“That the Nazis didn’t like our schools is good publicity” | Education
Klaus Esser (Hamburg, 48 years old) is a teacher and member of the management team of the El Til.ler school, the lime tree, in Bellaterrra (Barcelona), one of the more than two thousand schools worldwide (several in Spain) in those that are taught with the Waldorf method, a pedagogical system that grants a wide degree of freedom to the student so that he learns to think and live, as the motto of the school maintains. The Waldorf method has been contested, even suspected, but the reality is that it is taught without problem in our country and abroad, parents are happy and dissatisfied to the same extent as in conventional schools, and their students join as all to higher education. Esser, who studied at a Waldorf school (his mother was a teacher at one), became a music teacher, learned theater (which is part of the Waldorf curriculum), traveled to South America and did educational initiatives with difficult young people. He arrived in Barcelona in 2000 and in 2005 he joined the Bellaterra center project. He seems like a decent man, he’s kind and doesn’t get annoyed when they ask awkward questions. He is passionate when talking about his job.
Ask: What is the Waldorf method?
Answer. A methodology that aspires for each child to discover and cultivate their own talent. And at the same time learn to work as a team. How to be an individual within a group. Giving value to art, which is a great ally to create criteria, but also to science.
P. The Waldorf thing sounds like a hotel and a movie.
R. He comes from the Waldorf Astoria company, a Stuttgart cigarette factory whose owner, Emil Molt, wanted to create a school for the children of the employees. For this he required the help of the philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Today there are Waldorf schools in 60 countries.
P. Steiner was also the founder of anthroposophy, a school of thought that has been dismissed as pseudoscientific and associated with esoteric beliefs. Gives a bit of yuyu.
R. What interests us today about Steiner in the pedagogical field is his idea of free education, free with a structure, obviously; an idea that was revolutionary in his time. And his concept that the teacher’s most important task is to develop enthusiasm and enthusiasm for learning. There is nothing weird or sinister, of course, at our school. Waldorf schools are independent, there is no central body, nor an orthodoxy. Ours is a mixed cooperative of teachers and parents. At present, the Waldorf method has the specific aim of promoting creativity transversally in all subjects.
P. It seems that the Nazis did not do well.
R. Schools were banned, and some teachers ended up in concentration camps. They seemed dangerous because they gave students too much autonomy and encouraged their own thinking. The opposite of the Hitler regime. In Germany they only began to revive after the war. That the Nazis didn’t like them is good propaganda.
P. Do Waldorf students have integration problems after finishing school?
R. No; It is true that in the last cycle before selectivity we accelerate, but they pass in the same proportion as the others. What they do tell us at the university is that they are very motivated students, with great criteria.
P. They accuse them of being elitist, of being schools for good people.
R. Unfortunately, there has been some development in that direction, especially coming from being a school for children of workers; In Spain we are 100% private, while in other countries the schools are publicly subsidized. But we try that nobody who wants to study with us cannot do it, there are formulas. In fact, when we started we were the least elitist private school in Catalonia, we cost much less than the others.
P. What do you think about learning by heart being valued again? It sounds like going back to the lists of the Gothic kings or the tributaries of the Duero on the right.
R. The difficulty is achieving a balance, not going to extremes, freedom is not that anything goes.
P. What do you think of the use of technology in schools?
R. Mobile phones cannot be used in our school. And everything has to be age appropriate. Early contact with screens can subtract more than contribute to children’s abilities. Technology is fantastic, and we use it, it is a powerful work tool for adolescents, but it must be introduced gradually so that concentration and performance do not diminish, and creativity and fantasy do not suffer.
P. The emphasis on nature is reminiscent of Thoreau.
R. There is no direct relationship, but we take advantage of contact with the natural environment like him. Nature is full of wisdom.
P. Do we have to talk to children about everything, in matters of sex, for example?
R. They should not be forced to reflect on things in which they have no criteria. Doubts that arise from them must be accompanied.
P. On a personal level, what do you like about your job?
R. It’s amazing! See how capacity and talent grow before your eyes, and how adolescents have the courage to do what they set out to do. It turns out something unique.
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