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Waldorf Journal Project 2: Some Aspects of Child Study Work in Faculty Meetings

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by Magda Lissau

We must learn to perceive the spiritual archetype of man through his picture nature. In the future, man will become to some extent transparent to his fellow man. The form of his head and his gait will awaken in us an inner sympathy and understanding of a different nature from what we find in human tendencies today. For we shall only know man as an ego-being when we have this conception of his picture nature, when we can approach him with the fundamental feeling that what the physical eyes perceive of a man bears the same relation to the true supersensible reality of man just as the picture painted on canvas bears to the reality it depicts. We must develop this fundamental feeling in ourselves. We must approach man in such a way that we no longer see him as a combination of bones, muscles, blood, and so forth, but as the image of his eternal, spiritual being (Rudolf Steiner, From Symptom to Reality in Modern History, Lecture V).

In child study sessions, we take a group approach and attempt to fathom a human being’s essence using Steiner’s insights into the nature and being of humankind. There is a fundamental difference between individual research and a group approach.

Individual research, based on the individual’s directed cognitive activity, relates the researcher to the research object. While this possibly narrow focus is capable of producing great insights,1 and while much of what Steiner indicated to teachers helps prevent a one-sided view, the group approach ensures greater objectivity. Also, it adds a universal dimension not otherwise attainable. Whenever group members weave together a fabric of understanding by listening to each other, avoiding the destructive side of intellectualism and encouraging heart-thinking in each other, then the picture built up together may touch on the eternal essence of the child and so lead to therapeutic insights. Such a conversation, which is at the heart of a child study, is often referred to as Goethean conversation.
The whole faculty should participate in child study, for the community educates the child in daily contact. Additionally, if there is a school doctor, he or she should also participate.

It is important that all teachers prepare well by reviewing their interactions with the respective child, picturing the child often. The class teacher or class guardian has traditionally given the bulk of the description, as she or he has known the child over a longer period of time and probably has contact over a longer part of each day. However, each teacher who has regular contact with the student should contribute. A description of physical aspects may be given by the school doctor.

A child study has three basic parts:
1. Observations/descriptions/reports

2. Conversation/building up the picture

3. Conclusion/indication of exercises/therapy/tuition

These parts are elaborated on the next page.