Yesterday we trekked up to the San Fernando Valley for a visit and very spirited conversation with our fabulous friend Christine Natale at the City School Waldorf Initiative, where she has recently joined the school as an early childhood teacher. How lucky are they!? She has fully imbued this space with the warmth of her whole being, and her love and deep dedication for this work were the weaving on the loom throughout our entire conversation.
Christine’s path into Waldorf Education began when she was a teenager and found herself working on the Threefold Farm in New York. When asked to name her most defining mentors, Christine responded immediately: “René Querido, Alan Howard, Margaret Meyerkort, and Irene Ellis.” René Querido and Alan Howard offered an open-hearted sincerity in their ability to see and affirm the true potential of others. They accepted her just as she was. Margaret Meyerkort brought a true, genuine love with an understanding of the importance of the social aspects of the education as well as the rhythm of the day. Irene Ellis offered her gifts in painting, and Christine still follows her guidance of an immaculate painting setup to this day.
On the Threefold Farm, Christine shared a cabin with a group of nine girls, all of whom were Waldorf students. Not one of them was the same, though, as they each brought their own unique interests and ways of being in the world. Despite their differences, they loved and accepted each other and Christine as well. This quality of acceptance that Christine experienced from her new peers and mentors, she thought, must be what Waldorf Education is all about.
Christine holds a great care for preserving the founding principals of Waldorf Education as brought forth by Rudolf Steiner and Emil Molt in 1919, and she is inspired by the work of Johannes Tautz on the founding of the first Waldorf School in Stuttgart. Steiner and his coworkers strove tirelessly to achieve a renewal of society, working from a threefold conception of the social organism. Christine expressed that in bringing about such a renewal, she feels that “we are 100 years behind our own time.” It is time to manifest change. And with that the roof was raised and it was a fist thumping, leg stomping fabulous round table ‘let’s get this done’ conversation. J
Christine is a prolific and caring individual, full of love for humanity. She has created an ambitious treatise called Threefold Waldorf— Renewing the Paradigm, outlining her vision for a healthy school founded on threefold principles. Her work begins with her own interpretation Steiner’s Motto for a Social Ethic:
“The healthy social life will become a reality
When, in the mirror of each human soul
The entire community can find its reflection
And when, in the Chalice of the Community
The Creativity, Consciousness, Compassion and
Courage of every Individual is truly alive.”
There is nothing in Christine’s work that has not been fully penetrated with the depth of her being. In her vision, Christine weaves a cosmic consideration of qualities of numbers into all aspects of school governance. For example, when considering group work, the quality of 12 calls to mind the Knights of the Roundtable and the Fairytale of the Twelve Months.
Christine is a Waldorf teacher in her full being. “You cannot pay me to do what I do,” she declared. She teaches out of love. Of course, teachers need to receive money that frees them to do their work, but the work is not for money. Christine has put great thought into considering economics in schools. An example is her picture of a sponsorship program, outlined in her treatise with the heading: “Scholarship Engenders Pride; Financial Aid Engenders Shame; Sponsorship Engenders Love.” Truly, love is the defining quality of all Christine does. In her vision for Waldorf Education, she has left no stone unturned, and her ideas deserve careful consideration.
We asked Christine what questions we could hold for her as we move forward on our journey. She responded: “How do we take up the economic sphere, get over our fear of money, and understand its laws? Can we learn to work with them in a celebratory way?” She went on to say that the economic sphere is the most spiritual of all. It goes into the future with the will element. Through the will, the forces of the future come into being. Our feet take us into the future. Our soles are our souls. Many economic endeavors were started in Steiner’s time. When are we going to take them up again?
In our discussion we posed the question of considering this to be a manifestation year of anthroposophy. Can we share out? Is there space for a roundtable conversation with teachers in other streams so that we can each learn from the other? We are looking to the possibility of a gathering of Waldorf teachers to come together and share their experiences in the work. Christine suggested the theme: “What is working in Waldorf?”
It was striking that in both our conversation with Christine and with the Santa Barbara group, we heard an anecdote that was new to us both: Rudolf Steiner is said to have remarked, “Too bad the man who invented the zipper was not an anthroposophist.” Indeed, we hold among us tremendous creative forces. If we can come together to harvest and share them, so much is possible.