Last Sunday, we visited Rudolf Steiner College before making our way to an appointment in Sacramento. We walked through the gardens, spent time by the flow form, and visited with a cow whose big beautiful brown eyes seemed to beckon us to make her acquaintance. Rudolf Steiner spoke of the cosmic quality of the cow, and it was clear how this could be the case when we were able to stand with this marvelous creature, bit by bit pulling up the grass with her teeth, munching and moseying back in to pull up the next portion of her meal with her big beautiful teeth. Just so beautiful.
We were just getting ready to leave when a sunny young lady came walking towards us in the parking lot, cheerfully asking “Are you students here?” No. “Teachers?” Not exactly. We introduced ourselves and our project, and before we knew it we had a spontaneous meeting underway.
Laura Johnson had just arrived to campus for the 4th grade teachers’ intensive week to prepare for the upcoming year with her class at the Shining Star Waldorf School in Portland, Oregon. Her mother is a long-standing Waldorf teacher, and Laura was a Waldorf student from third through twelfth grade. Valerie Miles, currently of the Micha-el Institute in Portland, was her class teacher.
Laura was busy teaching art in a local college when a position opened with a class at the Waldorf School. She stepped in to cover it temporarily, but found that she truly loved the work. The parents found that they truly loved Laura, and they asked her if she would stay on with the class. In this way, Laura didn’t choose the path of teaching for herself; it just came. There was destiny at work there. Then came her conscious choice in freedom to take on teaching as her path, and to stay with this group of students.
For Laura, our engagement with others about anthroposophy or Waldorf Education needs to be fun, free, and frequent. Considering how those of us in Waldorf schools can connect to teachers in other traditions, she said it can really start with us being friends with other teachers. Do we take an interest in their work?
A topic of particular interest to Laura is that of technology. How do we integrate technology into our education? It is not something we can keep out. It is something to live with, but to do so with a sense of social responsibility. With social media, our interactions can become faceless and destructive. With technology, there is so much hate. As we use this tool, can we recognize the gift for transforming our relationships for healthy human interactions?
Many teachers and colleagues are sources of inspiration to Laura. Nancy Peirce has so much love and enthusiasm for her work. After so many years of teaching, she never tires! She never gets sick! (She has been known to attribute her good health to her daily form drawing practice.) Deirdre Spahr has completed a thesis on Waldorf outdoor education. Chi Moore is another inspiring colleague who started out with a career in computer technology and has now found his way into Waldorf teaching. We have so much to learn from each other in our collaborations!
Teacher health and renewal is a common theme in Waldorf schools, where colleagues often have so much to carry in addition to their already busy lives. Laura appreciates what she has seen in German Waldorf schools, where she attended for part of her childhood. There it seems like “a golden world.” She remembers the teachers having long breaks that allowed them to reenter the teaching day renewed and enthused. The balance of work and rest seemed so healthy in Germany. Laura clearly has the love and enthusiasm for the work! When so many seem tired, it is so refreshing to meet a young teacher like her with such vibrant life forces pouring into her chosen task!
Laura described her morning practice of speaking Steiner’s verse for teachers with her colleagues each day. In this moment, she feels connected to teachers everywhere. Through this verse, she imagines her colleagues, known and unknown, coming together all over the world to uplift the task of Waldorf Education for the future of humanity:
We have the will to work
That into this our work may flow,
That which, from out of the Spiritual Worlds,
Working in Soul and Spirit,
In Life and Body,
Strives to become human within us.
When we met the group in Santa Barbara, those with connections to the local Waldorf school expressed interest in getting to know some younger teachers who could meet the parents in a new way. We have found just the person in Laura Johnson! She is young, articulate, dedicated, and willing to live into the questions of our time. As we are looking to a future gathering of Waldorf teachers that came forward in our conversation with Christine Natale, we asked Laura if she would like to join with us in imagining and forming such an event. “Yes!” A theme we have discussed is “What is working in Waldorf.” Through her depth of consideration, Laura helped us see that these words work on deeper levels than we had first imagined. Truly, what is at work here, friends?
Arriving to the RSC campus, we had had the feeling of “Who do we need to meet here?” Well, we are so happy to have met Laura Johnson. She is a shining light for the future!