Waldorf education is an approach to education which aims to support the development of the whole child. This is reflected in what is taught in each class and in how it is taught. In Kindergarten the cultivation of the ability to play allows the imagination to develop. In the Lower School the process through which the pupil becomes conscious of the world is supported and guided by the teacher. Passing through the tumultuous time of adolescence, the ability to think independently awakens in the young person. In the Upper School each one is challenged to exercise this new capacity.
"...we can call a free school a place that gives teachers and educators a chance to put those thoughts into practice in the field of education which they believe to be essential. These thoughts stem from their knowledge of what the human being is, from their knowledge of the world, and from their love of the child's being."
Children are involved in the process of development. All educational endeavour must be related to the fact that development extends from a past into a future. During this process, children undergo radical transformations. The teachers´s love is needed both for the individual child and for the path he or she is following. Knowing children means loving them, and knowing the child, the teacher will strive to serve him or her with care and dedication. When we base love on knowledge and educational endeavour on love, pedagogical work is transformed into art. Waldorf education strives to be aware of this changing relationship between the teacher and the pupils from the younger classes to the Upper School.
On the one hand, the subjects that are taught and the contents of the individual lesson must take into account what children need to be equipped with as they enter into life. On the other hand we need to know what qualities this subject will develop within the pupil and at what age children should be confronted with specific subjects. The subjects that are taught are primarily regarded as a means to educate the child at any given stage of development. The curriculum and the methods of teaching are directed towards letting the children develop in a way appropriate to the specific characteristics of the age they have reached. The developmental needs of the child entering school at about seven years old and continuing through the next few years to about nine are met by an artistic method of teaching by means of imaginative pictures. The relationship between the child and the teacher may be expressed as that of an authority tempered with love. This implies that the teacher strives for qualities such as fairness and patience. Above all, the relationship to the class teacher is central. As the child grows older, competence and of a sense of humour is what is expected from the teacher. After twelve, the children need to feel that there is hardly anything in the world their teacher is not interested in, but they also need to see him as someone involved in a continual process of learning.
With puberty, a new ability emerges in young people. They learn to relate to the facts of the world around them with the whole strength of their personalities. Their judgement comes to the fore and needs to be developed in various directions – as aesthetic judgement, as moral judgement, and as an intellectual judgement based on acquired knowledge of the facts of the world and the laws of logic. The way has to be found from quickly-formed and strongly-held opinions that can border on prejudice, to an individual judgement deliberately achieved and based on independent reasoning. The educator is now expected to stand by the side of the pupils like an older and more experienced friend. In exercising their powers of thought, young people learn to develop an understanding of the world. In experiencing their emotions and learning to handle them, they gradually grow capable of taking an active part in social processes. These aims will never quite be reached, but setting such goals leads to a spontaneous and creative relationship between the teachers and their students.
Wenzel M. Götte