Waldorf Teacher Education for Kindergarten and Class Teachers

he educational programs for learning to become a Waldorf teacher involve both the ideas, methods and  practice-based traditions of Steiner pedagogy, as well as knowledge and ideas from other theoretical and 

didactical sources.

 

The aim of Waldorf schools is to qualify, socialize, and strengthen the individuality of children and youth to the point where they, as adults, can relate to the world from a place of trust, independent judgment, dynamic knowledge, and personal initiative. This aim requires that teachers understand the basic needs of children in the course of their developmental path through pre-school, school and youth. Such knowledge forms the basis for a holistic pedagogy that aims to take into account the body, soul, and spirit of the human being.

 

In addition to respecting the individual, Steiner education is built on the idea that all activities connected with school should be organized with respect for the society and plurality of cultures in which the students live and participate in. Both socialization and the acquisition of knowledge and skills needed in society are necessary aspects of an education towards individual freedom. It is, after all, in community and in the context of contemporary culture and society that each individual develops his or her field of action, unfolding their potential to lead a life that integrates and provides space for personal capabilities, perspectives and convictions.

 

Waldorf Teacher Education for Kindergarten Teachers

 

Entering a Waldorf kindergarten or preschool means entering the world of the small child, a world of wonder and enthusiasm. Here children are immersed in a setting that encourages learning about the world in an inspiring and exploratory way. Children’s consciousness, at this age, is still open and transcendental. Kindergarten teachers not only need to know this, but must also be able to encounter it in a responsive and mindful way. The teacher is the grown-up in his or her group of children, nursing little problems, maintaining a positive social dynamic among the children, and opening up possibilities to learn from the world, to learn cooperatively, and to learn for the sake of learning.

 

In Waldorf pedagogy, we see this period of a child’s development as laying the groundwork for the rest of his or her life. Attitudes, social behavior, well-being, self-efficacy and self-consciousness can be encountered here in such a way that the children grow up to be able to explore the world and themselves in a rich and motivated manner. Their guide in this process – as the kindergarten teacher can be seen – provides them with nourishment and encouragement along the path. 

 

Teacher education for Waldorf kindergarten teachers also involves work with the arts and with cultural heritage, which are used to guide the teaching students into the world of the small child. Conceptual approaches to developing language and math skills in an exploratory, activating way are important, though above all, a teacher must be able to empathize with the children, entering their ways of thinking and doing. Teachers must not only accept children’s mythical, transcendent, and imaginative way of being in touch with the world, but must also be able to live in and act from this place. Teachers need to be able to pick up children where they are, and allow them to follow their lead into a grown-up world. 

 

In Waldorf kindergarten teacher education, students learn the art of creating rich and enriching days for the children. During their studies, they gain a deeper understanding of the nature of children`s phases of development at each age level, as well as the mystery inherent in each individual child. Their professional knowledge expands and deepens in order to help them create enriching learning activities in kindergarten. Students also encounter a spiritual approach to the puzzles of human life, which deepens their understanding of the meaningfulness of various activities and the grandeur of children‘s play, learning and development.

 

A kindergarten teacher needs to devote attention to a broad range of topics, including physical surroundings, learning- and playing materials, crafts, physical health, as well as social, cognitive, and motoric education. He or she also needs to be able to work with parents and relatives of the children, to be able to talk about the ideas fundamental to the pedagogical approach of Waldorf education in an open and competent manner. 

 

Waldorf kindergarten teacher education covers such theory, but also devotes great attention to practical applications, such as finger games, circle games, storytelling, cooking, gardening and free play. Management and organization are subjects covered in the programs, as are topics such as excursions, household work, nature experiences, ecology and sustainability: all important themes for the future of society. Internships in Kindergartens also play a critical role in helping future teachers to develop insights and abilities. 

 

All these activities combined are meant to prepare for the rich and exciting profession of being a Waldorf kindergarten teacher: a profession where knowledge, compassion, generosity, and respect for nature are core values, and where the joy and imagination of early childhood provide warmth and inspiration for day-to-day work.

 

Waldorf Teacher Education for Class Teachers

 

From the very beginning, Waldorf education was a highly innovative pedagogy that courageously transcended previous and accustomed ways of thinking about education. It required that teachers learn completely new attitudes and approaches towards teaching. In this respect, it has remained consistent: Waldorf education has continued to be innovative and Waldorf teachers are still called upon to be creative in their approaches to teaching, courageous in their choice of methods, and open and willing to learn new things. They also need to address fundamental questions such as: „What is the purpose and the goal of education?” or, „What is the nature of learning?” At the heart of Waldorf education is a holistic view of the individual human being, in which individual development is seen as an organic process that unfolds over time, always needing to be viewed in an individual manner. How can Waldorf teacher education prepare teachers for these tasks? 

 

Waldorf class teachers teach many subjects over the course of years, and thus need an encompassing background in subject methodology and didactics. They not only need knowledge of what they teach, but, in particular, when and how it should be taught. They need a broad spectrum of approaches and methods that allow them to create living processes of learning for pupils of different ages. They need to awaken and encourage inner motivation and self-driven activity (without grades), and to help their pupils understand and connect to the world in a variety of ways (without a school textbook). A far-ranging knowledge of pedagogical anthropology is necessary in order to understand and support children and adolescents in their development. At the same time, developing capabilities of observation is also crucial; a teacher has to learn to perceive children in an objective, open and understanding manner.

 

Artistic practice is one of the most important elements of Waldorf pedagogy. Accordingly, many artistic subjects play crucial roles in Waldorf teacher education, including music, sculpting, painting, drawing, storytelling and drama. Not only does such coursework help future teachers to be able to support their pupil’s artistic development, but it also helps the teacher himself to develop characteristics such as openness, creativity, flexibility and the willingness to explore new realms. These are characteristics that a teacher needs in order to create a sense of community and to help children develop not only as individuals, but also in their social capabilities – an important aim of Waldorf schools. Knowledge of psychology is not enough; practical experience in perceiving and supporting group processes is necessary in order to enable groups of pupils to work together productively. This can be experienced and practiced through artistic work and through group projects. It can also be further developed through internships in schools.

 

A final topic common to all the coursework in Waldorf teacher education is that of self-development. A teacher must learn to reflect on his or her own teaching, on his or her presence in lessons. He or she needs to be willing to actively pursue self-development: to continuously work to find ways to become more present, clearer, and more motivated, as well as to attain a deeper grasp of subject matter. Teachers who work to develop themselves, and who are open and willing to change themselves, provide the greatest motivation and the necessary conditions for their pupils to energetically strive to learn.

 

 

Katarzyna Cieplinska

Warsaw, Poland

 

Jarla Geerts

Leiden, Netherlands

INASTE

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for Academic Steiner
Teacher Education

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