A Gift of Starlight – by Susan Perrow

With warm thanks to Susan Perrow for gifting the CBRSS community this story. 

Please visit Susan’s website for more therapeutic stories. SusanPerrow.com

From Gifts from the Sea by Susan Perrow.

The Prayerful Warrior

By Dennis Klocek January 22, 2021, from dennisklocek.com

The developmental signs of advancement in an alchemical soul practice usually involve some sort of healing crisis brought on by a discharge in the soul of accumulated assumptions and belief structures. Most often these assumptions are not perceived by the student in a conscious way. They arise like dream fragments in the daily life and invade the serenity of the soul with impulses that are definitely not in line with progressive development.

It is usually only after an event or situation has wreaked havoc in our lives that we can dimly divine the deeper meanings and assumptions behind our moments of suffering. We could even say that esoteric development is really the cultivation of the capacity to consciously experience the arising of dysfunctional patterns based on faulty assumptions before taking over our lives. At bottom the capacity to do this recognizing of patterns is really what is known as metanoia or changing the thinking.

Normally when we are under stress our own will comes forward and we use an instinctual force to fight against the intrusion. In this way we act aggressively as warriors towards the threats and stress. In each of the following situations the solution to the dilemma will be approached as a warrior who uses prayer instead of threats and aggression. The idea is that the will force in prayer is what is of importance just as will is the most important force to the conventional warrior. The difference is that in the prayerful warrior there has been some degree of metanoia that allows the will to be employed in a much more whole and creative way.

The alchemical approach to metanoia is known as turning the soul. Turning the soul is the initiating process for any attempt at developing the inner life. There are a few different stages of inner development that can be good signposts to determining how much capacity we have to turn our souls. These signposts are indicators of the direction and intensity of blaming which goes on in our inner dialogue when we are under stressful or threatening situations.

In the first stage, the roots of blaming lie in the firm belief that another person is the source of our misfortune or dissatisfaction. This is known technically in psychology as projection. We project our dissatisfaction on another and then that is the only way we can see the situation. In projection we leave ourselves with no options. The belief structures and the inner dialogues in the projection stage of blaming completely fill the soul with pictures of anger and resentment. While the thinking processes flow into thoughts of justification and retaliation. Some personalities spend whole lifetimes in the first stage of projection. The newspapers are full of stories based upon the belief that someone else is to blame. The whole culture is devoted to finding blame.

As a healing for this first level of soul work there can be attention given to address the Creator in a mood of thanks. Imagine that you have given someone something that has helped them to advance in their lives. Imagine that the person took what you gave and went away without expressing some form of thanks to you. How would you feel? Then imagine that you are the Creator of the World and the beings to whom you have given life and livelihood do not thank you for their gifts but instead spend their days moaning that they have not been met in their needs. Imagine how you would feel. Then give thanks and send prayers of sincere thanks that the Creator is not a vindictive God. This does not have to be long winded but the mood must be sincere. If the affection for the benevolence of the Creator is genuine this is a healing of the tendency to project blame on others. The returning prodigal has little time for resentment or casting blame on others.

Rudolf Steiner suggests that we imagine that the person whom we are blaming was denied an opportunity that was given to us instead. It was that denied opportunity that was the source of their downfall into the state for which we are blaming them. Imagine this and then give a prayer of thanks to the Creator for the blessings that have been given to you in your life. Then send a prayer of humility to the angel of the other person for judging them, in your ignorance, to be so bad.

Using prayers like this over time it may be that our soul comes to realize that the others are not really to blame for our misfortunes. We see that there are patterns in our lives that have to do with inabilities on our own part. This is a healing but it often leads to the second stage of blaming.

In the second level of blaming we have a sudden realization that we are to blame for most of our dysfunctional experiences. This is a tough one since when this level is realized we become doubly mortified; once for truly being to blame, and once for having, up to the present moment, blamed everyone else. This level of blaming is a burning process with very intense flames of shame and blame. Working in this stage for extended periods can be a dangerous and unbalancing activity for the soul. Sooner or later however the self blaming will become bothersome and boring even to ourselves. When any form of blaming is no longer a reasonable option then that is the sign that the capacity of Moral Imagination is unfolding in the soul. It is then that we are truly on the threshold of turning the soul towards Inspiration.

The life of prayer in this stage can be focused on the use of what could be called creative suffering. No one develops their soul forces without owning their own projections, this is a fierce suffering which is often self inflicted. In the alchemical language this stage is called cooking and eating the shadow. It can lead to deep characterological problems such as depression. In our suffering we can no longer blame others that is clear. But someone must be to blame. Around and around we go getting ever more tightly wound. In these dark hours it is useful to dedicate our suffering to another whom we deem is suffering a bit more than we are. It could be a sick person or a more severely depressed person. We picture that person and we ask our angel or the Christ Being to please take the will forces that we are learning to develop in our trials and apply them to the account of the other person who is more needy than ourselves.

By the incredible action of the spirit every force that is so designated for another has a healing force on the giver and the recipient. It is like a two-for-one deal with the Christ. Of course we cannot pray in this way with the idea that we will also be the recipient and do not be tempted into imagining that the other person will be made well by your prayers. That is called petitionary prayer. It is an inflation and will nullify any will force which you can contribute to the other. Simply imagine that your prayers are like a good home cooked meal that you place before the other by means of your angel. Simply paying attention to the other person in their suffering is a good prayer. Dedicating your own suffering as a help towards the other is a doubly effective prayer. While immersed in this type of prayer activity we do not sit and suffer and be tempted back into blaming. The other person benefits with help they get in the spirit through your purified will. In this type of prayer your imagination is made into a moral force. Your inner picturing can then be called Moral Imagination.

In Moral Imagination we work with the force of the realization that blaming itself is a useless waste of human life. No one wins in a blaming situation, neither the blamer nor the blamee. We see blame as the work of the adversarial spiritual beings who deceive humans into inflation and projection, activities that always result in blaming. The deceptions of the adversaries are the ways in which they cover up their own hidden roles in the ongoing fantasy lives of humans.

When a human fully realizes that there is actually no blame this is usually simultaneous with the counter realization that there really must be an accounting of our actions. This is the realization of the cosmic nature of karma. This is a deep puzzle to a soul that is habitually used to blaming others. The challenge of accounting with no blame brings to the fore the Moral Imaginative forces in the human soul. It is with these forces that the human develops the capacity and will to make atonement for being a willing yet unconscious accomplice to transgressions against the progressive Will of the Creator. With Moral Imaginative forces the human being hungers and thirsts after righteousness without a thought of revenge. At the level of Moral Imagination the soul comes into contact with the higher spiritual members of its own being. This is a foundation for metanoia. The actual willed deed that brings about metanoia is the turning of the soul. While turning the soul the student must encounter the laws of karma.

Click to read the full article

Compassion and Forgiveness

Brian is a wonderful, warm and articulate presenter with vast Anthroposophical knowledge, he has been an invaluable resource for the CBRSS study group “SoL Circle” since it began in 2015 and we would all recommend this video as a must-watch. This has been a favourite video of mine for a long time and every time I watch it I gain a deeper insight on how to work with compassion and forgiveness, may we all develop such capacities within ourselves to the fullest as the world has great need of it! Yvette 

(fromwisecosmos.org)Brian Gray is a Founding Member of Wise Cosmos Educational Initiative and is its current President of the Board of Directors.  Brian is a teacher, lecturer, and writer on many topics drawn from Anthroposophy – the work of Rudolf Steiner.  He loves to share research from the realms of star wisdom, biography, cosmology, Waldorf Education, sacred architecture, and esoteric Christianity. Brian was a core faculty member at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, California for 38 years, and also served as RSC’s Director of the Foundation Program from 1991-1998, and again from 2006-2016.

Wisecosmos Educational Initiative has a wonderful website offering videos on a range of Anthroposophical topics, both paid and free options are available. Please visit their website for inspiration wisecosmos.org

From Youtube about this video: Brian Gray of Rudolf Steiner College traces how longing, suffering and self-involvement can gradually be re-directed toward interest in and understanding of others, compassion, forgiveness and love. Irène Francois introduces Brian Gray and Robert McDermott of CIIS. These talks were given at the San Francisco Waldorf Teacher Education Program of Rudolf Steiner College, on March 31, 2012.

Click the link to watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTGMbotgMY4

There was once a garden…

From the Goetheanum newsletter

The Goetheanum is affected by the current health regulations. In a series of articles, members of the Goetheanum Leadership give expression to their views of the present situation. Here, Philipp Reubke asks about the human soul in the midst of today’s crises.

“Il y avait un jardin, qu’on appelait la Terre …”[1] When Georges Moustaki performed this song in 1971, he touched the hearts of the youth of that time. For the children growing up surrounded by steel, concrete and asphalt, Moustaki sang about a virginal planet Earth that provided wonderful sense impressions throughout the seasons and that had all but disappeared:

There was once a garden called Earth,
Where is this garden wherein we could have been born,
Wherein we could have lived free from care,
Where is the house with doors all open
That I look for everywhere and cannot find?[2]

The study The Limits to Growth met with lively interest when it was published in 1972 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on behalf of the Club of Rome. To this day more than 30 million copies have been sold, in 30 languages.[3] A book published in 1975 by a German politician, entitled ‘A planet is being looted’, remained on the list of bestsellers for weeks.[4]

These songs, studies, books have been having an impact for fifty years. Nutrition, agriculture, architecture, energy, waste management, traffic – in most areas of life and technology, many people have adopted new habits which, in the early 1970s, were derided by others. What can we do to stop or to counteract this frantic exploitation? The situation has hardly changed. The IPCC report of August 2021 reads more worryingly than any previous ones: climate change is happening faster and is more momentous.”[5]

We’ve got used to it …
Amongst the chorus of answers and initiatives one also hears voices which claim that the climate can only really be protected by limiting the freedom of the individual. The situation was so dramatic, they say, that people needed to be forced to behave in ways that are less damaging to the environment.[6] In order to achieve what is good and reasonable for all, individual freedom needs to be curtailed. Ideas arising spontaneously from one’s head and heart can be dangerous. A social credit system – the attempt to control people by giving ‘points’ for desirable behaviour and withholding them for undesirable behaviour – is not only used in China but welcomed by most Americans.[7]

Currently, we see a similar approach in relation to health questions. The Green Pass (which proves that the holder has either had Covid, been vaccinated or tested negative) indirectly introduces compulsory vaccination, if people are forced to pay for their tests. Those who sacrifice their individual freedom in favour of what is seen as being in the best interest of all are seen as morally laudable. This did not start with Covid-19, however. Looking back on the first two decades of a century that began with 9/11, the French lawyer François Sureau wrote as early as September 2019, “We have got used to living without freedom. It is not new that freedom is a thorn in the flesh of the rulers. What is new is that the citizens accept this out of fear.”[8]

Some accept this authoritative approach because it promises to conquer evil, crime, illness and death. Why does it not sit well with others? Because they feel that, along with the freedom, any sense of responsibility, inner development and culture will also disappear.

Looking at education
Young children learn to stand up, walk, speak, think, discover the world – but not by being ordered or forbidden to do things, by targeted training and explanations. Children don’t learn out of obedience but because they want to learn. They will do all these things out of love for the people around them. Emmi Pikler was quite radical in pointing out what happens when we always assist children. “It is essential that children can discover as much of the world as possible by themselves. If we assist them with all these tasks, we deprive them precisely of what is most important for their intellectual development.”[9] The musician and educator Heinrich Jacoby was convinced that “Rules, unsuitable questions and hasty assistance hinder child development. Children lose the ability and courage to try out things for themselves, to improvise and express themselves spontaneously.”[10]

Rudolf Steiner thought that “Children instinctively react against conscious attempts at exerting influence on them, particularly in the first two and a half years.”[11] He even thought that educating with rules at this age was not only soul-destroying but even had a detrimental effect on the body. “If we start much too early with getting children to stand up or walk, we ruin their nervous processes for life.”[12]

It seems obvious with young children: if we constantly steer them like puppets, their strength of will, love for the world and joy in learning and developing will wither away. Waldorf Education has always aimed to develop strength and sensitivity in children by stimulating them to be active in their thinking, feeling and will. Activity and learning must not be motivated by either reward or punishment, but by joy and interest. [13] This continuous stimulation towards an active life of soul aims to help children and young people to find their own interests in life and to act responsibly in society of their own accord.

It doesn’t seem so serious when adults are being led like puppets to do the right thing – either subtly through manipulation, more obviously through punishment and reward, or tyrannically by being forbidden their own ideas or practical alternatives. It is, after all, in the interest of health and survival. The question that is controversial is whether these measures actually serve a good purpose. But would it not be more to the point to ask whether adults are not in a similar danger to children: will their soul and spirit not wither away if they are kept in leading-strings and forced to do what seems good and sensible? If they are no longer given the possibility to recognize for themselves and support what is good?

Individualized ethics
Are not free initiative, joy in experimenting and ‘learning through error’ conditions for a living culture and science? Is the possibility to choose the wrong option not prerequisite to moral progress? Rudolf Steiner was quite emphatic in saying that “it is moral progress when we no longer simply accept the commands of an outer or inner authority as the motive of our actions, but strive to understand the reason why some maxim or other should motivate our actions.”[14] The ethical individualism he advocated throughout his life entails that we learn not to be guided by either personal preferences or normative regulations. “Actions are therefore neither stereotyped, merely following some rule, nor are they performed automatically, in response to an outer impact. They are simply determined by their own ideal content.”[15]

Then social responsibility no longer needs to be the opposite of individual freedom. Choosing freely to be responsible for others enhances my development. Just as the young child’s self-motivation is destroyed by guided learning, the adult’s own will to develop is destroyed by generalized ethical precepts. Rudolf Steiner asks us to “Act so that the principles of your actions may be valid for all people. […] This principle means death to any individually motivated actions.”[16]

Is this not why the environmental crisis has continued to grow, even after 50 years of non-interference with individual freedom, why we don’t trust each other to resolve the health crisis with means other than massive restrictions of freedom? The “individual motives” have become all but ineffective: only few people continue to believe that they may be holding the seed for healing the earthly and social organisms.

What would Georges Moustaki, who died in 2013, sing today? Would he dedicate his song to people growing up in an environment governed by prohibition, punishment and supervision?

There once was a garden called human soul,
wherein wonderful feelings, thoughts and impulses grew freely.
Where is this garden wherein the free spirit could have been born,
where is the heart with doors wide open to all beings and all dimensions,
I am looking for it but cannot find it yet!

[1] There once was a garden called earth
[2] Où est-il ce jardin où nous aurions pu naître / Où nous aurions pu vivre insouciants et nus / Où est cette maison toutes portes ouvertes / Que je cherche encore et que je ne trouve plus?
[3] The Limits to Growth
[4] Herbert Gruhl: Ein Planet wird geplündert. Die Schreckensbilanz unserer Politik [A planet is being looted. The terrifying consequences of our policies], Frankfurt, S. Fischer 1975
[5] IPCC report: climate change is progressing faster and more seriously
[6] «Décarboner vraiment, c’est rompre avec les libertés individuelles, voire avec le pacte démocratique »
[7] «Nevertheless, many generally agree with the underlying idea of social ratings: 70% say it is fair and right to limit access to public resources (transport, education, housing, etc.) based on people’s behavior.”
[8] «Il n’est pas nouveau que les gouvernants s’impatientent de la liberté. Il est plus étonnant que le citoyen y consente, parce qu’il est inquiet bien sûr… »
[9] Quoted in Erzieherauge
[10] Quoted in Heinrich Jacoby
[11] Rudolf Steiner: Soul Economy and Waldorf Education, GA 303, Lecture 7.
[12] Ibid.
[13] There are only three means of education: fear, ambition and love. We will do without the first two…. Cf. Martin Carle, Furcht, Ehrgeiz und Liebe im Klassenzimmer, in: Erziehungskunst October 2019
[14] Rudolf Steiner: The Philosophy of Freedom, GA 4, Chapter 9 (The Idea of Freedom)
[15] ibid.
[16] ibid.

English by Margot M. Saar

Creativity and innovation – challenge your thinking!

By Theresa Sayn Wittgenstein Piraccini who has been class teacher, educational leader and CEO of Steiner Education Australia. She was a member of the International Forum for Steiner/Waldorf Education and is currently Principal at Michael Park School, a Steiner school in Auckland, New Zealand. (Article dated November 2017.)

From WaldorfResources.org

Becoming a Steiner teacher certainly helped me to further develop my creativity and imagination, however I never really thought about ‘innovation’ or what this might mean and generally used the words, creativity and innovation a bit interchangeably. My focus as a class teacher was to develop the children’s imagination through an artistic way of teaching and it is only recently that I have really been thinking about the true meaning of innovation and my ideas have been gradually forming themselves.

It began one day about seven years ago. I was visiting an established Steiner school and asked what innovative things they might have been doing. A teacher told me quite adamantly – ‘we don’t innovate, we follow Rudolf Steiner’s indications’. I was slightly shocked and this was the beginning of my reflective process. I believe this type of thinking which permeates our schools in different ways can be stifling, as Steiner said “never to grow stale or sour and know what is happening in the world.” (1) Therefore, to only follow Steiner’s pedagogical indications and limit yourself to other ideas, would mean being closed to exploring new opportunities, or to see what other things might be happening in education, or what the needs are of students today and into the future.

Of course, we can and should study Rudolf Steiner’s indications and relate them to our teaching and ways of working in the world and also our inner life. But we must also have an open mind, keeping our thoughts alive and constantly reflecting on what we do, why we do it, how can we create new ideas, create a better environment for the children, and most importantly, be eternally creative within ourselves.

To have the power of imagination, Steiner wanted us to have a relationship to the spiritual world. Steiner gave us key indications at the end of the fourteenth lecture of “The Foundations of Human Experience” (1):

“Imbue thyself with the power of imagination

Have courage for the truth

Sharpen thy feeling for responsibility of soul”

A couple of years ago I was invited to write a chapter in a book “Teaching with spirit: new perspectives on Steiner Education in Australia” (2). I decided on the topic “Innovations and challenges in Steiner Education”.

I truly had to think hard – are Steiner schools really innovative? What are the differences between artistic teaching, creativity and innovation and how do we work out of Steiner’s philosophy and pedagogy but be open to the ideas of others? These thoughts were initiated by the comment from the colleague who said that ‘in Steiner schools we do not innovate, we only follow Rudolf Steiner’s indications’.

Following the Waldorf World Teachers’ Conference in 2008, I also had the opportunity to discuss with many teachers about how Australia might be different to Europe and the rest of the world in its implementation of Steiner education. There were many countries represented and teachers discussed the strong European influence on the Waldorf curriculum and how they were all adapting to the needs of their country, location, religious influences and historical contexts. I then reflected on what Burrows, L and Stehlik, T. wrote in their introduction to their book:

“…it is indeed timely to begin generating our own grassroots approach to Steiner education in Australia arising out of our own unique context and land, inclusive of local and global knowing and practice.” (2)

They also wrote:

“…in the light of new technologies and social forms, globalisation, inclusion, mass communication and evolving trends in education – it [is] timely to review just how Steiner education in Australia has managed to maintain a commitment to the original indications and impulse of that first school and curriculum over the last fifty-five years, while also adapting to and acknowledging local and contemporary impulses and contexts, including the unique indigenous history and multicultural origins of our modern society.“

I was then inspired by reading a book a few years ago called “World Class Learners” by international educational leader, Yong Zhao (3) and finally heard him speak at a leadership conference last year in Sydney about the importance of the entrepreneurial spirit in the 21st century and his research about what types of jobs might be required for the future. Researchers believe that kindergarten students today may need to invent their own jobs when they go into the workforce, or that as adults they might change their career over 10 times! This means they will need to have certain qualities in order to be successful in the future global economy where automation and high scale production of Western goods in the East, will decrease job opportunities in currently prosperous economies.

Yong Zhao states:

“To prepare global, creative and entrepreneurial talents … The most desirable education, of course, is one that enhances human curiosity and creativity, encourages risk taking, and cultivates the entrepreneurial spirit in the context of globalization.” (3)

I ask myself, how can Steiner education do better in developing these qualities?

What will life even be like in 2028? The Centre Online has published a video which I recommend. (4)

How do we prepare kindergarten students for this ever-changing world? Change has never been so rapid as it has been in the past few decades, or in Steiner’s time. The Steiner education movement in each country continually discuss what curriculum changes might be required and how teaching practice and the way we work with students and parents in our communities can continually improve. Not change, for change sake, but really deeply examine with an open mind how our pedagogy meets the needs of the future, always with the foundation of the unfolding consciousness of the human being as its core.

To be truly honest, I believe we can sometimes be a little bit arrogant in Steiner schools, thinking that our way is the only way and we close our minds to opportunities that could well benefit our students, or we dogmatically stick to what we have always done. Christof Wiechert also spoke about this at the Steiner Education Australia conference in July 2017 in Sydney and encouraged us all to deeply reflect on what we do and why. To challenge the status quo.

I was asked to present at a non-Steiner contemporary education conference “K-12 Cultural Innovation” in 2016. Now this really made me think. Are we innovative? The presentation was to be on one of the following themes:

· What are some of the new and emerging concepts that distinguish traditional ideas of schooling from the schools of the future?

· Social purposes of a school

· With changing contexts has there been a change in how our schools are administered?

· How can we embed a culture of change, inquiry and innovation into our schools so that it percolates to every level?

I decided to present on the fourth point, culture of change, inquiry and innovation, hoping that others there would be impressed with what we do and think that was creative or possibly innovative. I outlined innovations in physical spaces, our beautiful learning environments, and teaching practices I hoped they would find innovative.

But to be honest, I was totally humbled by some of the presentations at this conference from other independent schools and state schools. I was greatly impressed, as they showed not only creativity, but a real will to implement radical ideas, test them, review them and prove how they had improved student learning, well-being or social inclusion. Some of their ideas we would never contemplate in a Steiner school, but it didn’t mean they weren’t successful innovations.

Terminology

Discussions about innovation are often made difficult because people are unclear about the exact meanings of some key terms. In particular there is confusion about the difference between creativity, innovation and invention.

There are many definitions but here are some:

Creativity is the capability or act of conceiving something original or unusual.”

Innovation is the implementation of something new.”

Invention is the creation of something that has never been made before and is recognized as the product of some unique insight.”

If you have a group brainstorm and dream up dozens of new ideas, then you have displayed creativity, but there is no innovation until something gets implemented. So is innovation about will development?

Somebody has to take a risk and deliver something new for a creative idea to be turned into an innovation. I believe Rudolf Steiner was an innovator! Most likely every aspect of school life can be targeted for innovation.

Innovations can be incremental or radical. Every improvement that you make in products or services can be seen as an incremental innovation. Most businesses and most managers are good at incremental innovation. They see problems in the current set-up and they fix them. However, radical innovations involve finding an entirely new way to do things therefore they might be risky or difficult to implement.

The reality of schooling today in many countries worldwide is that we have an increased compliance framework, so this is calling on us all to remain creative and implement innovative action to protect the integrity of Steiner education, whilst being accountable and responsible to external requirements. But we must also be open to questioning past practices and determine if it is routine, rhythm or just the way we have always done things around here.

Are you as a teacher creative? I am sure you would all say you were. So now think … are you innovative?

How many teachers borrow programs from each other? Of course, it is good not to reinvent the wheel and we are all very busy people, but think of a time when it was your best lesson, or best story, when the children were truly inspired and engaged or came up with a new way of doing something. Was it a time when you had borrowed something from another teacher or had you really worked at it yourself to create out of your own imagination and implement in the classroom? Or both?

Anthroposophical Principles

To return to Steiner’s quote, „Imbue thyself with the power of imagination“, Steiner is also asking us to call on the spiritual world to support our work, by developing a rich inner life.

Steiner gives us many ways to move forward (or in circles!) on this inner path of knowledge, of working with the spiritual hierarchies and through his lectures and writings he implores teachers as a collective group to work with each other’s strengths. Steiner provided teachers with the College Imagination to call on the support of the spiritual world. This Imagination gives us the inner picture we need for our work and helps us to understand that the Angelic realm unites us with our Strength, a chalice of Courage is formed by the weaving of the Archangels and in this chalice, is placed a drop of Light, of Wisdom, of Inspiration from the Archai.

This brings me to my deeper reflections of what innovation means in the light of anthroposophy.

We might be inspired to create something new (Light of Wisdom), but we must also have the courage to bring a new idea, even if seen as radical, and not be afraid of being criticised by dogmatic, close minded responses, or bogged down by tradition, sleepy with routine and rhythm. When we receive this light of inspiration, to create something new, to form a new idea, then we must also have the strength of WILL to implement it, others we are sleepy with creativity but never truly innovative.

This is what I believe is the difference between creativity and innovation. Steiner gave us a rich tapestry of understanding of the human being and a philosophy by which we can be guided, we just need to recreate his words into what is meaningful for us. It is a fine line between artistic, creative sleepiness and strength of will –to dare to be different, to dare to try new things. To be a risk taker, not risk averse.

We must be role models for our students, so I feel it is important to be innovative, to find new ways of being the risk takers of the world, to model integrity and to be accountable.

Steiner teachers can become very indignant about compliance requirements and then bemoan that their creativity is being stifled. I challenge this type of thinking and I am tired of hearing the complaints as this is the world we live in therefore we need to work in it. Steiner gave us many tools to work our way through what we will face in our time. Think of the Michael Verse by Steiner:

“We must eradicate from the soul

All fear and terror of what comes to meet us from the future

We must look forward with absolute equanimity to whatever comes

For whatever comes is given us by a world direction full of wisdom

It is part of what we must learn in this age

Namely, to act out of pure trust, in the ever-present help of spiritual worlds

Truly, nothing else will do if our courage is not to fail us.

Let us discipline our will, and let us seek the awakening from within ourselves

Every morning and every evening.“ (5)

· Trust in the spiritual worlds – you will receive the drop of light you need, of inspiration to teach artistically, creatively and with a rich inner life.

· Have courage for the truth – be courageous in your ability to speak up and offer something different and be open-minded to others’ ideas.

· Finally discipline your will – turn creative ideas into innovative action – implement!

How many times have you sat in College meetings having brainstorm sessions and great ideas come up, are written down on the board, but nothing ever happens, or maybe a few small things and possibly another year later you are again brainstorming almost the exact same theme?

To truly know the world, look deeply within your own being; to truly know yourself, take a real interest in the world.“ (6)

Before we can have creative, innovative students, we must have creative, innovative teachers! We must prepare young people for the future, for life, not just a job. Many school reforms implemented by policy makers around the world are based on the premise that education is to get a job to keep the economy going. But in Steiner schools we see young people as spiritual beings, unfolding their consciousness in developmental phases and so we base our educational approach on the developmental stages Steiner outlines so well.

However, I challenge you to think …are we stuck? Are we too focused on year by year development? Young people are changing, as their world is changing. The child of 1919 is not the child of 2017. Steiner education is almost 100 years old, therefore we need to deeply observe our students and meet their needs in today’s contemporary society and all its challenges. Global consciousness is impacting on young people as the world is brought to them through tiny digital devices. There are no boundaries, no safety nets anymore. They can only rely on themselves therefore we must find innovative ways to build resilience in young people.

I believe the stages of development as outlined by Steiner are absolutely correct, you can see it unfold in the children’s behaviour, and way of being. But I know that my first class were totally different to my second class and that children today are different to them and so on. Parents are different. Their expectations are different, their fears are greater.

So if children are different and parents are different, why do we ‘mostly’ stick to what we always do without real discussion and the trialling of some innovative ideas? We stubbornly stick to our age grouped classes, yet the smaller new schools are having to manage classes with children spanning 4 years. They are coming up with innovations every day.

Some schools are actually trying new things. One school is conducting Main lesson in middle lesson time for the middle school students as brain research showed adolescent sleep patterns concluding they are too sleepy first thing in the morning to really learn. This same school has a high school maths class with blackboards all around the walls and the students stand up and work in groups to solve maths problems. Another high school has main lessons as the last lesson of the day and ‘will’ activities in the morning to wake up sleepy adolescents.

Schools around the world are becoming ‘movable classrooms’ and all desks and chairs for Class 1 and 2 removed and replaced with light, movable benches and cushions. These schools are implementing review processes to determine the benefits or otherwise of these innovations. I applaud them for trying something against the ‘Steiner norm’.

But I only have a few innovative stories. I am sure there are more but I don’t always hear them. Sometimes this is because people will think what they are doing is ‘not Steiner’ so they hide under the radar for fear of being branded by the dogmatic.

The exciting thing is that creativity is occurring everyday (our heart forces) so we have many opportunities to be innovative, we only have to harness our will and make it happen, then reflect (thinking) on whether it works! Teachers must make evaluative decisions daily, which then impact on their students and qualities they value and how they perceive themselves as learners. This is responsibility of soul, of the soul life of each child in your care.

So I return to Steiner’s last words at the end of Study of Man:

“Imbue thyself with the power of imagination

Have courage for the truth

Sharpen thy feeling for responsibility of soul” (1)

Finally, the OECD states that the over-arching goal of education now is adaptability. “The ability to apply meaningfully learned knowledge and skills flexibly and creatively to different situations” (7)

Are we too routine? Too rhythmical? Too focused on the beautiful blackboard drawings reproduced in beautiful main lesson books? Will we be seen as schools left behind in the industrial revolution model with wooden desks, blackboards and children in rows, or will we be seen as leaders in the educational field, contemporary and fostering qualities in young people they will need for the future?

We have the opportunity to be educational leaders as many educators today are talking about things we have been doing for years, such as moral, ethical, artistic education, focusing on the whole child, balancing the physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. To do this, we need to be on the front foot, be a bit daring, innovative and adaptive to a changing world. What will this look like and what will it mean for teachers in their daily task?

Bibliography

1) Steiner, R. The Study of Man. Lecture: S-3801: 21st August, 1919. GA 0293.

2) Burrows, L. and Stehlik, T. 2014. Teaching with Spirit: New Perspectives on Steiner Education in Australia. I B Publications Pty, Limited. NSW Australia.

3) Zhao, Yong. 2012. World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students. SAGE Publications Ltd. London, United Kingdom.

4) The Centre online, 29.12.2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpEFjWbXog0

5) Steiner, Rudolf: Erkenntnis und Unsterblichkeit, Öffentlicher Vortrag, Bremen, 27.11.1910

6) Steiner, Rudolf: Steiner Verses and Meditations. Rudolf Steiner Press. 2004

7) Lucas. B., Claxton, G., Spencer, E. 2013. Expansive Education: Teaching learners for the real world. ACER press. Australia.