TESTIMONIALS FROM CHINA

CHINA

“Of all the teachers we have had here in 8 years the student have learned most from you. In addition to teaching them of nature and children and teaching, you have taught them of their own Chinese land and culture.” (Li Yen- Founder of Phoenix Academy)

“Before your teaching I did not know how to play. Know I know how to play and how to play with children. I will practice a lot because I know how important it is. Thank you Sandra.” (Student, 27)

“You have taught us freedom to think and draw and tell stories. That what we do is important. This is a new way of education for us. Now we can share that way with the children. We did not know another way until now. You are the best teacher we have ever had because you help us care for ourselves.” (Student, 23)

“No one has ever listened to us before. They were not interested. Now I know what it feels like to be listened to and understood. Now I know how to do that for the children. Thank you Sandra.” (Student, 18)

“You treated us as equals, none of us better than the other. Each voice was as important as the other and through role playing a potential complex problem at camp I have learned what it feels like to be a different point of view to my own. This was really powerful for me. Thank you.” (Student, 20)

“I was afraid of communicating with other people before I came to this training. I am not afraid any more. I enjoyed sharing my stories and pictures. An outstanding memories for me of this week was when you said we are not just the teacher, we are the farmer and doctor and artist too. I am really excited to think of my work this way. Thank you.” (Counsellor, 30)

“I’ve been to a few nature training with children sessions. They are boring and just about the rules that children must follow. We don’t learn about what to do with children. Now I have some ideas of what to do with children and then there is not much need for rules.” (Student, 22)

“I have learned the most important thing is to make a rainbow bridge between myself and the child. I know how to do this with all of the children now. Thank you for teaching me how to make friends. You are my best friend and teacher. Thank you.” (Worker with abandoned children, 27)

“I never thought I would make a doll out of thing air, or create a powerful and unconstrained story, or draw something on a piece of white paper, because previous education has always been missing this piece. When I look at these, I feel a sense of achievement and think I overcame this fear, not just communication with a foreign teacher, but to create something takes courage. I think the teacher’s education succeeded, because with such courage I might change my attitude to life and how I handle things.” (Student, 23)

TEACHER TRAINING FIJI

FIJI

Teacher Training summary from my time at Suva Flame Waldorf School
It was an honour to be invited back to the Suva Fiji Flame school to continue our good work together , begun in the teacher training course  ( coaching and mentoring) 2014.
Following circle games and “embodying ourselves for the day, the teachers took a meditation study based on “Goethean Observation principles ” another step further. From object identification to a study refined through drawing, writing about and “what does this part of nature have to say to me?”. The responses were powerful as we shared these each day.
Last July we developed a “Mango Seed” story , that was written by the director of the Prescool/Kindergarten. The teachers acted it out and described, what it felt like to be the large tree, the bird pecking the flesh of the mangos, the wind blowing the leaves off the tree. What a thrill when the dramatic  story was acted for the Parent “What is Waldorf Eduction” evening. THEN it became a long enjoyed Circle game and the children were thrilled also to take different “roles” each day.
This year the Lantern Festival was imminent and at my suggestion, the teachers wrote stories of what “lanterns mean to me ” from their respective village or town lives. These were powerful when spoken out on eve of the Lantern Festival when parents and children came to sing and walk in the dark with their carefully crafted lanterns. One teacher was a little flame that needed protection. One by one the teachers (and cook) came forth and spoke the story they had written: ” in my village when the nights grew dark”….  then becoming a “Post” then  forming  walls with coloured veils as they linked with another teacher. Soon the circle was complete and the flame was protected and could give light to the people outside the lantern without danger of the ever increasing wind blowing her out. We sang “This Little Light of Mine” (as I had taught the teachers in the previous year) and other practiced songs, as children and families went on their long walk into the night dark.
Everyday  of the training we did the physical work necessary to build up the compost, clean up the yards and to make new compost and garden beds. A favourite outing was to the agricultural centre to collect manure for the compost and clay for the tree pasting and play.
We studied some children with particular needs whom I had observed in the previous week. We practiced “healthy living” techniques to better support the children and parents and teachers.   We hosted a much appreciated parent evening on “The Importance of Play”.
Our last day together was a “Festival of  Sports ” as it was a National Holiday for Fiji.  Teachers were asked to bring traditional games as they had grown up with. We had a grand time. Even the  grounds keeper, cooks and family children joining us too in a covering our bodies with clay as collected on our agricultural day, and sliding down the steep hill on a watered tarpaulin.
I was made aware upon arrival of  some staff conflict.  Throughout our time together we practiced consciousness raising exercises for the questions:  “what do I need to do to take responsibility for myself and my colleagues and the School? This offered colleagues a chance to “tell their story”, to “hear the other” in a “held” space; to hear suggestions for self reflection and  to make commitments for change to better serve self and school integrity.
It is a joy to work with these teachers and parents and children. THANK you SUVA FLAME Waldorf SCHOOL.
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Above: The teachers at Flame Waldorf School acting out the ‘Mango Tree’ story
TO SEE MORE ABOUT FLAME WALDORF KINDERGARTEN:
TO SEE MORE ABOUT ‘PLAY AND DRAMATHERAPY’:

STORYTELLING WORKSHOP TIANFU

CHINA

“Teach us some of the songs you sing Sandra”, came the request from the Parent body. Quickly we arranged that it would be the morning of the 1st year celebration of Tianfu Forest (Aspiring) Waldorf School. We sang on the school pathway where all the children could see us as they enjoyed their outdoor playground time.

The American Spiritual “This Little light of Mine ; Romi Agam Rom’s “ I am flying I am flying I am flying adorned with wings of light” and then Hafiz’s “ The sky where we live is no place to lose your wings: SO LOVe LOVe LOVE x2” (to Belinda Pagden’s tune).

While we flew about a circle singing in English and then in Chinese (immediately translated), we knew that we were making some kind of magic out there at Tianfu.

We stopped, in silence and awe we heard “COOOOO, COOOO, COOOO” from across the fields and in the nearby forest. So we sang again, and then heard “COO COOO COOO. ”

“Wo de Tien Ah” (Chinese for “OH my heavens “) rang out with our laughter and sparkly tears.

Then to the puppet show I was putting on for the children in the grove by their playground. A last before my leave taking after 3 months with this beloved Tianfu community. The parents had rehearsed the theme song “Seed Seed Tiny Seed” with me so the children were truly held by our encircling. They joined in too, all in English.

After the puppet show we sang our way to the “Storying Room”, (so named because we had first used this room the week before for our 3 day Storying Workshop. ) This room was a purpose built restaurant above the campus kitchen. I thought it would be perfect for a lounge sort of ambiance with large red and gold pillows on the red carpeted floor and so it became our singing and laughing and gaming and storying refuge for the Storying workshop and now this Singing Episode.

We decided together what would be appropriate for our last hour of singing. I introduced Shea Darwin’s “Healing Healing Water” song and we acted out in pairs how we might comfort a child or be comforted as a child with this song. The absurdity of adults sitting on each others laps had us rollicking . When we tickled as one tickles a child, we were weeping with merriment.

The one male present had been taking photos but it was insisted that he join in the our fun. He was “rushed” by elegantly dressed ladies who had completely lost their composure in the lesson.

I told a Native American story from Nancy Mellon’s “ Body Eloquence” that encourages celebration for depressing times. We walked a circle saying “HO “ as we beat our chests and stomped for emphasis. The chef and his assistants preparing lunch in the kitchen below us responded by beating their massive woks in unision.

Again we were crying laughing while practicing the importance of observing the wonders of LIFE.

I suggested that these songs are good for taking our children (AND ourselves) out of melancholia and into “moving on”. It is important to acknowledge our own and our children/family/friends’ pain and suffering. It is important that we learn how to get out of that state. Too much sympathy may be inappropriate.

Practicing increasing our heart rates by tickling, pounding our chest, stomping and creating music is a key to healing. As educators (parents are educators too) we must be committed to this task. Most people in the world are suffering a personal grief and then there is the grief for their families, their people, and their gender.

Depression and related illnesses are in epidemic quantities. Suicide of men and increasingly younger people are distressing themselves. We all have a responsibility to address this global malady. Learning how to cope with a child’s distress is a good start!

We ended our meaningful and lively session with “Off we go on our ponies” : Riding in a circle and “Whoa Whoa Whoa” . It was evident who the horsewoman was among us! She held her reins “just so” as she cantered with a straight back around the circle. This is a good song for getting children from one place to another. The often difficult “Transition”.

Children are well contained because there is this “riding off into space “ and then a built in “stopping of the horse”. Obviously this is a good song for teaching “self imposed discipline” too. The children are not galloping off chaotically. There is out- breathing and in -breathing to end.

A group hug ended our session and we look forward to more fun another time.

COMPOSTING AT TIANFU

CHINA

It is with such gratitude and fulfilment to write about the completion of our first ever batch of compost at Tianfu! As so many of us know, compost is everything. In both the physical and the energetic sense we are doing good transformative work here from the ‘ground up’ at this exciting young Waldorf Forest School & it is such a pleasure to be a part of it!

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WINTER HARVEST AT TIANFU

CHINA

On Saturday November 14 2015 the families and staff of Tianfu Forest Waldorf School gathered together to wholeheartedly participate in an agricultural opportunity. We discussed weather pressure systems, dug rich compost into the orange clay for our winter beds and harvested sweet potatoes and taro from our very successful Spring planting

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PHOENIX BIODYNAMIC CAMP

CHINA

We had many rich nature-based experiences at the wonderful Phoenix BD Camp last July 2015 including preparing our own food from the garden and meeting a mother cow about to give birth to her precious calf. Pheonix mountain BD farm is found just outside Beijing & below are pictures of the plentiful July Summer Gardens from which we collected fresh tomatoes for our pizza as well as cucumber for our salad – yum!

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Above: This stunning statue prompted a spontaneous telling of the story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff within our group of hikers one afternoon at the Yellow Mountain.

MONGOLIA NATURE & DRAMA CAMP

MONGOLIA

As a group we faced our fears of nature and the unknown on our first ever Inner Mongolia nature and drama camp for 6-11 year olds.

For the first time in their lives many of the children experienced hiking a mountain, dangling their feet in fresh icy mountain streams, bonding around the campfire and playing in ” natural sand” conditions . What a privilege to introduce them to the elements. We claimed Eco warrior status as we picked up rubbish wherever we explored: hills, grasslands and sand dunes.
Meal blessing and meeting Mongolian Grasslands hosts after our cooking lesson

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