What’s the difference?
It is a fact that over the period of the Covid 19 crisis the traffic to the Steiner Education website has quadrupled. In addition, our Facebook likes have also increased exponentially. In thinking through why this is so, I reflected on our news items as a whole which have been focussing on the lived experiences of Steiner education remote learning.
I took in the news items as a whole and found an emerging story thread. It is a story of education as an art. An education which places equal importance on the practical, aesthetic, music, and arts-inspired subjects – even in remote learning times.
Even through the challenges of remote learning, what is evident in the news items as a whole is teachers cultivating a young person’s imagination and aesthetic sensibility within a sense rich environment. Teachers went to great lengths to communicate this. Teachers also supported parents to connect with the importance of life-affirming rhythm and musicality as part of the very essence of teaching, and this was possible even within busy households and our uncertain, worrying times.
Education as an art involves teachers striving to understand human development and develop their own artistic potential to teach with enthusiasm and creativity. It is the art of developing the whole human being — body, soul, and spirit, through a coherent set of pedagogical principles that inform the educational approach. In Steiner education, it is a priority for teachers to enhance their own imaginative capacities. Teachers need the freedom to exercise their professional judgement, freedom to think imaginatively to encourage deep learning in students. That is the Steiner difference.
The phrases that jump out in the short articles – highlighted below – tells a story of this art of education: imaginative teachers, creatively problem solving to innovate on curriculum delivery in the home.
It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm of the Year 10 photographers….. I have been continually impressed by our staff’s flexibility, perseverance, creativity and determination…… Class 3 are currently busy with honest, industrious and therapeutic work planting and tending their seedlings of beans, broccoli, lettuce and swiss chard…….. I really love that they [class 4] are becoming responsible for their own learning and varying their learning…… class 6 will be responsible for starting and managing a home garden project…….. when a child receives a home learning pack they feel it is a personal gift from their class teacher – just as learning is every day at school…. And a poem…..so in my home each day will start that I may work with head, hands and heart……….. overall there has been a strong sense of the school community pulling together…….. the bags have been lovingly filled with stories, music , languages, handwork, visual art and activities for the remote lessons………. one of the benefits of home learning is that you play music to your pets…… the teachers were tasked with delving into the essence of the early childhood curriculum and parents connected with that same essence …… some activities happening are: nature mandala as part of primary school handwork, spindle making for class 9, wet on wet painting, instrumental lessons online…… class 7 and 8 students have been rehearsing the production of Midsummer’s Night Dream by making puppet plays of favourite scenes and filming…….. class 4 have been working hard in their main lesson books……. Many of the activities involved the children learning to become more self-sufficient thus providing them with a sense of security so that they will be able to deal with any problem that life throws their way…….. Nothing can stop the school’s creative spirit!
A comment from a Steiner parent sums up the overall gesture of the news stories:
“With three children in the lower primary I’ve felt honoured to receive lovingly compiled home packages, filled with treasured songs, verses and stories from the heart; works teachers have developed over years in their profession.
It’s been a beautiful insight into the daily riches the children are enveloped in. We’ve all enjoyed the interesting, humorous and caring voices of the teachers reaching our home.”
In the broader educational context, there is an increasing amount of literature on creativity, what it is and isn’t, how it can be taught and assessed … but very little on developing teachers’ own imagination and creativity and its impacts on development of students’ creative capacities.
The remote learning experience has highlighted in a more practical, obvious way to all that Steiner education has much to offer in how this is achieved.
Dr Virginia Moller
 Haralambous, B. (2018). Steiner educational and academic foundations. Chatswood: Steiner Education Australia. This overview of Steiner education and its foundations is freely available from www.steinereducation.edu.au