In the fifth day Rudolf Steiner describes the human activity of feeling as the center “between the will and the thinking”, as something that flows uniting and interwining them. He also tells us that there is “the mystery of human nature that the educator has to raise fully to consciousness”. I think that to deal with this, it would help us to imagine this “mystery” as a star in the sky that shines with its own light, and that is that ideal of human being to which everyone aims for. And each being is called by that light to transform and overcome themselves, awakening those moral ideals that it brings.
In us, educators, very powerful source of strength lives, if we look for that star through inner exercise and meditation, which brings us closer to that light, which we ignite with our will. Every effort we make to overcome ourselves, even if it is small, will have an effect of inner strength on us and also an effect on our environment, in particular, in our relationship with students.
It will depend largely on us to keep alive that power of the feelings: it will depend on our pedagogical work and on our deepening in the search to answer to ourselves, when facing each of our students, the following questions: “Who are you? Where do you come from? And where are you going?”
In relation to children, the verse at the beginning of the morning and that of each child in particular, keep a power, a moral ideal to which each being aspires and wants to reach. The structure of the verse, the rhyme and the rhythm, the resonance of the vowels and consonants; all these aspects go deep into the feeling, providing confidence and guidance, as an image of the challenge each individual should overcome.
In the school where I am class teacher and trough my 8 years experience with the same class, in my first year I received a group of 39 children, all with their particular differences. One of the things that most caught my attention was their great vitality and need for movement. In others a difficulty of fluent and clear oral expression. Something was very clear: that I had to harmonize and balance the disparate forces of the group, in order to reach each one of them in what each one needed.
Being in the classroom is something very special and wonderful: The most important thing is to know how to appreciate each moment with the students. What I find fascinating about being a teacher is – among other things - that we also have the opportunity to learn together with them. If we are open enough, we will be surprised to discover that they will be a great part of our source of inspiration to have good ideas to turn into pedagogical practices. And if we really have the capacity to observe, through the bond with our students, we will bring about that "sacred" moment of genuine encounter, of substance for the soul.
At the beginning of the year, something I always asked myself is: where would my strength come from to carry out such a colossal task with so many children? And at the end of each year, I realized that the more I committed to work with them from the enthusiasm, the surprise, the confidence, the effort to do my best every day, the more my strength and energy grew. I believe that we must connect with that potential that lives in ourselves and think about giving our best, our greatest effort, however small it may be, humbly facing our impediments to improve ourselves day by day. That is the important thing.
Having already the image of the whole group is that I decided to work on the children´s verses from the child observation and, through the word, try to transform certain emotional, language and postural difficulties, according to the suggestions given by Steiner. One of them was the creation of individual verses that had focus on which should be overcome in each child, offering him the tools that “the word” gives us, as a bridge to overcome certain challenges and impediments.
Or, for example, for the individual verse (which says each student the day of the week in which they were born), I found that it was best for each one to stand in front of their classmates and me behind, at the back of the classroom. Thus, with harmonious gestures and like a “conductor”, I guided the intonations, pauses, breaths and thus to correct what was necessary. Also, I have individually worked the verses with students outside the classroom, in different ways: walking the syllables, taking care of the intonation, applying gestures that accompany breathing and sounds. These processes allowed me to give the child the space he needed when I considered necessary to take more time to study certain aspects. I have seen great progress in many of them.
There was somethimg very important and it is that all the children of the class knew the verse of their classmates and on the days when one of them was absent, someone would recite it aloud for him. Or for the “celebratio of light” -in which there is a spiral through which they walk with their candle extinguished until they reach the illuminated center where they must light it- during the way, there was a child who recited the verse of his friend to accompany him.
Also, each year I mentioned to my students the importance of clearly saying the verse of the early morning, reminding them that it is spoken by each child in each Waldorf school, every day at different times around the world and this leads us to imagine the spiritual value and power of speech.
I believe that all these examples are images that offer a substantial emotional strength and that resonate, especially, in the most critical moments of life. When this happens, they appear, like the stars in the sky, as torches that light us.
The artistic approach of the contents of the classes, such as painting, eurythmy, music and other artistic lessons, helps to complete the experience from the activity of the feelings as the center. That is to say, creativity full of life.
Since first grade, every year artistic projects have been a joy, for example, performing a story (often related to the content of the epoch). In our school, the plays have a very important role throughout elementary school. Thus, plays always try to weave them together with the other areas to be related to a longer and more comprehensive project.
In my personal case, I involved parents, children, and teachers along this way. We approach the content of the images together with parents and students so that, even being beholders, they are within the process. We work a lot previously: the play structure in class, imagining the scenes and characters, imagining the places, the environment and its scenes with colors and textures. Having prepared the play this way, we carry out, with the help of parents and students, the scenery, invitation brochures, posters and costumes, while there is time enough for rehearsing.
Also, we invite children to do other tasks. We invite to this project other teachers to include a piece of eurythmy and improve gestures and movement on stage. The art of the speech which enriches the artistic expression of the text, with its intonations and declinations. And finally, the music, which dresses the work in color and gives it their character, depending on the time it was inspired.
This long and rich process is an experience for our childrens´ soul of enormous value. Students “live” the story, they are within it, within their time and culture atmosphere, within the environment. And in my experience, I could see improvements and very deep changes in the group in general and in children in particular. Pedagogical-therapeutic processes. Something takes shape and "matures" within their hearts.
The daily narrative invites us to remember the mystery of our divine origin, through the images of the stories in each stage. They impregnate the soul with moral content and appeal to recall that the sacred lives within us, as an element of balance between thinking and will. In this way, the feelings of our students are permeated with meaning and warmth.
And, of course, much will depend on the bond of affection that we create with our students. That bond of union is the one that will weave the threads for a stable and trustworthy relationship. As well as "lighthouses", we will have to commit ourselves to sustain and guide our students, and to enlighten their path with our presence full of warmth of feelings.
Something of great help and very healthyin relation to this last point is to make trips and camps with them. Something very significant that our school owns is a field on the outskirts of Buenos Aires called La Escondida.
This allows students to create a relationship with nature from first grade, to carry out activities, camps and agricultural work and, most importantly, to begin to forge a solid union between them and us, the teachers, from living together along all these years.
Marisa Nardini was born in Argentina, Buenos Aires. She is a former student, mother and class teacher of the San Miguel Arcángel School. At the moment she is taking a sabbatical year after having gone through an 8-year cycle with 40 students. Furthermore, she attends Waldorf Seminars and is active in training future teachers.
The San Miguel Arcángel school is the second Waldorf initiative founded in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 52 years ago. There are currently around 130 families (490 students). The families who attend the school seek an education for their children, different and more humane, from the one they received as students. The spirit of the school aims to work together in this community, committed to work in different areas: communication, social, economic, cultural, pedagogical, etc. From the beginning of this school initiative, the impulse to relate Waldorf pedagogy with biodynamic agriculture lived strongly in the hearts of all teachers, starting with the longing of the founding teachers. Thus, it has a field with cows, fruit trees, an orchard and a shelter to make camps and offer the possibility for young people and children to interact with nature.
* ‘The First Teachers Course' includes Rudolf Steiner's lectures on 'The Foundations of Human Experience', 'Practical Advice to Teachers' and 'Discussions with Teachers'. The core questions arose during the anniversary conference of 'The First Teachers Course' 2019 at the Goetheanum. Many thanks to the preparational help of Claus-Peter Röh, leader of the Pedagogical Section. The interview was conducted by Katharina Stemann.