Rudolf Steiner starts off Day Two of his Practical Advice to Teachers lecture by saying that “a great deal will have to be transformed and renewed” in teaching methods. The starting point? Love!
Here is Steiner on love.
In this lecture, Steiner first emphasizes the importance of speech:
- Speech is not just something external but is also linked to our internal feelings.
- Speech is the expression of the world of feeling and links us to the world.
- When we bring together a consonant and a vowel, we mingle sympathy and antipathy.
- The sympathies lie in the vowels and the antipathies always in the consonants.
Then Steiner moves on to some heady philosophical analogies.
Jean: the parallels (below) that Steiner draws in this lecture are so helpful to me. And, this is so much like college philosophy lectures that sometimes my brain hurts!
Vowels = feeling = sympathy = something inward = musical
Consonants = things & thinking = antipathy = something external = painting & drawing
The meeting of sympathy (feeling) and antipathy (thinking) is brought about through activity (willing).
Steiner says, “You make antipathy good because you educate your pupil.”
Alison: Steiner REALLY emphasizes the spiritual nature of the human being in this lecture. He EXHORTS his teachers to treat the children with REVERENCE as cosmic beings. And to allow this reverence to penetrate everything they bring to and do with the children. This love and reverence should be the foundation of education NOT the pragmatic needs of governments and industry. (Not so different from what the landscape looks like today with the whole standardized testing culture breaking the spirits of our young people!)
So it all starts with LOVE!
Steiner: “The better the sympathy we develop with him [the pupil], the better will our educational methods be.” And remember we are educating the will. Steiner: “For his will life, you will be a good educator if you endeavor to surround every individual with sympathy, with real sympathy (love).” Steiner also mentions in this lecture that we have a karmic connection with our children; we have come together for a reason.
Alison: I found this lecture very inspiring as a homeschooler. The main PRACTICAL advice Steiner wants his teachers to absorb is to LOVE the children. And to use this love to draw out their best character and their best capacities. As homeschoolers, we already love our children. And working on feelings of reverence toward them will encourage us not to spoil them, but to teach them in the best possible way. Then the specifics of what we teach will flow out of that reverence.
Jean: Distilling big ideas! To me, Steiner is saying that the starting point is love and reverence for our children and that there is a bigger picture here that we are not able to see. So the more we can cultivate that love and reverence, the better we will be at teaching our children. It all starts with LOVE and then we work with the arts to educate the will. By working with our antipathies (by grappling with what seems repulsive to turn it around until it seems ok), our thinking is transformed into comprehension.
There are also lots of mathematical calculations in this lecture to show that each of us is part of the whole cosmos. Our breathing in and out replicates the sympathy-antipathy process, as does sleeping and waking. I will end with this lofty quote from Steiner for us all to ponder:
“Overcome the illusion that you are a limited human being; conceive of yourself as a process in the cosmos, which is the reality, and you will be able to say: I am myself a breath drawn by the universe.”
The Steiner Cafe is a place to explore and reflect on the lectures that Rudolf Steiner gave at the Teacher’s Seminar in 1919, the very first Waldorf teacher training.
To read reflections on previous lectures, check out The Steiner Cafe.
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