Blog_March_8.17

Reflection on Vital Virtues

March 08, 2017 in Inside SWS
During the February break, Waldorf teachers from around this region gathered at our high school campus for the annual AWSNA teachers’ conference. It was a wonderful opportunity to step out of the day-to-day work that we do in the classrooms and reflect on and reexamine our education movement through new lenses. The conference was co-led by John Bloom, vice president for Organizational Culture at RSF Social Finance, and Douglas Gerwin, director of the Center for Anthroposophy.

While John helped us examine our relationships with money, Douglas, who also gave a Parent Education lecture in February, spoke with teachers about the three virtues that are essential for a healthy institution. These he said were Faith (not blind faith but a type that is embedded in knowledge), Love, and Hope. And while we strive to live into the light of each of the virtues, we are also vulnerable to each virtue’s own shadow: Doubt (shadow of Faith), Hate (shadow of Love), and Fear (shadow of Hope).

During our recent election season and the many events since, we have had to awaken to tremendous amounts of doubt, fear, and even hate in our country, much of which we had been blind to. And we’ve had to ask many difficult questions in recent months. How do we see these events and not feel despair? How do we not numb ourselves or become disengaged from the world? How do we see these shadows, really see them, and then awaken to our task of transforming ourselves to live into the light of these virtues? How do we raise and educate children in this world context?

I’ve discovered there is hope. Let’s take the virtue of Love for example. Love, we might say, is the capacity to discern the divine spark in every human being. When we lose sight of the divine spark of someone else, Hate arises. Not just “hateful” people, but I think we are all vulnerable to this. Yes, well-meaning Seattleites too…  So, once we fall into Hate, how do we move back towards Love?

The logical step would be to make a reconnection. But that is far easier said than done. The underlying capacity that we can develop is Imagination — to be in one position, step into another, and then come back into one’s own — for if we truly step into another’s shoes it is impossible to hate him or her. This ability to rock from one perspective to another opens the possibility for reconnection and thus back to Love.

Here I think the strength of Waldorf education really comes in. Daily the children hear stories, and in the process picture themselves into the scenes and characters that are described. In the following days, we work with what arose in their imagination.

On one of the days during the week before our break, I asked each desk group of four children to reflect upon the story from the day before, to talk amongst themselves what left a strong impression, then choose a scene that they could collectively express as a statue using only their bodies. I then asked them to agree upon and write down the title of their sculpture. Each group came up to the front of the classroom to present their human sculpture and held the pose for five seconds. We had a chance to guess the title before they revealed what they had written.

 Here are some of the titles:

 

The lonely village
Spirits of the brothers wandering
Three boys crossing the lake to hunt
A raven sat on a totem pole
The three brothers walked into the lodge
Brothers setting up camp in the mist

 

There are many skills I am asking them to exercise – social, academic, and also artistic. But underlying all these skills, and what determines the success of such work, is the health and the strength of the children’s Imagination; this important capacity can loosen us from the grip of Hate and help us lean into the light of Love. I believe this is one reason why we actively cultivate and nurture the capacity of Imagination as a central part of our children’s education.

Article by Daichi Hirata (grade two class teacher at the Meadowbrook campus and SWS alum), published in the Chalkboard newsletter on 3.8.2017.