Human beings never lose the potential to learn. Are we engendering a momentum for learning in pupils that will accompany them throughout their lives? Education is a continuous challenge. Schooling doesn't stop with the passing of final examinations. Individuals who have learned at school to love learning will go on to be people able to direct their own lives.
Schools are generally believed to have fulfilled their task in education when the hurdles of the final exams have been passed and the former pupils have safely embarked on their training for future vocations or pro-fessions. Waldorf Schools set their sights somewhat higher. Their aim is to equip pupils with the ability to learn independently of exam pressure, to find their own individual methods of learning and to set out on a continuous process of self-education, of taking their own development in hand. Do our pupils acquire the ability to learn from life? That is the question a group of Waldorf teachers will keep asking each other.
Teachers in Waldorf Schools are themselves ready to learn from their pupils, and to work at their own inner development, never to rest on what they have already achieved or merely repeat what worked last time round. They, too, must be prepared to learn from life. Children, however, are in this respect at a great ad-vantage. They bear within themselves the seeds of a future which their teachers will not live to see. Aware-ness of this leads to an openness in the teachers which has its own effect on the children in their classes who will grow up to be people open to what is as yet unknown to any of us - to the future. They experience very vividly that the world is in a permanent process of change, and that all we can do is to accept this fact.
Waldorf teachers have learnt by experience that working at one's own development is a great deal harder than simply imparting information or skills to others. Self-development, coping with one's own difficulties and with the obstacles to inner progress that lie within every one of us, is the main task for anyone involved in education. Learning this, we can at least begin to show the way to the following generation. Trying to over-come one's own aggressions can enable us to help others in the same direction. A young person will only accept guidance based on life experience, not on theory alone.
Daily work in the classroom challenges teachers to regard both what they do and what effect this has on their pupils from an almost detached, more objective point of view. Daily life with children makes our own shortcomings painfully obvious, and setting out to change oneself is about the only sensible thing we can undertake for the sake of the children. Pranks and naughtiness, resistance and lack of discipline are un-pleasantly forceful reminders of the fact that children generally expect more than they are currently getting!
The German poet-philosopher Goethe can be quoted as saying: "Freedom, like itself is only deserved by those who have learnt to grasp it anew with every morning that comes." That might well have been written for anyone teaching in Waldorf Schools! Life doesn't expect people to handle it by following a set of instruc-tions. It expects them to use their imaginations and their common sense. The Waldorf School is a place where one can learn to learn, a school where one can realise that it takes the course of all one's life to be-come someone who is truly a human being.