Ha. Sorry for the delay, I forgot my password. New to this site and still getting my sea legs.
I love being a Waldorf teacher. But no, it has NOT been an easy path. I was raised atheist, and even after 10 years of Waldorf teaching I do not believe in any one higher power. But that doesn't mean that I am not spiritual. It's just that my spirituality is no defined by any one religion or philosophy. I find solace and peace in nature. For me, that is holy. I don't fit anyone else's definition of religious, and at this point in my life, that's ok with me.
Being a Waldorf teacher is more than being an anthroposophist. It's about teaching with the freedom to do what is best for the child in front of you. I have lots of specific reasons for why I think that Waldorf is a good educational system (which I posted under the thread that is called something like "Steiner education - I need the truth" and made some waves that made me uncomfortable, so I bowed out), but teacher training is a horse of a different color.
When I first started teacher training, it was (thankfully) with a wonderful woman offering foundation studies in a remote area through an arrangement with Antioch NE Graduate School. If it wasn't for her balanced, rational, SANE interpretation of Steiner, I would never have made it. She presented it so well that I felt like I was finding my religion for the first time - a flexible way of thinking about the spiritual world that was open to interpretation and discussion.
On the power of my positive experience with Sarah, I enrolled in Sunbridge College full time in their Foundation Studies year, and it was a disaster. I was, I think it's fair to say, vilified by many of my classmates who found out that I was a geneticist. The ignorance and narrow-mindedness of many of the people I encountered stunned me. One classmate screamed at me that it was my fault that he had diabetes, which he believed he got from drinking milk full of rBGH. The irony here was that I had nothing to do with making recombinant proteins - I was studying how to cure childhood disease, and spent my first 1.5 professional years trying to find a vaccine for... diabetes.
Now, I don't care if people choose to vaccinate or not - it's a personal decision, and a hard one for many parents to make. But I will say this: the scientists that I met while working for 4 years at a genetics lab were among the most idealistic, self-sacrificing, passionate, intelligent people I have ever met in my life. And many of them are very spiritual. They deeply believe in the work that they are doing to fight childhood disease. One may not agree, but it's a good idea to get to know them before judging them. And it's also VERY important to understand the difference between a scientist working at a nonprofit educational institution and one working in the pharmaceutical industry. I was in the former, and the general assumption was that I was coming from the latter. Only one person in my class ever bothered to find out that there is a difference. And unfortunately the ignorance and assumption also existed among the faculty (though in fairness, only one of them).
I could go on - there were lots of examples of general horribleness, but thankfully I never have to think about it anymore. I got the job teaching in my lovely wonderful Waldorf school back home, and I transferred to Antioch's summer sequence program. If I hadn't gotten the job, I wouldn't have kept on with Waldorf. Antioch was a last ditch effort to follow through with teacher training. Thank goodness I got that job. Antioch was WONDERFUL. Balanced, spiritual, amazing, intelligent people, many of whom are still among my best friends on this planet. I felt like I was coming home. Torin Finser made me feel very welcome (he knew in detail about my experience at Sunbridge), and I became a valued perspective instead of a person of suspect morals.
I have studied anthroposophy for a long time, and I respect and admire teachers who are full-fledged anthroposophists. My belief is that all religions on this planet provide a common language for people to understand each other, which is of inestimable value. Of course, we run into trouble because the different religions can't understand each other, but that's a different issue. In Waldorf, anthroposophy provides a language by which we can communicate with each other about children, with the goal of educating them in love and letting them go forth in freedom. And it works. I love the Waldorf system, and I am SO glad that I persevered past the unhappiness I experienced at Sunbridge. In Waldorf language, a child that is having trouble focusing and flitting from one thing to another is called sanguine. In my language, they don't have a high enough level of dopamine in their brain. The answer in both cases is to allow them to learn in a way where they are highly active for one period, then focused on academics in the next. Waldorf calls it breathing, and I think that's a lovely image. The language of anthroposophy is often more lovely than that of science, but for me, the areas of overlap are so strong that I have no trouble reconciling anthroposophy, whose tenants I will never fully espouse, and science, the religion I was raised in.
Teacher training can be rough - find the right fit. But more importantly, find the right school to teach at afterwards. I have been in 3 schools at this point (my lovely little island school closed, sadly, and I moved on to another school for a year before finding a better fit closer to home - been at #3 since 2006). I am valued for my experience in brain development, because it allows me to interface with much of the parent population in a way that helps them understand Why Waldorf (anthroposophists don't always have the be-est track record explaining Why Waldorf to parents - they can sound a tad nuts, I'm afraid). But I also value their deep dedication to the children from their spiritual beliefs, and since we share a common language (thanks to Antioch), we can work together to do what's best for the children. I don't trumpet my atheistic beliefs - it would make them uncomfortable, and it would be inappropriate. Nor do I feel that anthroposophy is forced on me (though it's quite possible that not all of my colleagues know that I am not an anthroposophist). My beliefs are deeply personal, and I believe, no less spiritual than theirs. So mostly I live and let live, and we all are joined in our love for the children.
I have agnostic Waldorf teacher friends for whom that synergy has NOT happened - in one case, the school more closely resembled an inquisition than anything else I can think of. It was similar to my experience at Sunbridge (and I should say, lest I be as guilty as my ex-classmates, that I have also known a lot of people who loved their experience at Sunbridge), and she now works at a bank. :)
Sorry to be so long - it's hard to put personal beliefs into short blurbs, and I am always worried about being misinterpreted and offending someone. It's similar to losing tone of voice in an email - these things are just easier to talk about offline (how Waldorf of me).
Edited by Izzybelly - 7/19/11 at 3:09pm