Saturday, March 10, 2007

Passionate Sixth Graders and Wise Grandparents

On Friday, March 9th, the Cincinnati Waldorf School invited grandparents and special friends to spend the day with our students. I had many grandparents visit the 6th grade, sitting next to their grandchildren and getting a sense of what we do. In the morning students sang 2 Gregorian chants in Latin, played their alto recorders, and recited some poetry. One poem, "A Sleep of Prisoners," by Christopher Fry, we had memorized. Over the course of a few weeks I told the class that I wanted them to think about the words they were reciting in preparation for a discussion. We did this yesterday. Students' responses reflected their passion for the future and their readiness to take on the world and "do the good!" A couple of boys argued that the poem called on them and their generation to take up the at times difficult struggle to improve the world, make it a better place. One boy interpreted the words as a warning about global warming. Yet another felt it was a description of an ice age. All the comments were thoughtful, well spoken, and passionate. I note that the boys spoke because, much to my chagrin, I couldn't coax any girls to speak!

Later that day boys and girls read their essays and explained pictures they'd drawn in their main lesson books. I was so impressed with their upright stature and clear speaking voices! I believe that Waldorf education cultivates these qualities in our students. Perhaps you've noticed that Waldorf students will look you, an adult, in the eye and have a serious conversation? It's common among Waldorf students because teachers consciously cultivate the expectation that students' ideas, thoughts, opinions will be taken seriously. I know that I enter the classroom every day with the expectation that my students will impress me with their words and actions and teach me something new!

I have been deeply moved by many students' responses to the inevitable contrast between the political and cultural violence endemic to the period encompassing the Fall of Rome and the Medieval Era and our study of the philosophy of non-violence and love as professed by Jesus, who we studied as an historical figure of ancient Rome. Well, I decided to ask my class to revisit this issue with the hope that some grandparents would lend us their thoughts, and indeed, wisdom. In sum, the grandparents who spoke hoped the students would remember to keep separate the philosophy (study of wisdom) of non-violence and love and peace and the culture in which that philosophy arose. We were reminded that kings, queens, warriors, and religious leaders, are human beings and therefore fallible and at times weak. Throughout history we see great civilizations come and go, but what remains is the wisdom: the mathematics, the science, the literature, the philosophy. To those grandparents reading this blog, I extend a deep felt thanks to you for visiting my class and offering us your wisdom.

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