The following is the speech given by one of our Class 12's parent to the audience at the Project Presentations
Good Evening everybody,
When we were invited to share a few things about our Steiner journey I started looking for something visual to represent it and I decided to use Herve’s Class 7 crest because it’s spot on and might also help you place the accent.
Anyway, our Steiner journey started in Belgium and this is the second time we have a student in Year 12 here at school. I would like to share a few things about our experience as a Steiner parent and with the Year 12 projects. I did the maths to check our experience and was a bit surprised to find out that at the end of this year, we will have completed 63 school years as parents in Steiner Education, and I leave to you to work the number of parent meetings we attended.
In 2001 we stumbled in to the Steiner world as we didn’t like all the mainstream kindies we visited.
Fortunately my wife Katrien remembered that one of her friends was a teacher in an alternative school in a neighbouring town. We liked the school instantly, got really enthusiastic and then ended up on the dreaded waiting list. But the universe intervened and we were in right before the start of the school year.
Just being part of the school community, parent meeting and talking to teachers taught us a lot.
And the Belgian teachers were happy to give parents a clear opinion on issues when needed, which was an eye-opener for us, and parent meetings could sometimes get really intense.
Looking back, I think that mums are often the early Steiner adopters and that my early thoughts were like: “It is fine, we can still move schools after kindy or primary,” this might sound maybe a bit more familiar to part of the male audience here tonight.
But I have been happily proved wrong over and over. And this year’s presentations are again confirming what a great choice we have made.
When I talk to people about Steiner education, I always get excited about the creativity that is embedded in all subjects of the curriculum and I really enjoy how it gives students additional skills and insights in a very subtle way.
There is a story about the Picasso-looking picture on the right. Around ten years ago I heard Maxine and Louis cracking up about a drawing she made and I barely managed to save it from the bin as they thought it was terrible. They told me: “Dad, this is how we think children in a Belgian mainstream school would draw a face.”
I immediately thought that I was holding a unique piece of art that I’d never seen before from an 11 year old. And it just confirmed that a Steiner education makes you think out of the box and gives you the tools to act on it.
Our 5 children have different personalities but the curriculum works for all of them. We have never had a single day where they didn’t want to go to school, it’s usually like “Hurry up, let’s go!”
They know we think highly of Steiner education and that we expect them to do their best to become the best version of who they actually are by the time they finish year 12.
At one time we considered moving to a different part of Belgium and went to the Open Day at a nearby Steiner-school. We were guided around by two year 12 students and the first thing we both said to each other after the tour was: “Were you like that in year 12?”
We have witnessed this magical process twice in our family now and it has been great to see how all the different skills they acquired along the way come together in the Year 12 project.
There is actually not a lot for me to tell you about how we experienced the project process as parents, except that it was interesting and that we just enjoyed it. In both cases it definitely was an independent project as our support was barely needed and they both managed their project really well.
We tried and I guess succeeded in taking away the idea that the project is by definition a highly stressful and life-threatening event. A bit of coaching on picking an interesting & personal topic and trying to be efficient in setting up a practical never hurts of course. Treating the project as a kind of long-term main lesson and encouraging regular journal entries did the rest. I might be mistaken but I think I saw some smiles now and then when they experienced how this just organically comes together if you keep the ball rolling.
I assume that by now you are convinced that we have a high level of trust in the Steiner education.
There’s a saying say that trust comes on foot and leaves on horseback, but apart from horse camp I haven’t seen many horses around and neither have I looked for one.
The homepage of the Steiner school where it all started for us has this nice quote that perfectly covers this feeling of trust we have. It was of course in Flemish, but I like the original French version:
I would like to encourage parents and students to continue in this education and to stay on board for the entire trip. It’s an amazing journey with plenty of interesting guides taking you along.
There is only one thing that I have never understood during this 18 year long journey, and that is when I hear the comment: “This teacher has no Steiner experience or OMG we’re getting a new Steiner teacher.”
We had no Steiner parent experience or qualifications we had to show when we enrolled our children. But teachers seem to have to be like this high-end multi-tool Swiss army knife from a very exclusive brand, and once that is sorted, we tell the staff “Can you make sure it has been used before?” I guess we all would have very different professional careers if nobody had ever given us an opportunity and had not been willing to invest time and effort to allow us to grow.
Dear year 12 students, I hope you have enjoyed your journey and have discovered a passion or strong interest along the way and use your gut-feeling when making plans for what comes next.
A few years ago, I read an article that encouraged engineers to embrace the arts to boost creativity and innovation. “Aesthetics is part of it” was a key statement, which reminded me of something a Bulgarian Aviation Engineer told me when I asked him how you start designing a plane: “Looks good, flies good” he replied and so it seems to me that Steiner students are well ahead of the curve in so many ways.
I’d like to close my talk with another quote. Not from a famous writer, philosopher or Rudolf Steiner, but just from a new colleague at work. I have some drawings and a drama poster near my desk and she asked me if my children were at PWS. When I replied “Yes, sure they are.” She said this: