What is a Trained Waldorf Teacher?

For the first time in 12 years of business, my lack of having a certificate from a Waldorf teacher training institute has been queried. How interesting this whole question is to me!

First, thank you to the homeschooling mother who raised the question – it is, from a certain point of view, an entirely valid concern. Unfortunately, it is a view that state authorities are increasingly taking with regard to Waldorf schools in many parts of the world. State authorities are presuming to be able to judge what makes a good teacher and what does not. Here we have a good example of the tension between that which is quantifiable in conventional terms (outcomes) and that which is something that has to be lived with, experienced and looked at in the light of each individual’s gifts and abilities. It is this latter view that has been the dominant one in Waldorf circles with regard to teacher training until fairly recently.

One might think this is surprising – surely Waldorf teachers have always been trained Waldorf teachers – yes, of course! But the idea of receiving training from a teaching course is relatively new. Until perhaps 20 years ago, the vast majority of Waldorf teachers were trained on the job, by their colleagues, in a living experiential way, with knowledge and meditive practice shared by colleagues whether one-on-one or in the course of teachers’ meetings. Training at a training college was seen as very much second best, not the proper way for someone to become a real Waldorf teacher at all. The ideal really was to become a teacher and at some later date, when one had real life experience under one’s belt, to possibly do a training to deepen what one already had.

Do bear in mind that when Rudolf Steiner began the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919, hardly any of the new staff were trained  teachers (ie conventionally trained – which of course is a whole different kettle of fish). They came from all walks of life and were hand picked by Steiner on the strength of their inner qualities. His lectures to them, and the observations he shared with them based on his classroom visits were, by and large, encouragement to them to make anthroposophy a living force in their lives and out of that fount of wisdom, to hdevelop the inner resources to become good teachers. Personal qualities – attentiveness, ability to observe children, enthusiasm, patience – married to a creative/artistic approach to life were what was most valued.

Such attention to the inner lives of teachers at Waldorf schools was the modus operandi for decades. All those wonderful luminaries that Waldorf teachers and homeschoolers  look to (Pat Livingston, Henry Barnes, Dorothy Harrer – all by the way, my teachers when I was a child !) did not become teachers at the first Waldorf school in the US, the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City, because of having certificates!  It was who they were and what lived in them that enabled them to become Waldorf teachers. They then became leaders in Waldorf education because their inner qualities and their inner work married to their life long experience with children, enabled them to so shine.

What was viewed as most important was to have years of living experience in teaching children coupled with the colleagial support of other teachers in the circle of the faculty of teachers and College of Teachers, both of which have also been eroded by legalistic impingement over the years. The importance of the inner unquantifiable is no longer, in many circles, seen to be what is paramount.

And this is precisely the training I received. At the Sheffield Steiner school, at the Merlin Nursery (which I established), at the Ringwood Steiner School, at Pleasant Ridge Steiner school, at the Youth Initiative High School – on the job training, colleagial support and then maybe receiving a  training from an institute, were what was valued most highly.

Over the years I often fretted over having not finished my training in the mid 1990s (with the amazing Brien Masters in London) – but I had good reasons to quit (one named Daniel, the other named Gabriel). And by the time life allowed me the time to finish teacher training at an institute, I had, to be honest, moved way past what would have been offered. I, frankly, could have run the training for others. This has been recognized again and again by other teachers, whether in the course of them asking for consultations from me, as colleagues, or as curriculum purchasers. You can go to our testimonials page and if you scroll way down, you will get to the section of testimonials from just a small selection of fellow teachers. People might also be interested to know that Floris Books, now the number one provide of English language Waldorf curriculum materials in the world, has asked me to create teacher’s versions of the Christopherus curriculum.

Testimonials from Teachers and School Parents



I should quickly add that I in no way am against the establishment of Waldorf teacher training courses. Many are absolutely marvellous, run by extraordinary people. But…the situation can arise again and again that a person completes such a course, has their certificate but….is not able to teach children. I have met many people who have such certificates and were told at the end of their course that yes, they passed  the course but that they needed more real life experience before they could truly be called Waldorf teachers.

I leave it to you all to decide what qualifications you need from the writers of the curriculum materials you use. Feedback welcome in the comments section here on this blog!

Posted on July 20, 2015 in Anthroposophy, Family Life and Parenting, Waldorf Curriculum

  • Barbara Benson says:

    What first attracted me to work with Donna’s curriculum ( when my youngest was in Kindy) was the wealth of real life experience in many different contexts that Donna brought to her materials.In my opinion she was more than qualified-she was inspired to share her experiences with other homeschoolers. She had experienced Waldorf education from every angle and she had chosen to homeschool her children! I was more than pleased to sign up. And later, I became a consultant for Christopherus based on my many years ( more than 25) of Waldorf inspired homeschooling.
    As a consultant for Christopherus (and a gardener), I am happy to have grown with Donna, and I believe that her deep roots in the fertile, organic soil of a living Waldorf tradition have yielded a joyful blossoming that can be used and appreciated by a wide variety of homeschoolers who want the benefits of Waldorf inspired homeschooling.

  • Cathy says:

    As much as I love the Waldorf Curriculum, we are first and foremost home schoolers. By choice. So I am really interested in the differences between being at school and being at home – how to take the most important aspects of a Waldorf education and to work with them and adapt them, if necessary, for use in the home setting. When looking for a homeschool curriculum I want something that acknowledges that home and school are different and doesn’t try to make us do “school at home.” Perhaps I am wrong, but I think the best qualification a homeschool curriculum writer could have is to have home educated their own children with a deep understanding of what Waldorf education is all about. Understanding how children learn is important, but teaching a room full of children is, I imagine, very different to teaching a small group of mixed ages, or a single child. So, again, someone who has taught at home would have more relevant experience in my humble opinion than someone who has only taught in a classroom or only been trained to work in a classroom. I’m not really impressed by qualifications – they only tell me someone has completed a course or sat an exam – they say nothing about the hard-earned wisdom they have gained from life experience. As an employer I’m much more interested in how someone works and how much experience they have under their belt than a piece of paper. I agree that training is useful, but it is just the start of a journey, perhaps, and I’m not even sure if it’s essential.

  • Donna says:

    Giggle….wondering if now Cathy and any others might now think I did not homeschool my children! That would be pretty funny – but after I read her comment I read what I wrote and realized that I er, uhm….didn’t say that I homeschooled my sons for most of their childhoods, right (partially) into the high school years (both went to Waldorf schools for a bit).Ooops!

  • Bibb Bailey says:

    I wanted to say- Donna’s personal experience of homeschooling her 2 sons is presented throughout the curriculum in a thoughtful and extraordinarily helpful way- She is a trusted leader and guide, and when i am immersed in her wonderfully well-written materials, her homeschooling experience feels just as prevalent as her Waldorf experience.
    (My 2 sons (ages 7 and 12) currently attend Waldorf School and I am homeschooling my daughter (age 9), so i feel i have good perspective on both worlds.)

  • Tessa says:

    If you came up with a teacher training course, I would so buy it!

  • Crisol says:

    I agree that teacher training doesn’t prepare you with working in a classroom..I also would like to say that having been a homeschoolers first with no teacher training my mind was more open to an eclectic way of teaching my children….after I went back to school for teacher training I constantly struggle with the rigidness of it and the constraints of common core with children who are 2 or 3 grades behind according to state assessment yet we are pushed and pressured to teach children who don’t have the foundations to grasp the anstractness and complexity that the curriculum demands..that’s when I wish for a simpler time that was more flexible…working with preschoolers in my home instead of middle schoolers in public school system.. after debating for years between Montessori and Waldorf my heart finally feels at home with waldorf..play..outdoors and nature..I want to go back to basics and get off of the grid….

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