think of how you look forward to coming up here and of the love you show for your teachers. These teachers have to work long and hard to be able to teach you all the good and beautiful things that will make good and capable people out of you.

And you know, my dear children, I was especially pleased when I was in the classes and some children would come in playing the part of Ruprecht [Ruprecht: in the European tradition, the Moorish helper of St. Nicholas, who carries a black sack and administers symbolic punishments to children who have been bad during the past year.] or of little angels, and they sang and talked about the child Jesus, about the holy Christ Child. It was beautiful and grand that you could speak about the Christ with such love, and that you could listen with such love.

And do you know where your teachers get all the strength and ability they need so that they can teach you to grow up to be good and capable people? They get it from the Christ, whom we think about at Christmas. We think about how He came into the world to bring joy to all people, and you gave some beautiful presentations about Him today.

You see, my dear children, there are beings on earth that are not like human beings — for example, the animals around us — and we might often think that we should envy these animals. You can look up and see the birds flying, and perhaps then you might say, “Oh, if only we could fly, too! Then we would be able to soar into the air.” We human beings cannot fly like the birds because we have no wings. However, dear children, we can fly into the element of the spiritual, and we have two wings to fly there. The wing on the left is called “hard work,” and the other wing on the right is called “paying attention.” We cannot see them, but these two wings — hard work and paying attention — make it possible for us to fly into life and become people who are really ready for life. If we work hard and pay attention as children, and if we have teachers that are as good and capable as yours, then what makes us fit for life will come to us, and on the wings of hard work and paying attention we will be able to fly into life, where the love of our teachers carries us.

You know, you can sometimes think that there are things that are more fun than learning. But that is not really true; there is no greater joy than learning. You see, when you enjoy something that lets you be inattentive and does not make you work hard, then the joy is over immediately. You enjoy it, and then the joy is gone. But when you enjoy what you can learn, when you are flying on the wings of hard work and paying attention, then my dear children, something stays behind in your souls. (Later on you will know what the soul is.) Something stays in your soul, and you can enjoy that over and over again. When we have learned something good and proper, it comes back again and again; we enjoy it again and again with a joy that never stops. But the other fun things, the ones that come only from inattentiveness and laziness, they come to an end.

You see, because many of you — all of you, I would like to believe — want to work hard and pay attention to what your nice teachers are giving you, I was so glad to see your love for your teachers streaming out of your eyes when I saw you again. And so that you do not forget it, I would like to ask you again, “Don't you all sincerely love your teachers?” [“Yes, we do!” shout the children.] Now, that is what you should always say. That is what you should always feel, and then the spirit whose earthly life and birth we remember at Christmas time, the Christ spirit, will take joy in you.

Now, my dear children, when you have felt your teachers' love all day long up here, then you can go home again and tell your parents about what you have learned, and your parents will be glad and say to themselves, “Well, our children are going to grow up to be good and capable people.”

Make sure to write that in your souls, for now is a good time to do that. When we think of the great festival that reminds us that the Christ entered our world to bring comfort and joy to all human beings who turn their hearts and souls toward Him, then we can also inscribe in our souls the intention to become good human beings. Because the power of Christ is helping you, you will become what you write in your souls today, what you seriously intend to become. And when I come again and see that you have made even more progress, when I come again and see that you can once again show me that you have taken love for your teachers into your hearts and kept it there, then I will again be very glad. My warmest Christmas wish for you today is that this love will grow ever more perfect in you, and that you may continue to unfold the left wing of the human soul, which is hard work, and the right wing, which is paying attention.

And now that I have spoken to the children, let me still say a few words to those who have accompanied them here. What I just said to the children flows from a deeply satisfied heart, because I really have received the most beautiful Christmas greeting from them. When I came into the school, what wafted toward me was something I would like to call the good spirit of this school. It was the really good spirit, the good and unifying spirit, that brings teachers and children together here.

You see, in these days a Christmas mood was resting on all the serious teaching that was taking place, and it was deeply satisfying to perceive this Christmas mood, into which the revelation of Christ speaks, if I may put it like that, in all the corridors and especially in the classrooms. This was no mere supplement to the regular lessons. You could feel that our faculty managed to warm and enlighten everything that was being presented to the children's souls and hearts and understanding with the real, true spirit of Christ. Here, in accordance with the wishes of the divine spirit, we do not speak the name of Christ after every sentence — for “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain!” — but it is nonetheless true that this spirit of Christ is with us in all our individual subjects and in every teaching activity. This is something that can readily be felt, especially at this time of year. Perhaps you too have been able to feel it in what came to meet you out of this Christmas assembly.

And finally, to conclude my Christmas greeting, I would like to appeal to the children whom you have sent here. I hope their progress pleases you.

Children, when you enter these rooms with the other boys and girls, recall that you are meant to love each other warmly, to love each and every other one. If love prevails among you, you will thrive under the car e of your teachers, and your parents at home will have no concerns and will have loving thoughts of how you are spending your time here.

There is something we may say today, ladies and gentlemen, which should resound, as the spirit of this school, from every word and glance the children bring home to you who have sent them here, as an echo of what is meant to permeate all of our human journeying on earth since the mystery of Golgotha took place, to permeate all human work and activity, and especially all activity in which the spirit has work to do. May the words that ring in our souls today weave through everything that human beings do out of self-understanding, weave like a warming breath of air or beam of sunlight:

The revelation of the divine from heavenly heights,
And peace to human beings on earth who are of good Will
!
                                  [Luke 2:14.]

Our great ideal is to cultivate this good will in the children of the Waldorf School. Our concern must be to find the governance of the spirit of the world in our work, in everything we do. May the Christmas message, “The revelation of the spirit of God from the heavenly heights, and peace to human beings on earth who are of good will,” trickle down into all the work of the Waldorf School as well. May the school's working strength be governed by brotherly love and by the peace that inspires and supports all work! That, dear ladies and gentlemen, is my Christmas greeting to you today.

 
 

Reverence Not Testing The Waldorf Way

Inner experiences is the only key to the beauties of the outer world.
— Rudolf Steiner, How to Know Higher Worlds

Reverence is the path to knowing a child’s needs.

Every morning, I choose a book to read. Sometimes it is a few lines and others a chapter. The last several mornings I have been reading How to Know Higher Worlds by Rudolf Steiner. A meditative path charted by Rudolf Steiner, translated by SteinerBooks.

I find that being a lifelong student, we can discover new ways to our inner life, our inner knowing that can only be seen when our biography is ready for it. I am a student of the natural world which at its root is reverence.

The beginning of any connection in nature begins with reverence for a natural space. It is this practice of reverence that pulls back the doubt and allows you to seek a connection to the universe. A connection that will lead to surrendering beyond the noise of the outer world, and into an abundant inner life, a path that leads to your original knowing.

In education, we have people trying to improve education by measurement, testing, and analysis. The flaw with this method is that it does not involve reverence. The process of observing a classroom, a child, a family, a teacher, and ourselves must be an exercise in reverence to be pure observation. We must be able to observe without judgment and assess without fault if we want to improve the education years for children, their parents, and our communities.

Reverence with our own thoughts is the way to begin.

This consists in our learning to surrender ourselves less and less to the impressions of the outer world and develop instead an active inner life
— Rudolf Steiner, How to Know Higher Worlds

What does that mean for education and the work of our schools, parents, and teachers? When we revere something or someone we want to take care of it, nurture it, and help it grow. The beauty of the principle that underlies a Waldorf education is based in reverence or admiration for human development.

The preparation for teaching in a revered sense requires devotion to a practice that deepens the experience for both the teacher and their class. It is a practice rooted in the understanding of human development and how we teach and guide effects the development of the children in our classrooms.

A recent study by the nonprofit advocacy and consulting group TNTP concluded “ “Students spend most of their time in school without access to four key resources: grade-appropriate assignments, strong instruction, deep engagement, and teachers who hold high expectations,” the report says.

As teachers of children, we have the unique opportunity to observe children. We are able to surrender ourselves to the experiences in front of us by being open to what we can learn from them about what they need versus what they need to learn from us. We can observe without judgment, and watch in awe as the answers unfold in front of us.

Teachers need resources to create lessons based on developmental stages, and those resources need to penetrate deep into the curiosity and wonder of the children in their classes. This does not stop in early childhood, it is the foundation of all teaching and learning. Profound, engaging teaching and learning ignite a love of learning.

Teachers in today's classrooms need resources that spark interest in them and their students. The standardized curriculum that supports testing will never create that type of excitement and yearning.

Do you need resources to learn to teach in this experiential way? If you are new to the idea of teaching in an evolving curriculum that mirrors your student's needs, the following books will help you understand the real beauty and strength of this type of education.

Teacher Development Resources

Towards Creative Teaching, Notes to an Evolving Curriculum for Steiner Waldorf Class Teachers

Writing to Reading the Steiner Waldorf Way, Foundations of Creative Literacy

Teaching Resources

Science Through Stories

History Through Stories

A Journey Through Time in Verse and Rhyme

Autumn: A Collection of Poems, Songs, and Stories for Young Children

Creative Form Drawing with Children Aged 6-10 Years

Special Education Resources

The Extra Lesson

Autism: Meet Me Who I Am

Need more resources? Visit our online bookstore at SteinerBooks.org or contact Kathy@steinerbooks.org.