As part of the Waldorf100 celebrations, a new and greatly enhanced record was published of Rudolf Steiner’s meetings with the teachers at the first Waldorf school, including a new introduction and extended commentaries by Christof Wiechert, former Leader of the Pedagogical Section at the Goetheanum.
We are greatly indebted to Christof Wiechert for his research into these meetings, and immensely grateful to the Pädagogische Forschungsstelle for funding this project and to the Rudolf Steiner Verlag for granting RIWE permission to translate and publish these introductions and commentaries. We also thank Jan Kees Saltet for his scrupulously accurate and lucid translation of Christof’s text and footnotes.
––– Douglas Gerwin, Executive Director, Research Institute for Waldorf Education
Christof Wiechert, revered lecturer and seminar leader the world over, spent 30 years teaching at the Waldorf School in The Hague, where he was himself a pupil. During this time he was the co-founder of the Dutch Waldorf Teacher Training Seminar. For many years, Christof was a council member in the Anthroposophical Society in the Netherlands. Together with Ate Koopmans, he developed the “Art of Child Study” course. In 1999 he began to work for the Pedagogical Section of the Society and from 2001 served for a decade as Leader of the Pedagogical Section of the School for Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland. He is married with five children. Now in retirement, Christof continues to travel the world as lecturer and mentor, while taking on research projects such as preparing a newly enlarged and annotated edition of Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner, a record of the regular meetings between Steiner and the teachers at the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart featured on this webpage.
Translated by Jan Kees Saltet
The following article is drawn from Christof Wiechert's introductions to each of the six years during which Rudolf Steiner met with the Waldorf teachers, sometimes late into the night, at the school in Stuttgart. These introductions, along with detailed commentaries and notes on individual faculty meetings, offer unique behind-the-scenes vignettes of the faculty meetings and their historical context. They are made available in English for the first time on this page of the Online Waldorf Library and in the Fall/Winter 2021 issue of the Research Bulletin published by of the Research Institute for Waldorf Education.
Reading the transcripts of the faculty meetings brings us closer to the way the first Waldorf School came into being than any cycle of pedagogical lectures can do. We witness this education in the making, and with it the birth of the movement as a whole. They are a must-read for anybody who has Waldorf education at heart.
These meetings show us Rudolf Steiner in action, not only as Director of the school, but also as a colleague who was first among equals, giving shape to the pedagogy during the years of his leadership from 1919 until 1925. There was great fluidity in the way the pedagogy was developed; there was no fixed, preconceived concept. We should also take into consideration that the social and economic circumstances of the time could not have been more adverse to creating a new school. A modern-style feasibility study would have flatly declared the venture impossible.
During the six years between September 1919 and September 1925, the teachers at the original Waldorf school in Stuttgart, Germany held regular faculty meetings––some 70 in all––to map out the future of the school, even as they dealt with a growing number of seemingly insurmountable problems. As Director of the school, Rudolf Steiner frequently visited Stuttgart to take part in these discussions as well as to observe classes, speak with parents and students, mentor new teachers, and offer guidance to the founding faculty.
Christof Wiechert, former Leader of the Pedagogical Section in Dornach, Switzerland, has prepared a new edition of the official transcripts of these meetings. In the sections that follow, excerpts from his explanatory commentaries on these meetings are here made available for the first time in English. Citations refer to the Collected Works (CW) of Rudolf Steiner.An earlier English-language version of the actual transcripts of these meetings (published in 1998 as CW300a and CW300b) are available here in the holdings of the Online Waldorf Library.
Wiechert’s notes and commentaries place Steiner’s contributions––rich in practical advice and occasionally blunt in their expression––in a historical and broader pedagogical context.
–– passages selected and edited by Douglas Gerwin, translated by Jan Kees Saltet
First Faculty Meeting
Monday, September 8, 1919, 10:00 a.m.
The preparatory courses for incoming teachers of the Waldorf school had ended on September 6 (CW 293, 294, 295). After the last of the Discussions with Teachers, CW 295, Rudolf Steiner had convened a “meeting of the inner circle to settle things”. The festive opening of the school took place on September 7. The next morning, the teachers convened for the first faculty meeting. Lessons couldn’t start after this meeting, however, because the school furniture was still in the process of being delivered. Steiner traveled to Berlin on September 10. After a small festive assembly, where the founder of the school, Emil Molt, gave a speech, lessons started on September 16, 1919. E.A. Karl Stockmeyer took on the task of school administrator, in addition to his teaching duties.
The agenda of the first meeting consisted of assigning class teachers to grades 1 – 8 [and additional teachers], the timetable, and foreign languages.
From the start, Steiner attempted to implement a “hygienic timetable,” the way he had indicated in Education as a Social Problem (CW 296): academic subjects and practice in the morning, artistic subjects, religion, and eurythmy in the afternoon. In this first plan, all subject classes lasted a full hour. Steiner pointed out that meetings were to be “free republican discussions, in which every participant is sovereign.” He recommended teachers keep a concise diary.
Sunday, September 11, 1921, 5:00 p.m.
In connection with their conversation about the ‘sinnlich‐sittliche’ [sensory‐moral] effects of the world of tone, Steiner mentioned it would be pedagogically very important for colleagues to take an interest in one another by studying each other’s original work, as this would work strongly on the pupils. He wanted to strike an anthroposophical chord, highlighting the importance of a keen, living interest in each other’s work, placing this in a spiritual scientific perspective. This would be of great significance and result in a general enlivening of teaching in all subjects.
Wednesday, November 16, 1921, 8:30 p.m.
The teachers were worried about the behavior of their high school students. As before, Steiner showed masterful gentleness, empathy, and tact. He once again suggested that teachers should discuss interesting aspects of student behavior during meetings. The faculty asked for esoteric teaching just for the teachers, a Sunday service for teachers. Steiner was critical about this, being of the opinion that the necessary coherence which would be needed for such teaching was not sufficient among the faculty. Esotericism represented a painful chapter within the anthroposophical movement, he said.
Wednesday, March 15, 1922, 3:00–5:45 p.m.
Work on the Threefold Social Organism had reached its highest point. Due to financial problems of “Der Kommende Tag” [The Coming Day], the stock majority of the Waldorf Astoria company was going to be sold to the Süddeutsche Diskonto‐Gesellschaft [Southern German Discount company]. This sale, slated for March 16, 1922, went against the recommendation of Emil Molt, who, in view of the threatening financial situation, had successfully approached a bank consortium to take over the stock. However, the new general director of the “Coming Day”, Emil Leinhas, had not followed Molt’s advice. The Southern German Discount Company was not able to manage the Waldorf Astoria stock properly, and sold it again. Emil Molt’s cigarette factory now faced ruin. Because of this, the hope to establish a truly effective practice in the spirit of the threefold social order had evaporated. Rudolf Steiner decided to curtail the program of the “Coming Day”. Even though this dramatic decision was to be finalized the following day, the account of the meeting makes no mention of any of this. Steiner traveled back toDornach on March 18.
Tuesday, April 24, 1923, 4:30–7:00 p.m.
On April 24, the opening assembly of the fifth school year was held. Rudolf Steiner arrived from Dornach the day before, and gave a short speech. After a long period of time not asking the question, Rudolf Steiner once again asked the students, “Do you love your teachers?” The last time he had asked this question was at the opening of the third school year on June 18, 1921. After the crises the school had passed through, the question sounded new. Again and again, Steiner talked about how the relationship between students and teachers should be sustained by love.
The school kept growing, and by the beginning of the fifth school year there were almost 700 students in 21 classes. The average class size was 32 children. New faculty members included Martha Haebler, Dagmar Tillis, Martin Tittmann, Hans Strauss (the earliest record of his presence is February 1923), and spouses Olga Leinhas, Felicia Schwebsch, and Anna Wolfhügel.
The two meetings at the beginning of the fifth school year (#51 and #52) feel quiet and concentrated in atmosphere. They have a character of steady striving and the effort to make a success of the Abitur (the final exam of the 12th school year). One can sense the underlying uncertainty whether they would bring it off.
After the meeting of April 25, Steiner was still in the school the next morning to visit classes before traveling to Prague that afternoon.
The theme of the final state exam predominated the agenda. Steiner was concerned the students were not adequately prepared, because they had not been sufficiently engaged in the work, which he attributed to too much lecture‐style teaching. He also thought the Waldorf curriculum for the 12th grade was compromised because of the focus on preparing for the exam. The question about textbooks arose, leading to the suggestion of a two‐pronged approach during high school, one being Waldorf education proper, the other being preparation for the exam. In a fundamental discussion about this theme during the meeting of May 3, 1923, Steiner rejected the idea. If, during the period of time that the attempt was made to carry out the threefold social organism, the idea of the Kulturrat, (cultural counsel), had not “passed away,” the Waldorf school could have had its own final exam like the church‐based schools, Steiner insisted regretfully.