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Working Out Of Experience

As part of the Geography of Africa Main Lesson, Class 7’s teacher adopted studying techniques that are not usually introduced in mainstream education until university. Imagery can speak volumes. Words too must be chosen wisely.   

Today our teachers cannot know what will be good in the Waldorf School in five years’ time, for in those five years years they will have learned a great deal and out of that knowledge they have to judge anew what is good and what is not good…Educational matters cannot be thought out intellectually; they can only arise out of teaching experience. And it is this working experience that is the concern of the collegiate.
The Tasks and Content of the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum, page 15
Class 7, equivalent to S1 in mainstream education, has just finished its Main Lesson on Geography of Africa, incorporating anthropology in the area of modern domestic slavery, whilst excercising invaluable note-taking techniques that will stand the pupils in good stead for a lifetime of learning.
Studying the physical features of the country, its atmosphere, and of human activity as it affects and is affected by these, the pupils looked also at the origin and development of human societies and cultures where slavery still exists. This continues to be explored artistically and practically as well as intellectually so as to be delivered holistically to 13- and 14-year-olds, who will revisit World Geography as a Main Lesson in Class 12.

The Main Lesson book is a fundamental component of Waldorf education, authored and illustrated by each pupil. It serves as a unique and essential tool for pupils to document their learning journey. It is a personalised, handmade book that they create and fill with their own work, reflections and artistic expressions throughout the course of a Main Lesson block.


It serves as a record of the pupil’s engagement with the subject matter. It is not merely a notebook for jotting down facts and information, but rather a creative and artistic representation of their understanding and experience. It becomes a living artefact, showcasing the pupil’s growth, insights and personal connection to the subject.

As part of the process of producing this book, Class 7 have been learning how to properly note-take, extracting the important information from what Ms Ford presents to the Class. This shorthand writing then grows to recall the lesson the next day, both verbally and in the Main Lesson book; exercising studying techniques that are typically not taught in mainstream education until higher education.

Yet words matter in a further, equally significant, way too. Class 7 Teacher, Miss Karen Ford, reflects just how crucial it is that words are chosen wisely.

Chalkboard drawing by Class 8 Teacher, Miss Karen Ford, in the classroom.

“Looking at my blackboard drawings I see more than a pretty picture. I feel pride in how far I’ve come since my first day on the Teacher Training Course (TTC). I feel joy that I can insight awe and an audible gasp from a room full of teens. Most of all I see a reminder of how important my words are. In high school, I encountered an art teacher who said to me “Stick to the academic stuff. Your sister is the artist, you shouldn’t even bother trying.” So I didn’t, for nearly 15 years I never tried again.

Then I met Mary Snow on the TTC. I dissolved into tears on that first day of the course, from the pain of realising how much that teacher’s words had affected me and from realising that my dream of being a Steiner Class Teacher hung in the balance of my artistic prowess.

Over the next three years Mary came at me sideways, in much the same way as I would approach a traumatised horse. Never going head on with my feeling of inadequacy but gently encouraging, developing skills and lining up my classroom observation/practice with an artistic class teacher. I was safely passed from Mary’s wing to Vivienne Mackay’s without my awareness.

Vivienne, who was the present Class 9’s teacher from Classes 1 – 8, and this academic year took on new Class 1 – was much more direct. She showed me how to self correct, work on a blackboard and how to continue teaching while creating art.

Now I stand in front of my Class 7 and think very carefully about how two critical sentences could influence a teenager’s self belief for the future. I was angry at that art teacher, but now I’m grateful that his mistake has taught me to think before I speak, give genuine encouragement, suggest ways to improve rather than accept failure and the courage to apologise to a pupil when I get something wrong.

I am incredibly lucky to have met teachers who have inspired me to be an inspirational teacher.”


While the principles of Steiner Waldorf education are common to all Steiner schools, each school and individual teacher has the freedom to interpret and develop the curriculum in unique ways. This is because Steiner Waldorf education is rooted in values and intentions: it is not a collection of syllabuses which list specific bullet points of knowledge. It is not utilitarian.


It is the Class Teacher’s responsibility to bring each Main Lesson to the pupils in a vivid, pictorial way so that their imaginations are touched and their enthusiasm is fired. School trips expand and reinforce themes taught in Main Lessons.


All the teachers at Edinburgh Steiner School are registered with the General Teaching Council of Scotland. A significant number of our teachers also hold a mainstream Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE), and some hold Masters degrees (including in Education) and Doctorates. In addition to this, the majority of our teachers have a specialised training in Steiner Waldorf education.


Read the full Tuesday Notice here: Edinburgh Steiner School’s weekly ezine

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Christmas Market Bulletin: 70 raffle Prizes, Waldorf Christmas Workshop, Twisat on Fairground Games, and Call for Cake

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Working Out Of Experience

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