Staying the Course

February 01, 2017 in Inside SWS

Last Thursday a class teacher turned to me following the morning verse and asked imploringly, “What can we do?” Her pain was evident as her queries continued to come forth. “What is our responsibility as teachers and adults to these children we are holding? Shouldn’t we do something more?” I carried her questions with me as I went through my day, while catching bits and pieces of national news between meetings.

That evening I attended the Meadowbrook Parent Association’s Equity Committee meeting, where our conversation centered on how to engage our community in dialogue around issues of inclusion, social justice, and diversity. On Saturday morning I joined Three Cedars families at the Sharing Assembly, where I heard second graders recite Maya Angelou’s poem, “Human Family” and fifth graders sing “Finlandia (Song of Peace).” Saturday evening took me to the High School for the eleventh grade production of “The Crucible,” a dramatization of the Salem witch trials written during the dark period of McCarthyism in the 1950s.

Like clouds parting, the answer to my colleague’s questions became clear. We stay the course, with greater confidence and intention than ever before. We do what we have been doing for 36 years, and Waldorf schools around the world for nearly a century. We develop truly human beings, with the capacity for empathy and compassion, a thirst for curiosity and creativity, and a passion for the pursuit of self-knowledge and truth. As a community we will nurture a culture of kindness and respect, foster an ethos of inclusion and equity, and nourish a sense of wonder and joy.

Writing in post-World War I Germany, Steiner had questions as well. Speaking to prospective parents in 1919, he said, “We look lovingly at our children, at the next generation, and we, particularly those who are parents, often have misgivings in our hearts. How will our loved ones fit into a society that must be so different from that of the present? Will they be equal to the new social challenge coming to humanity? Will they be capable of contributing to the formation of society, so that those who come after us will have it other than we have had, will have, in a much different sense, a more humane existence than we have had?” From this emerged the first Waldorf school, rooted in the belief that teachers and parents working in partnership, through a new educational system and pedagogy, can offer children “a truly humane upbringing and humane education.” This, in turn, “will help us to come to a better, more humane existence in social organization.” He offered a path forward, which we continue to walk down 100 years later.

A parent sent the message below, which offers a compelling and heartening inspiration for our work with students every day:

“Today, more than ever, I see the importance of surrounding them with the love, kindness, respect and empathy that the community at SWS provides. I feel so incredibly fortunate to be a part of this community. It is sometimes easy to become consumed by these dark days we are in. I find myself struggling to make sense of the world around me, and struggling even more with explaining it to my children. But every morning when I send my children off to class I breathe a huge sigh of relief, knowing that they spend their day held in such gentle and thoughtful care.”

With courage and conviction, we will stay the course.