“Receive the children with reverence, educate them in love and send them forth in freedom” – Rudolf Steiner
We, as teachers in a Waldorf School, recite this verse often and strive to practise it daily. For me, the first two are much easier to accomplish than the last, as I am still trying to fully understand this part of the verse.
I have the privilege and honour of having led, mentored and journeyed with a group of students every year for the past four years, called the Student Forum. They have all been through a process of being nominated and seconded by their fellow students, creating a poster showing what they stand for and then being voted in to represent their particular class. Through this process, the children learn how to sell themselves, clarify what they stand for and clearly state which of their character traits would enable them to best represent and stand up for their fellow students. After being voted in, they meet once a week to bring their class concerns to the rest of the representatives and then try to find solutions or re-route the problems that they cannot deal with to other relevant groups and committees in the school. These concerns range from not having a bench to sit on in the garden, broken toilet doors, staging and organising fundraisers and socials, to complaints about lessons and teachers.
Over the last few months, many questions have arisen as to the relevance, purpose and need for such a group in the High School. In my experience, young people are so much more vocal these days and will often provide unfettered feedback on anything and everything, especially in a Waldorf school where they are taught to think critically and express themselves articulately.
“Our highest endeavour must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility—these three forces are the very nerve of education.” – Rudolf Steiner
Should we as parents, teachers and guardians allow them the freedom to do this? Is this the endpoint of receiving them with reverence, awe and serenity and educating them with love?
Of course, we should! However, this feedback has to be done in a responsible and reflective way that respects and offers solutions and does not come across as just critical or disrespectful. Can the Student Forum teach this to our students? Is it a group that has value at a school like Michael Oak? Does it fit with the ethos and pedagogy of a Waldorf School? Do the students themselves see a place and a value for a student leadership body?
We are asking these questions in the High School and I hope that we will soon have the answers.