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Spring/Summer 2012, Volume 17 #1: From the Editor

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This issue of the Research Bulletin focuses on a single theme. The challenge of providing collaborative, spiritual leadership is one of the hallmarks of independent Waldorf schools in North America. We have gathered reflections that provide context, advice, and experience-based know-how for those who seek either to improve their school’s practice or to understand the rationale for this unusual leadership model. The contributions are broadly divided into three types: theory, biography, and a combination of ideas and practices.

Roberto Trostli provides the historical and philosophical groundwork. In this second installment of his thorough research into the founding of the first Waldorf school, he establishes two additional fundamental dimensions of a College of Teachers. In the first part (printed in the previous issue of the Research Bulletin) he described the essential tasks of a College. In the current installment he adds a discussion of both the membership and the rationale for having a College of Teachers at all. He concludes with a moving meditation on the spiritual forces at the heart of the Waldorf endeavor. From the other end of the spectrum, Liz Beaven describes the biography of one College of Teachers. In her lively telling, the exhilaration, exhaustion, and gradual transformation of the College on which she has served for many years constitute an instructive story of institutional maturation. What works for one stage of development becomes a hindrance if not metamorphosed into something new as the institution changes and grows a thought that must sound familiar to any serious student of child development.

Between fundamental groundwork and historical biography, three shorter articles describe practices that aim to bridge the gap between intention and practice. Holly Koteen-Soule offers practical and inspiring advice on how to arrange and conduct meetings so the spiritual intentions of both the earthly and the spiritual beings concerned may be fulfilled. Basing her advice on many years of practice, she shows that tending to both the physical and spiritual aspects of the meeting, as well as to the human soul dimensions, can create an instrument through which the conversation between heaven and earth can sound.

In separate articles, Martyn Rawson and I write about trying to incorporate contemplative practices into the daily life of schools. Rawson considers the theoretical dimensions of intuition as a research tool, and then describes an action-research project in a school in Germany wherein teachers attempted to resolve longstanding difficulties utilizing contemplative methods. My own article, which like Trostli’s and Koteen-Soule’s is part of an upcoming publication of the Pedagogical Section Council, advocates incorporating contemplative practices into College of Teachers meetings. It describes the rationale, benefits, dangers, and safeguards needed for this type of work, and offers practical formats for Colleges to try.

Taken as a totality, these five articles form “The College Issue” of the Research Bulletin. Long-time readers know that it is not common for this journal to focus on one theme, yet we feel that this particular topic lives so strongly in the minds of both practitioners and students of Waldorf education that it merits a consolidation of this kind. We hope that gathering the material in this way will allow this issue of the journal to serve as fruitful study material for those wishing to enliven their practice or research.

On a separate track, our reader extraordinaire, Dorit Winter, reviews David Brooks’ book, The Social Animal. Brooks is an unusual contemporary thinker, and his book advocates some of the very qualities that a good Waldorf teacher would strive to cultivate in a growing child. Winter engages with Brooks’ ideas and terminology in light of her many years as a Waldorf educator. She finds much to appreciate in his contemplation of what really matters in life.

A brief report from the Online Waldorf Library is also included. Readers are warmly encouraged to utilize this rich resource.

As always, keep your reflections and suggestions coming. We will publish some letters from readers in upcoming issues. One unexpected vote of support came from Dr. Don Petry, president of the National Council of Private School Accreditation, who told Patrice Maynard of AWSNA that the kind of research presented in the Bulletin, together with the depth of opinion behind it, is an outstanding example of independent school literature. In this season of political wrangling, we thank Dr. Petry for his endorsement.