The Bulletin

Faculty Professional Development: Claude Driscoll

Thursday, June 2012

As part of last year's Year of the Teacher fundraising at the CWS 2011 Gala, funds have been dedicated to support CWS Faculty's educational & professional development.

Waldorf Handwork Teacher, Claude Driscoll, reflects on the value of attending The World Kindergarden Conference, in Dornach, Switzerland:

Due to your support, dear parents and teachers, I was very fortunate to be able to represent the Chicago Waldorf School and participate in the early childhood world conference in Dornach, Switzerland. This conference which happens every 8 years was focused on the incarnating “I” in the young child. I am an educational support teacher; I do the first grade assessments, look at the 5 year olds and supervise short sessions of zoo exercises for the kindergarteners. I was interested in this conference because I am puzzled by the frequency of retained reflexes I see in the children. It is increasingly difficult for our children to come into their bodies. They are confident in their intellect, are often very clever but with less and less awareness of what their bodies can do and how to use them. I wanted to deepen my understanding of the process of the incarnation of the ego, which has to unite with the physical body of the child.

The child has to experience himself as a unity—“I am one.” How can we support the process of sensory integration in the child so that harmony can be possible in their inner life?

Beside the exciting travel, my five days in Dornach went very quickly. Every morning 1,100 attendees, all concerned principally with the first few years of childhood, came together in the beautiful auditorium of the Goetheanum for verses in different languages. The morning lectures were embedded in anthroposophy. Edmond Schroorel gave us an overall picture of how the different physical, soul and spiritual streams work in the young child and how important it is to give time, care and understanding during the first 7 years. Renate Long gave examples of children who "cannot play" in the early childhood classes.

Many of these children are stressed in their body; many have retained reflexes and need to activate their body to get unstuck. One of the causes can be seen clearly: Many children now are on equal terms with their parents, in terms of making judgments; they are forced to act as "little adults" in the adult world. This causes an acceleration in the realm of the intellect; children might be very clever but there is no simultaneous acceleration in the realm of the soul and that creates a gap. We have to help these children through intuitive responses so that the intellect does not get stuck in the will and so that they do not become self-centered individuals. Claus Peter Roh spoke of [how] the child has to experience himself as a unity—“I am one.” How can we support the process of sensory integration in the child so that harmony can be possible in their inner life?

< Every morning 1,100 attendees, all concerned principally with the first few years of childhood, came together in the beautiful auditorium of the Goetheanum for verses in different languages.

One of the most amazing experiences at the conference was to meet people from all over the world, from South America, India, Asia, from all different parts of Europe, Israel, Romania, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and more. To hear so many languages and see such different cultures working together for the future.

I met Nobuzwe Mavis Mbaba from South Africa who started a “small” school--Noluthando day care center--with 45 children in 1994 out of her own humble house. She now, along with 17 other helpers has 306 children in her care. One of the highlights of my evening workshops was to listen to and meet Sally Goddard-Blythe (she is the author of The Well Balanced Child, one of the most popular books in Waldorf Schools) which helped me realize how strong and cutting edge our own educational support program is in comparison to different international and American schools. The richness of this trip will stay with me and ultimately will serve the children well.

With humbleness, thank you, Claude.