Steiner College in Fair Oaks hosted another summer of the Art of Teaching for Waldorf grades teachers. It was a one week intensive on learning about the curriculum of the grade the teacher would be entering in the fall. As I prepare for my eighth grade year at Davis Waldorf, I found the week valuable. I received practical advice on the themes, biographies, and concepts to bring to my eighth grade students.
Teachers from near and far and wide, some as far as Anchorage, Alaska, got a taste of simple sugars in organic chemistry, witnessed shaving cream placed in a vacuumed bell jar billow like a mushroom cloud in physics, and shared in the excitement of Howard's cloud nomenclature in meteorology. Can you say cumulostratus, or was it stratocumulus?
Biographies for the eighth grader was made clear in American history: it was not as important to present a linear account of a person's life, as it was to illustrate how that person gave a voice to the movement, the cause, that that person represented. I can almost neatly see the themes of biographies from sixth grade to eighth. In sixth grade, where Rome showed the student that people follow or perish, a person's biography is about making a CHOICE between pre-existing conditions. In the seventh grade, the Renaissance is about individual CONTRIBUTIONS to the explosion of learning, science, and the arts. In the eighth grade, set against the nineteenth century backdrop of global conflicts among cultures and economies, it is about the courage to rally a COMMUNAL effort to effect positive change.
The benefit of these summer classes is the guidance of preparing the curriculum and block rotations. The true benefit, for me, is in being in the room with the teachers who are teaching these summer classes. Eva, Antje, Ted, and Mikko. Each are a wellspring of energy, a musician with grace and poise, a dedicated practitioner of the craft of teaching, an artist gifted with creativity and imagination, a scientist in search of the truth. I could muse that the four of them represent the ego, astral, etheric, and physical bodies! Eva sings with an angel's voice, her instrument perfectly tuned, each note that emanates from her lips carries a sense of rightness and purpose: the ego force. Antje teaches with precision, she holds herself with an unwavering devotion, intellectually and emotionally charged: the astral force. Ted grasps his brush firmly and loosely, the vibrant colors of his paints dance about the wet watercolor paper, heartfelt, imaginative strokes come to life: the etheric force. Mikko makes chemistry look like child's play, he dives into lab equipment like toys, with excited hands, his whole being coaxes an experiment into something fantastically wonderful: the physical force.
Mostly, I consider them friends. In having spent even just a short week with them, in feeling their radiant warmth, I feel I can go forth in my upcoming school year with courage and vitality.
I painted the picture above in Ted's class. We had just studied clouds with Mikko in meteorology. We had touched on the American economic movement in Antje's history class. It's all there in the painting: my joy and gratitude for their gifts of the heart of teaching.