Last week, we had the chance to sit down with Patrice Maynard for tea just down the street from her office in Chatham, NY. Giving directions to meet her, Patrice said we should look for the black and white gingerbread style office with the AWSNA sign that would soon change to a sign for the Research Institute. Patrice was a Waldorf class teacher for thirteen years in Hawthorne Valley and has spent the last nine years as Leader of Outreach and Development for the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America. She has just begun a new role as Director of Publications and Development for the Research Institute for Waldorf Education, and she is fully embracing it!
A strong spokesperson for Waldorf Education and for independence in schooling, Patrice has served as Secretary of the Council for American Private Education (CAPE) in Washington, DC. She is an advocate for school choice, meeting with leaders in education nationwide. She recently offered a workshop in Los Angeles on Threefold Social Ideals and Spirituality in Waldorf Education that drew over 30 participants for the weeklong course. She also meets communities around the notion of Waldorf Education as a Constructive Revolution.
It was really wonderful to be able to spend time with Patrice and hear stories from her years in the movement. She shared about taking her second class of students after completing a full loop of first through eighth grade with her first group. Parents and colleagues were pleased to have an experienced teacher on for the class. Visiting teachers were eager to see Patrice lead the class to learn from her example. As the second class was quite different and much more challenging than the first, Patrice had to meet them creatively each day, stretching more than she might have thought possible. She also found that the unique qualities of each individual child called for her presence and resourcefulness. A true encounter was able to take place. We must always meet the students in front of us and not fall back into old patterns. Her storytelling is so rich that we could imagine ourselves in each moment with her as she spoke. How Patrice met the call for “She’s not the boss! Don’t listen to her, everybody!” offers a lesson in creativity that would serve any teacher in meeting the trials of the journey.
In our conversation with Patrice, we shared some of what we are hearing as a call for new forms. This idea resonated with her, and she followed it by saying that it is from the esoteric that the new form will come. We must have a commitment to the spiritual world. That relationship will create the atmosphere for new forms.
Discussing the threefold picture as it concerns education, Patrice shared that there should be limits to state action. In the realm of education, it is the state’s role to defend the rights of children to have an education, not to dictate what form it should take. What we heard her saying is that she stands for intentional schooling. “Yes,” she agreed.
According to Patrice, we need to tend to our relationships, asking ourselves: “Can I be integrity with you?” We must stay true to the laying of the Foundation Stone in our hearts. One question that Patrice holds is “How do I take a stand and leave the other free?”
We spoke about our hope for a Michaelic renewal of civilization. Patrice raised the interesting point that Steiner had shared that the Michaelic Impulse is born through the speech organ. This indication led to Werbeck’s new art of singing in 1927.
Patrice finds many people doing inspiring work in the world. We can all be grateful to Matt Ritchel, who wrote the autumn 2011 NY Times articles about Waldorf Education’s approach to technology. Ritchel had been intrigued to discover that many Silicon Valley, Google, and other high-tech parents choose to send their children to low-tech Waldorf schools. He contacted Patrice before writing the article and was interested in learning more about this unique education. Through his article, “A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute,” Ritchel helped launch Waldorf Education onto the stage of contemporary debate. His attitude is to get the questions in! We must be out in current conversation.
More and more interest is being shown in Waldorf Education. Patrice has already taken up incredible outreach, including work with the Lakota Waldorf School on the Oglala Lakota Reservation in South Dakota. In her new role, Patrice will have increasing opportunity to collaborate with researchers both within and outside of our movement. We have 90 years of education, and it is important to maintain integrity in our form. We can build on the research that has already been done, such as the study on Waldorf graduates that demonstrates the balance of fields and life paths they enter. Patrice is finding the opportunity to reach out into academia to share the fruits of Waldorf Education. She welcomes the challenge of meeting the world, not waiting for it to come to her. Willing to stand among her contemporaries, Patrice speaks with conviction and warmth.
If we look around us, we will find that Steiner’s work is getting out more and more. Just last year, MOMA had an exhibit called Century of the Child. Patrice went to see it and was delighted to find an image of one of Steiner’s chalkboard drawings right in the front room.
Gil Scot Heron’s “Ain’t no Such Thing as Superman” speaks to the anti-collaborative approach that is so prevalent in our culture and our need to move toward a new future:
“Oh, you alone understand that if we gonna win
We’ve got to get together, stay together, be together, stick together…
It seem to me that you have found the courage that others could not find
You alone have the wisdom to take this world and make it what it need to be, want to be, will be, someday you’ll see
The day, the day you understand
That there ain’t no such thing as a superman.”
We wish we had remembered to ask Patrice about her first encounter with Henry Barnes that she described after his passing: “When I first came to work at the Hawthorne Valley School, I met Henry Barnes on his knees pulling weeds in the walk up to the front door of the school. He assured me with a twinkle that one need not wait to deepen one’s anthroposophy to take on the meditative task of weed pulling and that I could help at any point in my career. So, I did, and understood the balance and friendly humility in Henry Barnes. He’ll be as mighty a friend from the other side as he was here – perhaps more.” That is definitely true for us! Patrice has certainly developed her own friendly humility. On our way for tea, she stopped to pick up scraps of papers lay strewn on the path before we had even seen them. It’s often in such simple gestures that we see one’s true humanity.
At the end of our visit, we asked Patrice if she would like to stand with the Threefold flag. She cheerfully agreed. As we stood to take the picture, we looked over our shoulders and saw that while we had been out for tea her sign had been changed to read “The Research Institute for Waldorf Education.” We wish Patrice all the best in her new endeavor and look forward to seeing the Research Institute move forward in a revolutionary way under her guidance. She is sure to move us strongly ahead. What a gift she is to us all!