A Window Into Waldorf

November 11, 2013 in Inside SWS

We have all experienced how a single sentence, word, or even gesture from someone can suddenly inform or illuminate us in unanticipated ways. These “aha” moments – sudden realizations or insights – often come when we least expect, and depending on their nature, can be piercingly painful or joyfully beautiful. I experienced the latter kind earlier this week, which I’d like to share.

As most of you know, I am a relative newcomer to Waldorf education. In some ways I have found this helpful, as I move through my own personal journey of unfolding and awakening, not dissimilar to our students and in many cases, parents also. There is much I do not know, and I am grateful for the wealth of wisdom that surrounds me in my colleagues here.

Back to my “aha” moment. A grade school teacher popped his head into my office the other day and asked, “How are you doing?” I’m not sure he was ready for the candor with which I responded, although he quickly sat down upon realizing he was not getting a cheery “Great!” in return. I shared that in the past month or two I have felt somewhat anxious in my personal life. Never terribly comfortable living with ambiguity, I have experienced a greater than usual desire for control, for answers, for clarity on issues both large and small, ranging from who is hosting Thanksgiving dinner to how my soon-to-graduate film studies major son will ever find a paying job. Feeling off balance and driven more by emotion than reason doesn’t feel good, I admitted.

Thoughtfully he nodded, and then asked if he might offer his perspective on what I was experiencing. (Of course I said yes – free therapy without even leaving my office!) And then came this wonderfully simple explanation, which in a heartbeat, deepened my understanding of the role of a Waldorf teacher and gave me a new window into my own inner turmoil. “Tracy,” he said gently, “you are doing the work with our community that we as class teachers do with our children. We allow their soul experience to live in us, and whatever lives in their souls bubbles up through us. It is our honest reflection of these feelings, dreams and fears that allows children to work through them.” He went on to add, “The occasional anxiety and uncertainty that you are wrestling with lives in the souls of some members of our community. You are carrying that for us. Your articulating what you are feeling may help those who are struggling to work through their own apprehension, in the same way the children do. “

I instantly recalled a conversation I had that morning with a parent about annual increases in tuition, and their very real worry whether they can afford to send their child here. And the email exchange I had with another family about how their daughter would get to Magnuson Park next year. And the ongoing discussion among our early childhood faculty about full day kindergarten, and the challenge of balancing our pedagogical commitment with meeting the needs of our families. All this uncertainty!

Just having this conversation with my colleague put me more at ease. Saying aloud that there are questions I cannot answer, and plans that could go awry, allowed me to let go of some of this angst. More significantly, I had a brief brush with what it must feel like to be held by a Waldorf teacher – to have someone lovingly carry your soul. What I felt in that instant – my “aha” moment – was gratitude. Overwhelming and totally enveloping gratitude. It was beautiful.

Hoping an “aha” moment comes your way soon!