I am fortunate to recieve a steady stream of interesting visitors at the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto. Many individuals and as well groups of teachers from the local colleges, from Japan and most recently from China. Invariably the visitors have been intrigued by the beauty and integrity of Waldorf Education and have been eager to learn more. Below is an article by my colleague Anna Gruda who teaches both at RSCT and at the Toronto Waldorf School.
Chinese art teachers visit TWS.
So Obama was in China recently and Harper is there now.
We thought we would do our part and invite the Chinese to see us! It was actually, Kathleen Schmalz who approached me She is a former parent and founding Board member of Trillium Waldorf School in Guelph. She was contracted by York University to organize activities for 23 art teachers visiting from China. The teachers are part of a collective called Sun On Art Teachers and most of them teach high school art.
Having them land at our school was quite an experience for me: I knew Kathleen would accompany them along with an interpreter yet what a challenge to introduce Waldorf education to 23 people through an interpreter!
The teachers arrived a little earlier than expected: I ran into them in the lobby, where there were 23 cameras clicking away! The first thing I had to say was “Sorry, no taking pictures!”
I had organized a tour route that startedin the forum.Clearly the guests had not heard me as the cameras came out again. I like to think that the beauty of the space overwhelmed them! While exiting down the high school staircase they encountered one of our Chinese students and had a bit of a conversation. Next we made a quick stop into the chemistry lab to see how art and the sciences co-exist. Then we looked at the curriculum frames in the stairwell and headed past the EcoWerks area on our way to the handwork room.
Once we settled in I gave a presentation about Waldorf education and showed examples of art from Grade 1 to Grade 12. Some teachers looked a little sleepy but I was assured by Kathleen that it was night time in China and it had nothing to do with my highly expert and entertaining lecture!
After looking at student work and making transparent paper stars, we headed to the Rudolf Steiner Centre. By this time our visitors started asking serious questions about Waldorf teaching. The brochures about the teacher training program flew off the shelves as Warren Cohen invited them to meet this year’s students. A visit to the bookstore overwhelmed the staff and suddenly block crayons were all the rage. Wendy, the interpreter had glazed eyes seeing herself return to Chengdu, her hometown, as a Waldorf teacher.
A little background: there are three Waldorf schools in China, one each in Beijing, Hong Kong and Chengdu. A very dear friend of mine, Peter Von Zezschwitz, has been there to encourage and educate the teachers at the budding schools. Peter is a former TWS parent and long time supporter of Waldorf education. It is incredible how synchronistic life can be as last Saturday I shared a meal with Peter in a Chinese restaurant near Durham, listening to stories about his time in China and sharing his knowledge of Steiner’s work.
At the end of the tour I was presented with a beautiful banner written in Chinese characters: it said ‘friendship’. As I shook each hand and looked in the eyes of these people I just met a few hours ago, I had an over whelming feeling that indeed friendship can happen despite language and cultural barriers. Sharing a Waldorf experience was a solid bridge of human connection. The amazing thing is that less than half way through the visit; I think they forgot about their cameras.
That is what I call the Waldorf ‘effect’.
Anna Gruda, Art & After School Program teacher