For those who do not know, Dornach and the Goeteanum are the headquarters of the movement founded by Rudolf Steiner known as anthroposophy, or the wisdom of humanity. Two weeks ago the World Teacher’s Conference was held at the Goetheanum and I was lucky enough to be able to attend, along with teachers from over 60 countries. I had the chance to talk with teachers from Taiwan, Tanzania, Australia, Japan, Russia, Peru, Argentina, and Portugal, along with many others from schools nearby in Europe for whom travel to Switzerland is only a short car ride away. The keynote speakers and workshops brought key ideas which continue to inspire and intrigue me. Other insights came from the experience of just being in this remarkable place.
The current building called the Goetemann rose out of the tragedy of the burning, by arson, of the first Goetheanum shortly after it was completed. The second Geoteanum was not completed until after Rudolf Steiner’s death.
It was completed, as I read it, to be a love letter to a Steiner who was enormously influential in the lives of many people of the time and whose insights still ripple out today through the arts, education, farming, and medicine. My first impression of the building was that it is enormous. It takes up what could be considered a city block and it is at least 5 stories tall. Within the building itself there is a performance hall, kitchens, conference space, a bookstore, art galleries, and classrooms. Spending a week in the shadow of the Geoteanum was both a privilege and an inspiration. After meeting people from around the world who are striving, sometimes in very difficult circumstances, to bring this form of education to children from varied backgrounds, I have high hopes for the future of our worldwide movement of Waldorf Education.
As Waldorf teachers, our task of self-education and self-development is never done. Learning from our peers and the children, our community and the world, continues long after any formal training. Having keynote speakers from around the world share their take on Waldorf Education and the philosophy behind it was especially inspiring. A few highlights from the speakers were the joy and benefit of simply walking, especially in nature (from a teacher for whom the Israeli desert was her children’s destination). We were reminded of the rhythmic nature of walking, the joy of experiencing nature around us, and the deep peace provided by silence and solitude. Another speaker touched on how our experiential education lifts children out of their self-centered point of view by encouraging observation and objectivity to find the true reality, while at the same time the warmth of the teacher draws students’ interest and encourages imaginative discoveries. I spent 5 days exploring the nature of free play in a mixed Portuguese/Spanish/English language classroom. Together we expanded our perception of the innate wisdom of the child, regardless of age or location, to find the flow and creative forces to guide and support their own growth. In artistic workshops, I sang, drew and created a 4 foot-high sculpture with women from Denmark, Australia. and South Africa. Finally, I was able to be silent and experience art pieces both small and large, simple and profound, with others who were also silently contemplating the enormity and the simplicity of art.
My deepest takeaway was the ability of both nature and art to move together to create a graceful and intentional space. Looking forward to the “Rewilding” of the WSL campus, I am reminded of the deep need that beauty is in the lives of both children and adults. The beauty of nature, in combination with conscious artistic contributions from both the children and the adult members of the community, can become an inspiration which extends beyond the children, to parents, friends, and anyone who is lucky enough to pass by our campus.
Spending a week in the shadow of the Geoteanum was both a privilege and an inspiration. After meeting people from around the world who are striving, sometimes in very difficult circumstances, to bring this form of education to children from varied backgrounds, I have high hopes for the future of our worldwide movement of Waldorf Education.