The following essay was written for the Teacher Education Network meeting in 2013
WALDORF TEACHER TRAINING
This summer while teaching courses in Wilton, New Hampshire at the Center for Anthroposophy's Waldorf High School Teacher Education Program, I began a conversation with Douglas Gerwin on what is needed for the present time with respect to teacher education. The essence of this conversation is found below:
Throughout his life Rudolf Steiner continually emphasized that all of his later work had its roots in what he had attempted to communicate to humanity when he wrote The Philosophy of Freedom. As we know, he viewed this book, along his other early commentaries on epistemological methods, as a critical foundation for working in the world. While a study of The Philosophy of Freedom was once a key element in any Foundation Course or Teacher Training, it is now possible to go through Waldorf teacher training without reading or coming to terms with the content outlined in this book. While the book is certainly challenging and can all too easily be examined in a dry intellectual manner, the importance of the way of thinking laid out in this book is rarely experienced elsewhere in Steiner's educational work.
This summer, while teaching a course on Living Thinking in which The Philosophy of Freedom plays a central role, it became clearly apparent to me that the entire Waldorf Curriculum could be seen as a means of helping every human being attain the goals of individual thinking and freedom so clearly outlined in this book. What is more, I have found that when describing this path of thinking and freedom to people outside Waldorf Education, that they are able to clearly see the values of such an education and quickly develop in interest in learning more.
In short, I feel the value of Waldorf Education lies not simply in a curriculum (actually what Steiner gave were indications) but more essentially in understanding and embodying the method by which Steiner gave his indications in the first place. If as a school movement we were to clearly emphasize this means of knowing among our own teachers and in our teacher training programs, I believe not only that our schools, students, and teachers would be stronger, but also, that the parents of our students would take a deeper interest in developing the same capacity of thinking for themselves.
The Living Thinking approach to knowing the world has been a central theme in our "Teaching Sensible Science" workshops sponsored by AWSNA and the Research Institute for Waldorf Education (RIWE). It has also been a central theme in the two most recent AWSNA Great Lakes Regional conferences and will again be a theme in the third Great Lakes conference this February. While it is clear that there are many important elements to Waldorf teacher training, I believe that this most crucial element is at risk of being overlooked and slowly fading away.
Recently, two recent class teacher graduates from a major teacher training institution asked me to offer them a "Living Thinking" course including a study of The Philosophy of Freedom. They said they had not had any exposure to this way of thinking in their training and felt that something had been missed as a result. When I combine these requests with the comments of appreciation we have received from Teaching Sensible Science graduates after they were exposed to the Living Thinking aspects of Steiner's work, the future needs of Waldorf Teacher Training strike me as being thrown into stark clarity.
Developing the capacities in human beings for living thinking as articulated in The Philosophy of Freedom was the whole reason that Rudolf Steiner developed the first Waldorf school after his unsuccessful attempt to get people to understand the importance of his Threefold Social Organism. In this context, teachers themselves need to be striving to embody these qualities of living thinking. The general public - and especially corporate, foundation, education, and business interests - will clearly understand what we are striving for in Waldorf Education if we begin to emphasize and practice this way of thinking. Perhaps, this should be the new (or renewed) focus of Waldorf Teacher training.