Teaching into the Future

The Tin Man and the Human Heart – Teaching into our Digital Age: Part 2

I believe that the heart of humanity is to be found through natural rhythms of human development. Our dependence on screens makes online education gravitate towards fostering abstract and technical concepts that lack a deeper connection with our humanness. A level of technical proficiency and access to technology is required to access information which is presented in a format only loosely connected to human relationship. I believe that it’s imperative to bring warmth of heart and cultural meaning to all forms of education. Today, our human story will be greatly influenced by how we choose to educate our children. One of those ways is through story. Stories are our birthright and the means by which cultures across the globe have taught upcoming generations with wisdom and guidance. They’re the backbone of human imagination and collaboration. These two significant traits that we’ve developed since the Paleolithic age.

Steiner repeatedly spoke of how images are the turning point and the turning point of knowledge. That’s why we work with images behind the alphabet to create stories that teach our children to remember every subject from geography to mathematics in many Waldor schools. Pedagogical stories, which are stories created to affect human behavior and have been used and created for over one hundred and fifty years. I know because I’ve collected a lot of them dated between eighteen ninety five and nineteen twenty and are incredible insights into pedagogical development and how you can really work with behavioral strategies and changes through the story for young children. Taking it to the next level of an artistic process allows us to integrate those pictures through our inner life. How do we create and teach to the inner life of children, not the outer life, is to really work with the element of the heart. Waldorf education strongly develops the life at the heart, along with the development of body and mind through artistic endeavors. 

The view that the actual process of becoming human, which is a work in becoming wholly oneself over a lifetime, is centered in the experience of the human heart, in all its frailties and vulnerabilities, capacities, triumphs and achievements. Thinking with our hard forces cultivates the capacity for inspiration. As a potter, I can say that the hard forces that are commonly held very close in the art world is a way of thinking through your medium of the art. I think through my clay. It’s a new kind of intelligence, a deep soul level of intelligence. All mediums of artistic expression can open the child and all of our hearts and soul to an inner experience of deep feeling. Music is essential to the development of the finer tones of our hearing and ability to rise above ourselves through sound, drawing and painting, poetry, song, instrument, sculpture and work, knitting, sewing, beadwork, spinning, weaving felting, woodwork carving, clay, stone, metal are all components of art. They’re all components of art which fill the soul with finer qualities of our human experience and the gift of wonder. They also cultivate our hand intelligence, which brings fine motor skills to balance. In this digital age, these human capacities are essential modes for inner expression and emotional resilience.

I teach pottery to many adults, and I’ve done so for the last 11 years on a weekly basis, and I’ve really noticed that the adults that are now coming into my studio under the age of 30 are really lacking in an awareness of what their hands can do and how their hands can hold the clay. When I ask what they do for a living. It’s almost 98 percent digital. So I think they know why they’re there. In fact, one girl said, you know, I’m a graphic designer. I really don’t care if I make pots. I just need to be here. They know what it is to center oneself through your hands and what hand intelligence is for the whole human. How do we bring that to the children beyond a digital screen world, beyond our love affair at the moment with digital technology? Don’t get me wrong, I’m fascinated by all the digital technology can give me and can do for me as a business person and as a teacher and as an interested person in the world. The world’s my oyster. I have no problem with that. It’s just the question of how do we bring balance? How do we bring our ideas and thoughts through to expression? By creating forms for ideas to live in and be seen is the quintessential process of human invention and purpose.

In our virtual realities, where we can invent and alter ego, a virtual avatar, which exists only in the realm of thought, is robbing our children and youth, I believe, of necessary skills to thrive in the natural world. So what does that look like? Well, if you’re a homeschooling parent, working with building projects, using any medium such as gardens, clothes, cooking, baking, or anything made by the children themselves gives rise to hand intelligence and confidence to create what is needed for themselves in the world and in the classroom. I would say the projects are limitless, and as many elementary and junior high school teachers know into the secondary school system, it’s a little harder there to really work with hands-on projects as much as possible. So when I develop a lesson, I’m always thinking about the heart of the concept I intend to create. Usually I go into a story of what the concept was and how it began to be invented in the world. The history of architecture, the history of mathematics, the history. It all has a human story behind it. When you give that human story behind mathematics, behind architecture, behind any level of the sciences, the beginnings of human invention and purpose, we’ve got a reason, we’ve got a hard force. 

Soon after, the children try to recreate that in one project or another, whether it be at home, that they then present through video format or in the classroom situation where they’ve got a buddy to work with and they can put their hands to work, bringing that concept to Earth, and bringing it down. This fosters an inner resilience through the outer outward. Fostering inner resilience through our deeds was once a given. Now it needs to be a conscious choice in educating our children. Social media is educating our children to a higher degree, and algorithms are increasingly influencing the nature of our desires and interests and lifestyles. You have to ask ourselves what our moral definitions of success or how we raise our children to be good human beings and members of society is up for discussion, and we need to discuss it rather than give way to machine intelligence over the capacities of the human heart. So that brings collaboration to mind, how do we bring that level of human encounter to the classroom?

I believe that we’re all educators, we’re all students, whether we term ourselves mentors or learners, parents or teachers, the world is an offering on every level of human understanding, place and time. We’re living in a time of unprecedented change. If we do not want to be swept off our feet or simply led by algorithms, we need to find our still point of quiet certainty in which to breathe, live, create and educate our children into an emerging future which still holds core human values at the center of our purpose and our directive. It’s really about being human, and rising to the highest of our human striving, our hearts to intelligence and our ethical deeds in this world. Teaching into the future means building and creating deep ties and creative relationships belonging to our place and our time. It’s a whole approach to learning, one which calls for interest, attention and presence of mind. How can we build these deep relationships, not around ideologies, but around the real world challenges that we face? I think that growing our capacities for thought, stories, stillness, art, human connection and finding the inner voice of our spirit gives us the power to reshape the future as it emerges. 

Jennifer Gidley, who I follow on LinkedIn, wrote a short book where she said that we need to imagine a world where we look for the good and ensure the education, health, environment, agriculture and all aspects of society are based on the simple understanding that we have many common grounds that are intrinsic to the core of being human rather than the insecurities and biases that currently dominate. We can change the narrative and create a future view that is full of optimism and potential, where the obstacles and insecurities that are raised today have moved from our lexicon and only remembered as a way from the past that we have left behind. This is the view for individuals, communities and the whole society that unites us and allows us the capacity to seek ways to work together. This creative and modern educational vision offers one way forward to consciously facilitate the emergence in children of more life promoting integral, spiritually aware forms of consciousness. Similar to the Tin Man, transcendence is within our reach if we have the courage. In order to write and tell our stories about a human heart centered world of love, belonging and wisdom, I believe our children depend on our imagination of our future, which holds what it means to be truly human at the core of it, or we risk losing our freedoms to the colonizing forces of artificial over authentic intelligence. 

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