Everything today is designed to disconnect us from ourselves and from the world. The main challenge of education is to put the human being again in the center of what we try to achieve with students at schools. We talk to mister Henning Kullak-Ublick, representative of Waldorf German Association and Coordinator of Waldorf100 (https://www.waldorf-100.org/), about the importance of triggering the interest of the teachers towards a better understanding of what it means to be a human being.
«Everything is designed nowadays to disconnect us from ourselves and the world»
I think that the main challenge for any education in the future is that we keep the human being in the center of what we try to achieve. The human being in the sense that we try to understand it deeply and to work in how each human-being, each child, each student can relate to its own inner self and at the same time relate to the world.
Many of the things which happen today are designed to disconnect us from ourselves and from the world we are in touch with. So I think that is the main pedagogic challenge above all others. And we have to also relate to other human beings, no matter where they can from, no matter which colour their skin has, no matter which social backgrounds they have, but see the human being as himself. It’s a wonderful challenge because there are so many human being walking out there, that it’s really worth it to study them and to relate to them and that’s our challenge.
The challenge is very big because the forces which want to disconnect us are very strong. I think that the more we collaborate also with other people outside the Waldorf movement to work in the same thing the better it will be. And we can do whatever we can and leave the rests to the Gods.
«The more you know about the human being, the more ideas you get»
It’s very important that as teachers we develop a very strong interest in each individual child. That’s one thing but also at the typical development stages which each human being goes through. Because we are holistic beings, we feel, we act, we think. The more we know about the connection of these soul forces and the connection to our physiological processes the better.
If one child comes into classroom one morning and is pale. And then walks out and has red chicks then you know that something has gone right. But if your child comes into your classroom with red chicks and walks out pale then you know that something has gone very wrong during the lesson. And then you think, «I maybe just talked to the brain of this child», and that is exhausting. So the way you teach goes right to the physiological process of a child.
If teachers are really interested in these processes and really actually study them, study them in theory but also through the experiences, then they will be more and more interested in the children. And the interesting thing is that the more you study the human being the more ideas you get.
And you can see that in the lessons. If you really think about the children and if you practice to perceive each child, for example, if you sit down in the evening and think “what Franco or Lisa wear today?” and sadly you cannot remember, then you will know «I didn’t really perceive this child today» and you watch out even better next day.
So you have to relate to the individual children but you also have to relate to the human development of the whole. And if we practice this with teachers, it’s so interesting, there is nothing more interesting than that and they will love it to develop those skills because each human being is an amazing wonder and the way they relate to each other as well.
So it’s just about triggering the interest in the human being and actually in all beings but that goes even one step further. If the teacher wants to teach in a lively way you must be really interested in what you teach. It’s something that everybody can develop. There are some genius that have been born, who can do this but anyway, most of us has to practice. But we know from practice that it works. If we exchange with each other the experiences we made with the children, not judge the children, but describe the children then the ideas will just come.
Success means that a child or a young person knows what she or he can do and what she or he could do better. That would be success. And if they have the trust, they can actually develop to the point where they can say, “Now it’s good”.
«Exams should show what somebody can do and not what he cannot do»
Life has always challenges and we love challenges in the Waldorf school. Children need challenges, actually teachers need them too, but that’s a different story. So we try to create many ways of actually these children tackle theses challenges.
For example, all the students work in a thing that they choose themselves, is a self-chosen topic, it can be to build a bicycle, build a car, make some scientific research or build a cover or something, they could train a dog… so it’s totally individual but they have to go through this process during the whole year.
After this year they have to reflect on what they do and they have to present it in a written way, they have to present in a talk where they give to the whole school community and they have to, in some way, create something which is also artistic in the way the present it. They show this in the class community, sometimes in the school community, and they get a feedback on what they do and that is necessary. This shows the individual capabilities to themselves and to others whereas if you give marks to children and exams is really nothing more than just to measure the distance towards a very artificial middle line which somebody thought of. So you just measure how lower or higher you are in the way you tackle it.
You can do this (exams) sometimes but it never should be something which decides your chances in your further life, further education. Of course we have to make compromises, we want our students to be able to do all the exams they need for further education after school of course, and that’s a compromise. And of course we bring our students to be able to tackle these exams but the exam in itself in our opinion should show what somebody can do and not measure what he cannot. It’s not a deficit oriented approach, it’s a capability approach what we have.
But this is something part of this whole concept looking at the development of capabilities of the children. It’s not something you use for discipline. Discipline must come because you are such a good teacher and the things you do are so interesting that the children want to go along with you.