Rudolf Steiner in the Waldorf School
Address at a monthly assembly
27 March 1924, Stuttgart
Dear children, dear teachers, and dear parents who are here today! Each year when Easter comes, it is a very special festival for the school, a special festival for children to experience and a special festival for all of human existence. This festival is anticipated in the beautiful language that nature now begins to speak to us.
Of course nature is always beautiful, and anyone who is sensitive to it can find beauty in it even in winter, when the snow makes its way up the mountains and covers the ground and the trees in a way that is almost sad. It is beautiful then, too, but it is cold outside, and that makes our souls cold and reminds us of how often life chills our hearts and souls.
But then in spring, as Easter approaches, the seeds sprout and the flowers spring up out of the ground. The March violets are a greeting from the sunlight and the world-spirit itself. And the green reminds us of our hopes in life, of what we wish to have from life. The color of hope, of wishing, and of joy in life is there in the green.
Turning from nature to our school of life, because we must say that a school of life is what the Waldorf School intends to be — and now I am speaking to you, dear children — the fact that life is now beginning to unfold outside makes Easter a festival that has a great effect on the school, on the children and on the teachers and on the parents, who are the most important thing standing behind the school’s children and faculty. At Easter-time, the new children enter our school.
This is when the teachers see the life task they face in educating these new children. This is when a wonderful soul-relationship has to come about between the teachers and the parents who are entrusting their children to them. At Easter-time, for a number of children and teachers, something begins that will continue for years as these teachers grow close to these children whom they love so dearly.
But at the same time, there is something different associated with Easter. It is also the time for graduation from school, as is now the case with us for many of the eighth graders and all of the twelfth graders. This is the time when their teachers are heavy-hearted, because they have grown close to these children in soul and in spirit. It is also the time when we can see the heavy hearts of the children who must now leave this school, which was a preparatory school for life, a school where everything possible was meant to be done to show the hopeful side of life. They must now leave this bright, beautiful summertime of their lives and go out into an existence that is often raw and hard, where there is so much pain and so many joys to experience. Life has a lot to give us — joy and sadness and problems — and we must cope with it. And when the festival of Easter is approaching, as it is now, when we turn our gaze to the coming of Easter, we are reminded of how this festival is a very incisive one in the hearts and minds of students and teachers.
In welcoming their new students, teachers look toward everything that is to come. They feel their tasks as teachers especially strongly now, as they turn to the parents of these children and realize that these men and women are showing their confidence in them by bringing them their nearest and dearest. This is something meaningful that should enter the teachers’ hearts and be very deeply felt. The children come in, joyfully looking forward to what they will be graced with through their teachers love and through everything that human beings have brought forth.
Then we must also be aware of the departures, for one or the other student will have to leave this school. That is when we get the other feeling, a feeling of mixed wistfulness and sorrow in many respects. Especially for teachers, this engenders a very wistful sorrow in their hearts and minds, because they must now send the children they have grown to love out into life. These children must now seek for themselves what they and their teachers had sought together in school. But to this is added the satisfaction of being able to say as a teacher, “If you have succeeded, then they will take with them the strengths that you wanted to give them.” This thought is what makes graduation beautiful for the teachers and makes their Easter a happy one.
It is one of the nicest things about being a teacher to hear from the children when they have been out there in life for a while, sometimes years later, and to find out what has become of them — how they have found their place in life, what good fortune they have experienced, how they learned to bear sorrow. When these messages from the students make their way back into the school when the students are practically grown up, perhaps, and are firmly rooted in life, these are experiences that really give the teachers strength and reanimate them, even if they have been teaching for a long time.
If we make ourselves aware of everything that is working into the school at Easter-time, we get a feeling — and this is a feeling that you too should get, dear boys and girls — for what this time in school signifies in a whole human life between birth and death. It is a real summertime, life’s sun time, and Easter in particular, as it is now starting to happen in nature, reminds us of it.
Then the teachers realize how happy they are to have the confidence of people like the parents who entrust their children to them. Because of all the effort they have made, the teachers are then really able to experience this: For years and years the parents have entrusted what is dearest to them to us in full confidence, and the school is fortunate in having been able to not only uphold this confidence but also to justify it, so that the parents can see their children leaving school, full of hope on entering life, with the same satisfaction that they had in trustingly sending them off to school for the first time.
All this is present in our hearts and souls at this time of year. I merely wanted to say a few words to impress it on the hearts and souls of the students and teachers.
All this will come about if something that must be present becomes a general practice among the students, namely love and devotion toward the faculty and devotion toward what you are learning through this school. If the right love prevails in the Waldorf School among parents, teachers, and students, then in what love can do when people are to be led through life by all that is beautiful and grand, this life will be able to prevail and to give people the forces they need.
This is why I have always asked you if you have succeeded in learning to really love your teachers. If you can learn to love them even more, it will be possible for everything to well up out of this love as if from a spring of fresh water. Then you will learn everything, and the Easter season will give you all it can. I would like to ask you, “Do you love your teachers?” [They all shout, “Yes!”] That is nice of you. Now, in this love that has developed between you, look at the ones who are now leaving school and resolve to follow them through life with your loving glances, and a wonderful relationship of love and friendship will be able to develop. And then the Waldorf School will be like a sun, able to ray out beautifully into life.