How Waldorf education hindered me as an EFL teacher


In part one I talked about how Waldorf helped me when I became an EFL teacher. In part two, I felt it equally important to mention how Waldorf has hindered me as an EFL teacher.

1. You will never be a good teacher. You should always be striving. I can't find the damn quote, but Steiner was quoted as never wanting to be quoted anyway. And when I quoted Steiner in my defense to the Old Woman, the faculty got super excited in all the wrong ways and I was fired regardless.

So what I'm try to say is, when I was in teacher training I remember being told, you will never be good teachers. There was no such thing. “Good” teachers are constantly trying to perfect their craft. They are reaching, stretching, never satisfied, because once you were – you were doomed.

I think most of us understand this concept, this ideal of evolving and growing. I certainly understood it and I wanted to be a good student of Anthroposophy. I wanted to believe that I won't be good if I think I'm good.

I get it. But. I think playing the modest Mirabelle has finally hurt me. It might have hurt me before, afterall, it’s been almost 10 years, but I never knew it. When I was meeting with my boss, who I like to call the Sheriff, last week, I knew. I finally knew.

During my evaluation he looked at my self-reflection paper and said, “This Waldorf business, you said, ‘You’ll never be a good teacher.’ You don’t really believe that do you?” After I explained, and we went back and forth, he understood, but he was still scratching his head. I realized to believe this sounds - CRAZY.

I suddenly felt very vulnerable, and like I had a bad case of low self-esteem.

Now I'm not blaming Waldorf or my teacher training for sharing this piece of wisdom pie. However, if you are ever in a situation where you are told you shouldn't believe you are good enough, I'd say get out of the cook pot and have a think on it. Some of Steiner’s ideas are timeless and dated.

We live in a world where it is so important to believe in yourself, when the rest of the world is so eager to beat you back. You'd never tell another professional that. New teachers are so fragile and I say, go in believing you are good enough because you have to.

2. You are responsible for the spiritual life of the child. Good grief. Looking back, I realize I took my Waldorf teaching days WAY too seriously. I was filled with all these ideas of karma, karma, karma and more karma. RESPONSIBILITY was my mantle.  It wasn't exciting to be part of the upbringing and influence of these children; so much as stressful that I was sending them straight to psychotherapy which some of the parents believed I was there to do. Any striving heard in my singing voice seemed to just seal my doomed fate that I was ruining the children. It was a harsh reality, too.

All this talk about you should be striving is good and plenty, but when I did strive, the administration, teachers, and parents just wished I had already arrived. And this was making a holy mess of my mind. I equate it to being a parent, or what I imagine it would be like to be a parent. You do the best you can. Quit making life harder on yourself.  I have no idea what karma the child or children came with, I think if I tell them and show them I love them, then I’m doing more than some remember to do.

3. Be reverent. It seems I'm not a very reverent person. I don't think I knew what the word meant until I started teaching at Trembling Trees. But as soon as I was told I was not, I wanted to be. At least I thought I wanted to be.

My playful nature and personality was looked upon as immature. And since I was the youngest teacher there, 30 years old, and looked even younger, I could see why the other teachers thought maybe I was a touch too silly. But it didn’t mean I didn’t respect the system, Steiner’s beliefs or anyone else for that matter.

But there is faster way to make a person change their mind than by telling them they aren't good enough, and they don't fit in.

Every day the children say their morning verse. This is after someone has lit the candle (with a match, of course). We are supposed to stand reverently, like you would during a funeral service or at church and I guess I wasn't doing a good job looking solemn.

So after I was criticized I tried very hard to look serious and stand extra straight. And when I was told to stop playing with the children on the playground, I did that, too. But not fitting into their dogmatic ways was not easy for me, and eventually it got me canned.

Looking back, I wonder why I wanted so desperately to fit in. But I really did believe in Waldorf education, and for whatever reason I was at a school that was so desperately trying to be Waldorf-y.

Now I'm at a school that appreciates me. I can make a lot of jokes with the teachers that I could never do at Trembling Trees. I teach at language school, so it’s not the same, and to be fair, this last point, #3, has not hindered me so much as made me embrace my “immaturity” or comedic side.

I dare say it’s a strength as I work with my Thai and international students.

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