Published December 25, 2016
A Rumination on Relevant Education and Great Teachers (part six)
Exploring the Reasons of Whole Learning
“Our thinking is inconsistent with what we actually see.” (Victor Schauberger)
How many times during our long hours of preparation and class work do we stop to ask ourselves basic questions about purpose, intention, goals? How often do we consider or acknowledge the importance of such topics in relation to human unity and diversity. And what do these terms mean in preparing for a school day in the classroom or in the long-term? And what about the natural world that surrounds us and penetrates us to very core of our being? How often do we consider the many aspects of the human “being” we are instructing? Rudolf Steiner recommended that each morning we meditate on each one of our students and bring them into full view of our mind’s eye, hold a picture of their whole being in front of us: their habits, strengths, weaknesses, temperaments, levels of activity and inaction. Only then can we truly enter a student’s realm and help them to realize their full potential. This process of meditation is an act of unconditional patience and love.
I can remember very distinctly when I first began to tune into the pedagogical process. My elementary and high school years were a disaster when considered from the point of view of grades and scores. But the rebel in me longed for direct experience, something to dig my hands and feet into. I longed to transmute the fullness I felt inside into concrete reality. I desperately needed to find a vehicle to pour the creative juices into what bubbled up in me and swirled like clashing tornadoes of thought, emotion, desire and pure untapped creative energy. Somehow I found very little opportunity for this in school. I needed guidance and creative discipline from the adults that were supposed to be my teachers. “Why are they standing up there conjuring up the corpses of empty ideas and spoon feeding us the vicissitudes of stale intellectual jargon?”
Where was the love in learning, the creative impulse behind the mere telling of it, the actualization and hands-on action that all children long for in such profound ways? Where were the play, the fun, and wonderment? We all wished to feel the sinew and muscle and bones of our bodies, to exercise the newfound treasures of knowledge, to feel the entire world in discovery, mystery, and awe. So many of us longed to run home after school and romp through the woods, play baseball, read mythological stories of heroes and knights and witches and elves, track deer, build huts of sticks and stones, create secret societies with initiations and a folk spirit all our own. We let our imaginations and fantasies run free. Who was the sculptor that could take this raw stone and carve us into Pietas or Aphrodite or Zeus?
The teachers that I do remember were the ones who allowed me to express my God given talents. These were the teachers who loved me and weren’t afraid to show it. They cared about not only whether or not I learned my “lessons”, but about my entire well-being. I could feel it rise out of their hearts and flow into me like a fresh river of pure water. These were the teachers who breathed the full breath of learning, who lived into everything around them. These were the teachers who brought excitement and wonder into whatever setting we found ourselves. These were the teachers who journeyed deep into themselves to find the patience to treat every student as a Divine gift of the Creator. These were the teachers who longed for the positive growth of all who came under their wing. Some say that these were the teachers who could fly as high as eagles, snatch a piece of sun for each of their students, and carry the light of learning to new and unimaginable heights.
The principles of whole learning, for me, were developed as much for remembering childhood longing, than they were to articulate an education that was something sacred and alive. I remember so well when I first came to teaching with selflessness and service in my heart. Along the way I watched myself and others fall asleep in the meadow of forgetfulness. How do we lift ourselves from the stupor of prejudice and dogma and rekindle our love of learning? How do we awake to the presence of all the students who we must partner with to create a decent life for everyone?