Waldorf and myth
- Just read this rather nice story from ES on his teaching experience in a New York City public school.
" During a recent visit to a New York City public school classroom I experienced something of the "healing power" of the heroic myth. When I entered the combined 4th/5th grade room, the teacher told me that she had to set aside her lesson plan for a while in order to deal with an argument that had arisen between two girls involving jealousy and cliqueishness, which had led to some acrimonious insults. Utilizing a "brain-storming" methodology, the teacher set up a flip chart and asked two students to moderate. The two principals in the conflict were asked to give their versions of what had happened which led to more acrimony and other children were asked what they thought was best to do in such a situation. Ideas and suggestions were duly noted ad recorded on the flip chart: "Ignore people who insult you," "Be nice to your friends," "Don't use bad language," etc. It was clear that by this time of year (late December) such discussions were not new among the children, not had they proven terribly effective. The overall feeling I had was of children who had been trained to intellectualize their emotions in order to "control" them, but whose real feelings were lurking behind the scenes, ready to erupt as soon as the discussion ended and the flip chart was put away. During a break time, the teacher, her principal and I discussed what I had seen, and she acknowledged that little or no progress had been made in healing the rift between the two antagonists. I stated that Waldorf teachers perceived such a love of arguing, or even vindictiveness, as a natural part of fourth grade behavior. "So what do you do about it?" she asked. "What do you do in a Waldorf school when this stuff breaks out." I smiled. "We tell a story," I said, "In which the antagonists are given a mythical dimension. That tends to objectify the experience. In fact, in fourth grade we tell many Norse myths, in part because the Norse gods are the most argumentative and aggressive gods in world mythology that, and their liveliness, provide an accurate reflection of the fourth grader's own nature. We don't say very much directly to the children involved, but let them `digest' the story and see the effect of their behavior as though it were happening to someone else." The teacher looked skeptical. "And that works?" she asked. "It takes a few weeks," I conceded, "Or a few months, or sometimes a few years. But, yes, eventually it works." "If you tell these kids a Norse story, they'll just use it to make fun of each other even more," she said, "And they probably won't even listen in the first place." "Let him try it," said her principal. Within a few minutes I was standing before the class, relating the tale of Loki's jealousy towards Baldur. The envious and spiteful Loki finds a way to kill the almost immortal Baldur, but, instead of being accepted by the Aesir, he is scorned all the more. In the tried-and-true Waldorf method, I did not draw any link with the events of the morning as I told the story, and I did not look at the two girls involved, but rather spoke to the class at large. They proved to be a quiet, attentive and completely involved audience. Later that afternoon, as I was preparing to leave, one of the antagonists came up to me and handed me a piece of lined paper. Upon it she had written her name, her school name, the date, and the following (spelling has not been corrected):
ODIN = King ASGAARD THOR = King's son AESIR = GODS BEINGS LOKI = Jokester OF LIGHT BALDUR = Nice man
Comments: I think the story was nice and it had a good morale.
Morale: Should not be jealous enough to kill!
Your a great Teacher!
P.S. Can you come again?
You don't have to answer me now!"