The Waldorf Teacher
Someone you can steal horses with
"Someone you can steal horses with" is a German expression, that doesn't really have an exact translation into English and it means something a little different to everyone. It's a positive compliment about someone that's up for anything and just about any adventure. It's not just a "Can do" sort of person, it's a "Let's go!" kind of guy or gal. -Ed.
By DORIT WINTER
“Teachers are born not made” is an old saw that may have more than a grain of truth in it. In a bygone era, the one I went to high school in, Waldorf teachers were born, not made; teacher training as such did not yet exist.
I graduated from the Rudolf Steiner School of New York in 1964, and was taught by members of what I call the “pantheon” of Waldorf educators in North America. These original high school teachers were original in more ways than one. To us youngsters they all seemed a bit odd. They were definitely not cool. Yet we respected them. We appreciated their oddity. We understood that we were learning from teachers who seemed to be outside the grasp of fads, trends, and popular culture. These were “Teachers.” They taught us. And they did it with great skill, knowledge, power and warmth. This pantheon included among others included Henry and Christy Barnes, Arvia and Karl Ege, Amos Franceschelli.
I met some of them again in my late twenties when I started teaching at that same school. And later still, many were my colleagues at Waldorf conferences and other events. I was amazed at their grip, their steadfastness, their unwavering humanity. Most of them were born teachers; one or two of them had studied Anthroposophy in Europe; at least one of them had visited a teacher training in Germany. But for most teachers at that time, Waldorf teacher training or Waldorf teacher education was unavailable. Instead they learned on the job, through the job, and through their own education and development.
Now, after twenty-one years of being in the business of preparing people to become Waldorf teachers, I know from experience that Waldorf teachers —with rare exceptions—are no longer born. Some of them are born teachers; still, the Waldorf part has to be learned. And what is that Waldorf part? Ah, yes, the airplane conversation test:
“I’m a computer programmer,” says your neighbor on a cross country flight. “You?”
“I’m a …uh… I teach.”
“Teach teachers how to teach.”
Sigh:” I teach teachers how to be Waldorf teachers.”
“Oh, yeah, Waldorf, I’ve heard of that. That’s for (pick one or more):
a) kids with dyslexia b) kids with musical abilities c) little kids d)kids who need art e) rich kids
And now I have to explain Waldorf Education to a well-intentioned inquirer, unacquainted with its assumptions, methods, and goals. How can I do this? And how do I then explain what it is to train a Waldorf teacher?