The play of a younger child is esteemed to be of great value in Waldorf schools, but the question turns to how the element of play affects middle school students in learning strategies. Futurist Daniel Pink celebrates play as a fundamental human trait which, when actively engaged in, promotes and fosters empathy, joy, well-being and connectedness with life. What does that mean for the teacher in the classroom?
Martin Derris wrote of the significance play can have on schooling. The sensitivity, openness and trust involved in play, he writes, can find full humanity in community and thus become a seed for developing social capacities. This reinforces the work of Steiner who based the core of pedagogical development on the ability of the class teacher to imbue content in a lively and engaging manner while developing the integrity of a liberal curriculum.
“Living thinking” are warmth and light processes in the mind and heart of the teacher. Light and warmth when actively practiced while engaging students is at the core of educational practices which have come alive. A true teacher possesses a capacity for connectedness through the very heart and spirit of the teaching profession. The three main themes behind engaged learning are: (1) to impart diverse teaching strategies (2) to allow student autonomy, and (3) to develop strategies for teacher/student connection. Children who are highly engaged are likely to receive additional positive support from their teachers so that student self-perceived autonomy can influence instruction. These practices bring about positive effects and less obvious boredom in the classrooms of the engaging teachers.” When the teacher is a facilitator for student learning and works deeply out of the empathic and intuitive faculties described by Steiner, Palmer, Barfield, and Zajonc, they set the stage for active engagement in the classroom or online. The balance between teacher effectiveness and student self-determination encourages a deep connection of relationship between the students, teachers and subject matter. Palmer’s statement that “Truth is an eternal conversation about things that matter, conducted with passion and discipline,” brings teaching through light and warmth possible.