“Now it is really very important, particularly for those who want to work as teachers, to get rid of the habit of unnecessary criticism…it is not a question of always trying to improve on what has already been done. A thing can be good in a variety of ways.” Rudolf Steiner spoke these words to the very first teachers who were preparing to work in the very first Waldorf School.

Reflections on Steiner's lectures to teachers at the Steiner Cafe

I could repeat these words over and over again and I’m not sure I’d ever get there! You see, I am one who is “always trying to improve” things! Once many years ago, farmer Molly, who owned the CSA where my children and I worked every Thursday starting this time of year, once gave me her very best parenting advice. Learn to give one word responses like “hmmm…” and “Oh!” and “uh, huh.” This gives me a moment to ask myself if the advice I am thinking of giving is necessary!

So on I go, trying to curb my desire to “always improve.” I just love Rudolf Steiner’s words, “a thing can be good in a variety of ways.”

And this is the spirit of his discussions with those first teachers which would take place in the late afternoons during the two weeks of the Teacher’s Seminar. Sort along the lines of  “give it a try and see how it goes.” Why is that so hard for us Waldorf homeschoolers?

Much of the discussion on Day Three is about the temperaments again. The teachers had been given an assignment the day before to think about telling a story in different ways for different temperaments. A few teachers demonstrate this on day three (this is not recorded, just stated). There are a few stories and simple descriptions of a few animals.

After the telling of a story, the discussion turns to which child or children shall retell it. Steiner advises that if the story is told for a melancholic child, for example, then have a sanguine child retell it.

Steiner says:

“I would not decide which child is to tell the story, but after a day or two I would say (in a lively voice): ‘Now listen! You can choose for yourselves which part of the story you would like to retell.’ Then the next day or the day after that any child who wants to can come out and tell a portion of the story to the class.”

So much is packed in here! First is the idea that not every child has to retell all of every story! We can do this together, and they can even pick the part of the story they wish to recall. Then there is the idea of the two-day rhythm here, where material is presented one day and revisited the next (or the day after!). The important point here is to sleep on the material before coming back to it.

In addition, Steiner remarks,

“I would also like to say that, especially at first, you should make all stories very short.”

Much of the rest of the discussion is about form drawing and colors that speak to different temperaments and encourage children to stretch.

Then one of the teachers asks about how we approach the subject of math regarding the four temperaments. And Steiner responds, “This problem is very difficult. you will have to sleep on it very thoroughly.” He encourages us to work out our ideas and plans “tentatively” and then come back to revisit those plans the next day. “You can discover its new form in a different spirit when, after the preparation, you allow it to pass through a period of sleep.”

So this idea of “sleeping on it” applies to what we are teaching our children but also to us as we are making our plans. As many of us begin to think about next year, may we keep this in mind. Make tentative plans, then sleep on the ideas and come back the next day or the next to revise our plans! Then, “you can discover its new form in a different spirit.”


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. Each month here, we ponder one day of the seminar. 

To read reflections on previous lectures, check out The Steiner Cafe page.

These lectures are published in three books; the morning lectures in The Foundations of Human Experience; later morning lectures in Practical Advice to Teachers; and afternoon lectures in Discussions with Teachers. We invite you to pick up the books and read along.

If you prefer, you can read online at www.rsarchive.org, or listen at www.rudolfsteineraudio.com. Or, just meet us here each Thursday or Friday at The Steiner Cafe for some lively discussion. Lot’s of options! Hope you’ll join us.

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