Dear Colleagues and Friends of the Pedagogical Section:
Warm greetings to all of you! I write this newsletter on the first summery day of the year in New Jersey, which must mean that another school year is drawing to a close, just as the cooler evenings of August foretell a new beginning about to come, and the frosts of late autumn augur the coming of Advent and the festivals of winter.
The rhythmic nature of our experience of time is a gift that we normally take rather for granted, but as the children in our care become a generation of digital natives, it is worth appreciating that this rhythmic experience is becoming increasingly endangered. Instantaneous speed and permanence are two signatures of our digital experience, and both of them are diametrically opposed to the rhythms of life itself. Indeed, the children we teach live increasingly in a world that demands instantaneousness and assumes permanence.
The whole notion of a developmental curriculum that unfolds patiently in time, awaiting ripeness before presenting a child with an appropriate step forward, is seemingly becoming anachronistic. Ripeness for learning is the antithesis of “sooner is better,” and the notion of allowing something to go to sleep, to be forgotten for a time in order to appear as a capacity later on, is so very different from the “teach it so they’ll remember it for the test” modality. So the students, on the one hand, and the adult world, on the other, are increasingly alienated from the rhythms that can alone support health and nurture soul and spirit. When we stand alone before the demands of well-intentioned but misguided families and bureaucracies, we can feel overwhelmed and hopeless. It behooves us, then, as Pedagogical Section members, to be each other’s support system for research and advocacy. Our hope on the Section Council is that we can build an increasingly effective network to do just that. It has become evident that information and publications alone cannot do justice to these needs. Face-to-face meetings are necessary not so much for information to be disseminated but for research to unfold and for the cultivation of soul ties that we can nurture only in the presence of our peers. We have begun sponsoring regional conferences, as the previous newsletter detailed, and several more of them in various stages of planning.
Report from the Section Summer Conference in Portland
Our annual Section Conference is also on the horizon. We will meet in Portland, Oregon, at the Portland Waldorf School, on June 28-29 (on the last evening and then following the completion of the AWSNA conference) and take up Lesson 19 of the First Class, as well as lecture 1 from Study of Man and the theme “Working with Spiritual Beings on the Esoteric and Professional Paths”. The idea of linking more overtly the individual esoteric path of the Class Lessons and our professional path as teachers was taken up this March in a small Pedagogical Section gathering in Dornach, and there was general agreement that it is a worthwhile approach to try and develop further.
The opening lecture of the larger AWSNA conference will address the presence of spiritual beings in social interactions, and will also serve as background to our Section Conference. As has been our practice in recent years, the first evening will consist of experiences that will form the basis for discussions on the following day. We consider this format to be an example of collaborative research, and we feel that it can serve as a model for work that Section members can then take back to their schools (in a somewhat modified manner, as appropriate in each case).
Report from the PSC April Meeting in Amherst
The Pedagogical Section Council has met twice since our last newsletter, first in January in Fair Oaks and then in April in Amherst. We have continued to focus on the theme of technology, and the direction of our study has increasingly turned to two themes: the effects of technology on attention, and the hygienic and therapeutic steps that we can take to cope with its effects in three directions:
- Pedagogically (what, why, when, and how to introduce technology to students)
- Individually (our personal consciousness and meditative life)
- Collegially and in our relationships with parents.
It appears that the study is heading now in a hygienic/therapeutic direction. In October we will work with Dr. Adam Blanning in Denver, and the following meetings are also likely to include contributions from various members of the medical/ therapeutic community.
Some fruits of our focus on technology, as well as articles that have informed our conversations or have been solicited by contributors to these discussions, have been gathered in the last two issues of the Research Bulletin, with additional contributions still to come. While not necessarily written by Council members, the Bulletin articles can inform the conversations taking place in schools and support a deepening of the questions. The Research Institute for Waldorf Education (publisher of the Bulletin) has also taken up the theme of technology in several colloquia that it sponsors around its annual spring board meetings, and the two efforts have mutually enhanced the efficacy of each.
That’s all for this newsletter. We hope to see many of you in Portland and in the regional conferences during the coming year.
With warm greetings for a satisfying conclusion to the school year,
For the PSC
Douglas Gerwin, Center for Anthroposophy, Amherst, MA Michael Holdrege, Chicago WS, IL Ina Jaehnig, Denver WS, CO Holly Koteen-Soule, Sound Circle TT, Seattle, WA Elan Leibner, Chairman, Hopewell, NJ Judy Lucas, Denver, CO James Pewtherer, Amherst, MA Laura Radefeld, Green Meadow WS, Spring Valley, NY Jennifer Snyder, Sacramento, CA Betty Staley, Fair Oaks, CA Frances Vig, Chicago WS, IL