The Spoken Word
“Yet another Ego indulgence is aggressive speech, using the voice as a pair of blazing six guns, threatening, and humiliating the children. If a loud noise is needed to rivet the attention of an obstreperous class, an emotionless banged desk lid is better than a roar. Not too loud or too often please, some children’s ears are very sensitive.
“Not that a good teacher must be exactly like the wise owl – after all, we have to teach; but wisdom comes from the ability to listen, not merely hear – listen. An example of this is the classroom method of whispering to children; normally if a class is noisy, the teacher raises his voice to be heard over the din – which of course creates an even greater cacophony as the little scamps raise THEIR volume to continue vital conversations. This is wrong, more effective is to drop the decibels – one or two will realize that you’re saying something that they’re missing and shush the others up so that they can hear; mind you, you have to say something worth listening to – herein lies the power of the 5th Discipline Bird. As ‘the Lord said, it’s not what goes into our mouths that defiles us, rather what comes out. A maxim some poison-mouthed food-fetishers might well heed!
“Excuse me again?” said Ms. Uncial looking up reflectively “I remember a high school teacher who occasionally got laryngitis. (He wouldn’t let a little thing like that keep him home (self-discipline, yes?). He would teach an entire lesson without saying a word – he had authority all right.”
“Quite so,” continued the Lyrebird, er Snub, his feathers unruffled by the interruption “the quality of authority lies behind the voice. It lives in the quality of speech. In primary authority – who you are is what counts. In high school, it is related more to subject-matter, the specialist – what you know.
“Your high school teacher Ms. Uncial was obviously in command of his subject – even without a voice, hence his authority remained intact.
“The voice is the most prominent aspect of a teacher’s presentation; one which is cultivated; which expresses artistically and with humor; which has rich timbre – not too shrill or low-down melancholy – these qualities in speech will salve rather than abrade the children’s Sense of Word – the Aries Sense. In relation to voice and gesture, the teachers who regularly attend Speech and Eurythmy classes will have many advantages over those who do not – especially in child-control. Their verbal and body language will be so much more conscious – which is what teaching is all about, the long and difficult ascent of Mt. Consciousness. A high-risk but exciting adventure for both child and teacher!
“My word, look how late it is! That doesn’t give the 6th and last Discipline Bird, the Eagle, much time, does it?” Snub ushered Care-worn up onto the stage with an authoritative gesture.
The muffled sigh of the distant ocean caressed the late-night silence; low thunder rumbled across the hills as if calling to someone.
James Boanerges looked round restlessly. The delegates sat as if transfixed, all eyes were on the small but powerfully built figure before them, his hair shone like a silver halo in the unforgiving electric light. His face was drawn with age, but it was his eyes – his eagle-like, storm-grey eyes, that commanded attention – they missed nothing, searching the transparent soul of the audience like an Osprey scans the smooth surface of the river below.
“The Eagle is the symbol of the Ego,” he began slowly and ever so softly “this simple statement is just one from an illimitable treasure of spiritual knowledge, or occult lore. Acquaintance with this treasure is the highest form of discipline; that which Christ used to control His unruly disciples – and others.”
“I say, there were extenuating circumstances when Our Lord occasionally snapped at one or other of us … them? Um, please continue.” Chairman James felt transfixed by, the predatory gaze Care-worn directed his way,
“To believe in, and hence know, only the body of the child, imposes severe limitations on discipline strategies – to embrace in knowledge the soul-spiritual reality is true freedom.
“This Eagle-Ego factor is expressed through the whole bird world, not just the raptors. You see the bird is really just a ‘head’, with a set of rather beautiful accessories attached, like wings. The highest ‘head’ activity is the acquiring of spiritual knowledge. For example, we see a picture of Man in the diagonal quadrants of the Zodiac. Aquarius is represented by the Waterbearer, or Cupbearer of the Gods, the Physical Body Man through which the Divine manifests on earth. Directly across we have Leo – the Lion or Life Body – the Breath of the Gods. The ‘northwest ‘ quadrant is ruled by the Bull, Taurus, that marvel of metabolism, stimulating the passions of the Sentient Body – the Senses of the Spirit. And opposite that, the Eagle, the Mind of the Godhead. Oh, I know these days they call it the Scorpion, but that is a distortion – it was once Aquila the Eagle.
“These four principles are emblematic of the Four Gospels as well: with St. Matthew a winged, or archetypal, man – St. Mark the winged lion – St. Luke the winged bull. And St. John, patron saint of writers (read ‘thinkers’), the eagle. This is only a small first step in the imperative to understand the body- soul- spirit configuration of the child.
“Strangely enough, the quest for spiritual knowledge strikes fear into the hearts of many people, especially schoolteachers, who often prefer to wallow in the warm bath of platitudes, afraid of the increased responsibility advances in spiritual knowledge can bring.”
One or two people looked at their watches, mumbling something about babysitters, or ‘… a lot to do tomorrow’ and left with as little fuss as possible, heads bowed, smiles apologetic. “But you will notice that each symbol of The Four is also a picture of manifest courage – especially the animals, lion, bull and eagle; you can’t get better images of fearlessness than these! Fear is the opponent of spiritual knowledge.”
“So, each child is a compilation of head, chest, stomach and limb nature – usually with one aspect predominant. I would just like to conclude with a few examples where knowledge of Mari casts its searchlight on one disciplinary enigma or another. The educational demands of tomorrow’s adults are for spiritual content to underlie the subjects they learn, If the world they are taught is one of matter only, then discipline problems will increase – the collective soul will go on strike at best, in full rebellion at worst (perhaps in the long run for the best). So our lesson preparation must begin with ‘What is the spiritual reality behind this material?’ whether it be maths, woodwork, or philosophy.
“For instance, as a spiritual researcher (as all teachers will have to become) in say geology, you have discovered in the 4 rock types of an igneous expression of world – Physical; Etheric; Astral; and Ego – respectively in Plutonic, Igneous, Sedimentary and Metamorphic rocks. The children sense this mostly unspoken but highly inferred reality -they feel that the real world is greater than that which meets the eye. Most conventional teaching creates the opposite impression. After all, if there were no supersensible world, the soul would not yearn for it – and this is just what you experience when you teach from the foundation of the Spirit; the children, eyes shining, literally levitate off their seats with enthusiasm – all thought of disruptive behavior vanished!
“This spiritual research can apply to any and every subject, providing a glimpse of a world of light through the smokey window of the House of Materialism.”
“So, we have the 6th Discipline Type, the teacher who infuses her lessons with spiritual content; even the stories we tell must, beyond the veil of the images, represent spiritual truth of one kind or another. Say a child is highly distressed (and hence ‘naughty’) because of a family breakup – we create a story where the characters and events of the situation are transformed but still accurately depicted. But caution – the child must not be able to recognize in any conscious way that the story is about his situation – the power of healing is in the subconscious recognition. It is this faculty that tells the child that we know and understand and that, as the story resolves the pain and seemingly insoluble problems in the end, that his life will take a positive turn as well. Our earlier meditation on the child’s problem has given us the capacity to write this light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel conclusion to the story. We experience a kind of prescience and clothe this in image. The child feels reassured, and her behavior follows suit.
“Creative story writing and telling is probably the most efficacious disciplinary tool we have, calling as it does on a veritable phalanx of supersensible allies – who only help solve the problem if the story contains spiritual reality. These things are living ideas, and as that Gulliver among philosophers, Alfred Whitehead, once said ‘Education with inert ideas is not only useless – it is above all things, harmful’. A man ahead of his time, and a great name too! (Against all the odds, it seems that Care-worn had a sense of humor too)
“I heard that! Indeed, the intelligence factor can make or break a teacher, we must be representatives of higher truths as far as possible. I recall an eminently forgettable teacher from my childhood only because of a mindless statement he made (the young are scathing of ignorance in adults). When complaining in assembly about the chaos of students running through the rain to get to the buses, he said ‘You get wetter if you run.’ This contradicts the experience of the rest of humanity I daresay – I still run through the rain if I want to minimize drenching.
“Lack of intelligence can even be seen in our habits; children are enjoined not to smoke, so they see (or know, it makes no difference) their teacher/role models smoking …”
“I’m sorry, do you mind if I butt in? Hee, hee”. Yes, it was the fearless reporter again, this time requesting permission to put an article on the notice board, one she’d written on smoking.
“That’s quite all right.” agreed Care-worn smiling sweetly to this member of such an elevated company, a writer, a St. John person. The pretty wordsmith basked in the warm glow of their shared patron saint.
“Hey, he was my brother! ” blurted the Chairman in response to Care-worn’s thought-form. The audience looked perplexed “I, I’m sorry er, I must have been thinking of someone else – please go on.”
“Some teachers not only smoke at school but share their disgusting habit with students down in the bushes, motivated not only by nicotine addiction, but sycophancy. One I know tolerated a variety of illegal drugs by his high school students on a class trip – needless to say, any control he may have exerted was lost. Discipline outside the school is even more important than in class.
“And discipline on the last day of school is more important than any other; not less, as the pop-eyed optimist might think. After having held the reins for the whole term/year, some see the finishing line on the last day, and drop their defenses too soon. Last days are the most accident-prone of the year; the teacher thinks ‘Why work today? Just let them muck around.’ The children become accomplices ‘Let’s not have lesson? After all it is the last day.’ – a recipe for disaster.
“The teacher must remain alert and conscientious until the last bus leaves with his cheering charges – thenhe can collapse! One young and hapless teacher forewent the lesson on the last afternoon of term, taking the students for a ‘bushwalk’ instead (or were they taking her?). This seemingly harmless (and irrelevant) indulgence became a scene redolent of the mud and blood of the Somme. An unsupervised girl had waded into a swamp, cutting her leg badly on a piece of rusty tin.
“Both student and teacher were scarred for life.
“Having recourse to our ‘higher selves’, we should be able to curb our emotional, and hence less conscious, excesses; some teachers suffering major personal problems have a Will collapse, their class goes to pieces. Hard as it is, we must place the welfare of the children before our own. Besides, if we look after them, they will actually support us.
“On a smaller scale is the teacher who is just having a bad day, say an argument with the wife before coming to school. We must visualize our emotional excess baggage as just that – baggage.
“This is to be left outside the classroom door before we enter. Regretfully we have to collect it again on the way out; but again, in some imponderable way, the children through their vitality and goodwill, have made the ‘baggage’ noticeably lighter. If you take it in with you, they put bricks in it!
“Emotions again – even if we are angry (or especially so) we speak in a controlled way. An emotional outburst by the teacher bespeaks a weakness of Ego or character (the same thing really), and is noted by the more astute child, who in turn will find ways to t rigger it again.
“Lack of control in the form of emotional intimidation, is actually damaging to the child. Sometimes it is okay to act angry; getting in high dudgeon over some incident on purpose – this however is a controlledstratagem. How relieved are the children if after ‘I will not have Lucy crying in my class! ‘The name calling will stop!!’ you instantly, in a voice that would melt butter, return to the lesson as if nothing happened ‘Now, to change a fraction to percentages …
“Of course, we can become too Ego conscious, or self-conscious; this leads to a brittle teacher, one unable to bend – hence they snap! Lighten up a little okay? Another Ego-excess is arrogance, many teachers have a proprietary swagger which invites the Snakes & Ladders consequence of ‘pride comes before a fall’. Imperiousness is the opposite pole from self-respect – in respect of self-respect, children respect self-respect in adults because it teaches them to respect themselves!
“One teacher I knew would present to the class as a kind of golden-haired Apollo, complete with classical pose and fruity delivery – the children hated him instinctively – and he could never figure out why!
“Toughness is again the opposite goal from strength on the playing field of the Ego – overt toughness suggests inadequacies on a higher level. Children are comforted by the security of true strength in a teacher.
“Some teachers have behavioral problems because they have chosen to teach in the wrong school – in short they oppose the principles (and often the principal), policies, practices, and even the philosophy of the school.
Good teaching is born from commitment – difficult to obtain if you are a progressive in a back-to-basics establishment! The children can sense the conflict – and often take sides.
“This intelligence business is often hard work, especially if a particular child is smarter than you are – and behaves offensively because of it. I struggled for years to ‘reach’ one girl who had a mind like a steel-cutting laser. On one occasion she was caught whacking into a palm tree with an axe. ‘It’s not hurting it,’ she protested in wide-eyed ‘innocence ‘the sap of a monocotyledon moves up the middle of the trunk, unlike the dicots, with their cambium layer, transporting …’ AARRGGHHH! She had remembered in detail some obscure fact from a botany lesson I had taught her years before! It took to the very last day in our time together for the long-abandoned ‘breakthrough’. A considerable amount of money went missing, I knew she’d taken it, so in privacy I told her so, adding that this would destroy years of shared laughter and tears. I appealed to the heart (At last I’d woken up – I had long thought she didn’t have a heart!) rather than her brilliant mind. She gave a tiny smile of resignation, reached down into her sock – and handed me the money! The moral — don’t give up on them, your influence is critical right up to the last hour of the last day.
This was the most difficult person I ever had to teach, but one, because of the complexity of the challenge, I owe the most to in terms of my growth as a teacher. I was indeed privileged to teach her.
“She had at last become my disciple – or was I hers?”
A crash of thunder rent the midnight air – James Boanerges was gone, only a shell, a beautiful Chambered Nautilus, rested on the lectern. The delegates, although surprised, were too tired to worry and went home to bed – they all had a busy day tomorrow.
Ms. Uncial removed her pieces off the notice board, looked around the empty room, and scribbled down the title of her next book – The Great Discipline Debate.
Then she too walked out into a perfect starry night.
“Children who are a nuisance to their teachers are those who accomplish more, and are generally healthier, in later life. This is because they are more active, energetic natures – Goethe being a good example.” Rudolf Steiner, Arnheim, 1924.
Important Earthschooling Notes
Copyright Alan Whitehead & Earthschooling: No Part of this book, post, URL, or book excerpt may be shared with anyone who has not paid for these materials.
Alan speaks in a very symbolic and esoteric manner in some parts of his books. Although they can be read anthroposophically, passages speaking of Atlantis, archangels, gods, etc. do not need to be taken literarily to be meaningful. The more you read, the more you will realize he uses many different religions to express ideas in a symbolic manner and not in a religious manner. His writings are not religious. In some places his writings are meant to refer to religious events in a historical way. In some places he is using religious figures (from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism, Ancient Roman and Greek Religions, etc.) in a symbolic manner. However, at no point is he promoting a specific religion or speaking from a religious point of view.
I have kept the writing as close to one-hundred percent original so you will also find that he speaks of Australia often and some spelling or manners of speaking may be cultural. Any words I have changed are presented like this: <word>.
Also keep in mind that these books are written by a Waldorf teacher with decades of experience who also studied with a Steiner student himself, so he speaks to an audience that is dedicating their lives to the Waldorf method without exception.
Because of this, all of his views are not reflected in the Earthschooling curriculum and not all of them may be ones you want to embrace or are able to use. In all of Alan Whitehead’s writings the opinions are his own and may not align with Earthschooling or Waldorf Books. In some cases, we will be updating some of these chapters in the future with additional and/or updated information.
Ultimately, however, as I read through these passages I find I can distill wisdom from even those paragraphs that do not resonate with me.
We invite you to read with an open mind and heart and with eagerness to learn and discuss.
Alan has presented dialogue in his writings in an expressive form, where he tries to capture the accent of the person he was with to give his writing more authenticity and to allow the reader to “be with him” in his experience. In no place in his writings is he using expressive language to make fun of or demean the speaker. So, as a person with a linguistics and anthropology degree I find this enriching and informative to me as the reader. Thus, we have made the decision to leave all expressive writing in its original form.