Forming a Spiritual Organ in a School: LeadTogether Highlight #10, 10-27-14

The question of collegial leadership

We had a board/faculty meeting this week, a regular event to build good relationships between the two groups. One activity we did (highly recommended) was to split into threes (one board and two teachers) and explore one of the core principles of Waldorf education developed by the Pedagogical Section Council.

Our group chose #7 Spiritual Orientation. In our conversation we came to the sentence talking about the development of a spiritual organ in the faculty.

My experience with this is that the ability to develop a healthy spiritual organ in the faculty is founded on three things: the ability of each individual to practice his/her inner work and alignment with the light of anthroposophy; the ability of each individual to be successful at putting the results of his/her inner work into action in teaching; and the ability of the group to work together in meditative and social ways in developing a healthy working with spirit. Without these three the formation of a true organ of perception for spirit is not possible.

So what do schools do when the faculty is not experienced enough or trained enough or socially adept enough to create such an organ, our insightful board colleague asked? I described to him the practice schools have of forming a smaller group of dedicated, experienced, pedagogically successful, social and inwardly active teachers that can bring insight, hold the place of spiritual connection and provide a deeper foundation for the school.

His first question was: Wouldn’t that automatically create a stratum in the faculty and a set of consequent problems? We pondered this question for a while and realized that this is the basic social question that we all as individuals are faced – that when two people meet, one has more capacity than the other to consciously connect with spiritual insight and, to create a harmonious working with the other, must exercise true collaborative leadership in a way that the equality between them and the freedom of each is nourished. Otherwise, without the social capacity, the one with more capacity easily is perceived as arrogant or condescending.

This is the same dynamic that we have been challenged with in the movement for a long time – that the college of teachers has a difficult time exercising leadership in such a way that they work in harmony with the entire faculty. What is needed is for college groups to understand that their capacity for collaborative leadership is essential to their success alongside their capacity to be a spiritual organ.

Michael Soule

 

1 reply
  1. Michael Soulé
    Michael Soulé says:

    Hi Michael,
    thank you for sharing these inspiring thoughts. I’m involved in the Salzburg Waldorf school (maybe you know Lydia Nahold, she used to live in Seattle for some time and has now moved to Salzburg where she is also a very active member of our school). We are facing the challenges you describe in your post: “So what do schools do when the faculty is not experienced enough or trained enough or socially adept enough to create such an organ, our insightful board colleague asked?” In our school a large group of young teachers joined us, most of them not (yet) familiar with Waldorf pedagogy. They are now immersed in an intensive mentoring and Waldorf training programme, so this aspect is cared for. However it seems that in Salzburg some parents seem to have a stronger impetus to form a spiritual organ for the school than the faculty (and they are by no means fundamentalists who want to conserve the ‘golden times’). We have some teachers with a very deep and profound connection to Anthroposophy, but all in all it appears to me that a group of parents seems to feel a greater need for actually working together in a spiritual way (where on the teacher side spiritual practice is practised by some on the individual level). I’m very glad that there are small but important initiatives to renew and deepen the collective spiritual core initiated by a teacher as well: for instance a small group of teachers and parents will be meeting during advent to celebrate an Offering Service together in the morning.

    Now my perception of the situation here in Salzburg immediately led me to that second thought voiced in the post “when two people meet, one has more capacity than the other to consciously connect with spiritual insight and, to create a harmonious working with the other, must exercise true collaborative leadership in a way that the equality between them and the freedom of each is nourished. Otherwise, without the social capacity, the one with more capacity easily is perceived as arrogant or condescending.” I have noticed a lot of fear in parent-faculty interactions, and I would attribute these feelings – which then often lead to label the other side as “arrogant” – to this missing quality of collaborative leadership. But how do you grow this kind of leadership if it is not present (maybe because in the past there was overt collegial leadership with covert authoritarian leadership by a small group)? And somehow I feel that the teachers should actually be in charge of the spiritual core of the school, not so much the parents (Steiner described the role of the parents in a very different way than he decribed the role of teachers in the self-government of schools). How can we prepare for that?

    By how I’m asking this question in a very practical way. In theory I would imagine that collaborative leadership has a lot to do with enhancing the quality of listening and practicing the art of having a good conversation (preferably a Goethean cnversation) together. But do have any practical suggestions to actually make this possible in real life (time and energy constraints)?

    Michael, I’d like to thank you for your inspiring and regular posts on these topics. I enjoy reading the literature on self-governance in both English and German, because they do have a different quality. By the way, Michael Harslem is a member of the Akademie for Entwicklungsbegleitung, a network our school is a close member of.

    Warm greetings from Salzburg
    Barbara Ormsby

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