The Living and Learning Organization – May Focus

“We shape our buildings. Thereafter they shape us.” This is equally true of organizational structures. We create our organizations out of our vision, values and relationships, and thereafter, they shape us in our development. So how does one work within an organization to create and sustain healthy development? A first step in understanding this process requires developing an imagination about living organizations.

To understand a living being, one needs to know its physiology, its environment and connection to the rest of the world, the phases of its general development and its individual biography. It is the same with an organization. All organizations are complex sets of relationships evolving over time. Like living organisms, they have a birth, a purpose, an unfolding life story, internal processes, social dynamics and a relationship to their environment that evolves over time. They also have certain processes and principles that guide them, affect them and that determine their success, health and longevity. Rudolf Steiner articulated a number of fundamental principles or social laws that can act as guides for understanding individual and organizational dynamics.


Three articles this month focus on specific aspects of how to understand and work with the life in our organizations.

The Phases of School Development by Chris Schaefer explores the life phases of organizations, their qualities and challenges.

Emerging Hypothesis by Rea Gill explores the background of her attempts to bring new imagination to organizational life in a Waldorf school.

Organizational Integrity by Torin Finser explores the relationship of human physiology to organizational development, especially how the functions of organs provide insight into the processes in an organization.


We have also posted in the forums a list of other related articles and resources that provide insight and further explore the living nature of organizations.

Organizations as Living Organisms by Magda Lissau which looks at a school in light of life processes and the elements.

School as a Living Entity by Rea Gill, an ebook exploring the story of Rea's work in Vancouver and the dynamics of creating a school as a living entity.

Theory U and Presencing by Otto Scharmer from MIT, a creative new approach to living systems.

Learning and Organizations by Mark Smith is a scholarly exploration of the definition and principles of a learning organization and the wide range of perspectives on what is meant by a learning organization.

Sociocracy, a new approach to organizational life and health being used worldwide to develop communities which is very congruent with the life of Waldorf schools.


Waldorf Tuition: Gift or Investment or Something In Between?

Strong gusts of wind drive sheets of rain against the rhythmi­cally moving wind­shield wipers as Brenda and I drive from Cambridge to Lexington. We are going to an open meeting at the Lexington Waldorf School to discuss school finances. The meeting is to be chaired by the president of the Board, and in attendance to answer questions will be the school's Finance Committee. Siegfried Finser is a guest and will open the meeting with some thoughts on Waldorf financing.  Brenda is the full-time director of development at the school, and I am a parent of a third-grade boy and a kindergarten girl.

My wife is at home, tending to the important bedtime hour. We take turns going to meetings, and this one seemed more in my domain of interest. Eventually thirty-five persons are assembled in the Eurythmy room. In a handout entitled "Finance Committee and the Forming of the Budget," the sources of revenue and the expenditures are described. Special effort is made to clarify how the anticipated addition of a ninth grade in the fall will affect the budget and tuition costs. The handout asks, "How can parents help the school's financial picture?" and suggests that parents need to inform themselves about the school's finances, pay tuition in a timely fashion, and contribute to the Annual Giving Campaign. The inevitable budgetary pie charts show that for 1995-96, tuition and fees account for 96 percent of the revenue, and that of the expenses, 51 percent is for faculty, 18 percent for tuition waiver and assistance, and 20 percent for general and administrative purposes.

Siegfried Finser opens the meeting with a story. He is a veteran Waldorf teacher with much experience in school start-ups and financing, but also with much experience in the corporate world. Suppose, Siegfried proposes, we go into a furniture store to buy a sofa. We take our time examining the selection, and as we perhaps sit down on a sofa to test it, a salesman says, "Comfortable, isn't it?" This is the start of a process of selling and buying. You, the buyer, probably have some idea of what you want to spend. Because you want the sofa, you bargain with the salesman and eventually agree to a figure.

Siegfried's story then takes an unexpected turn. After you have paid and are leaving, the salesman runs after you and exclaims, "I was impressed with you and our transaction. May I borrow two thousand dollars from you for a project which is likely to yield large profits in a short time?" Siegfried notes that most of us would be surprised and probably put off by such a request. It would seem inappropriate and would probably be dismissed at once. However, someone might be willing to listen, and this would probably lead to asking the salesman personal questions concerning his education, training, competence to pursue the project in question, his place of residence, marital status, and so on.

Siegfried does not make explicit the moral of his story. To me he is suggesting the different ways that we can relate to money. In purchasing something, we have a right to purchase only what we truly desire. It would be a paradox in North American culture if we went into a furniture store and were told that we must purchase a particular sofa. Purchasing something should be a voluntary act, both with regard to choice of object and to price. A different relationship, however, is involved in borrowing or lending money. In this case, we, if we are the lender, or the bank - which is more likely the case - have a right to check out the borrower to safeguard our loan. We will want evidence the person is capable of paying back the loan, and we will want the loan backed up by collateral.

Having presented his story, Siegfried raises the question, "What type of money transaction is paying Waldorf tuition?"

My mind scans the possibilities. "Am I purchasing something?" I ask myself, and respond, "Well, yes, to some extent."  And I ask myself further, "Am I giving a loan?" "No," I answer right away, because my tuition is a payment for something, and I expect to get that "something" in return, rather than money back with interest.

At last, Siegfried reveals the point of his story. Waldorf tuition, he asserts, is a gift. It is a gift that we give to the school to support the teachers to whom we entrust our children. "Waldorf schools," Siegfried exclaims, "are buoyed up by gifts."

Initially, I am carried away by the graciousness of the idea of gift-giving and by the warmth and conviction of Siegfried's manner. But very quickly I begin to feel uncomfortable. "Wait a minute," I say to myself. "It is true I have entrusted my children to Waldorf teachers, but the tuition is not a gift. I do give gifts to the school, in the form of monetary gifts to the Annual Fund Drive, in the form of pro bono professional hours spent training mediation teams for the school; being a member of the Parent Council, and in other ways. These are gifts because there are no strings attached. To me, the primary feature of a gift is that it is given as free as possible of any expectation of return. Given what we are as humans - self-oriented beings driven by a host of conscious and unconscious needs - we probably seldom give a gift in this ideal sense. Pure altruistic giving is no more likely than pure altruism. Nevertheless, I feel the highest gift I can give is one free of any expectation of return."

If we see our tuition as an investment, and we see ourselves as active, rather than passive, investors ... then we take on the responsibility to ensure that our investment yields the results we seek.

As I run these ideas through my mind it becomes clear that the tuition I pay is an investment. However, I make this investment not in the hardnosed, self-protective way that I might purchase stocks or bonds or property. My Waldorf tuition is an investment made in goodwill, with a lot of trust, and with a certain spirit of giving. (read more)

At this point I share my thoughts with the group, pointing out that I see the tuition I pay as an investment and not as a gift. The investment, I point out, is in the future of my children and, by extension, in the future of the world. As an investor, I am concerned with how my money is used to achieve certain purposes I have in mind. Whereas one can give a gift with no other motive than to express love and caring, in making an investment one always has an explicit objective.

The discussion then turns to the topic of the projected ninth grade, which dominates the rest of the meeting. Except for two speakers who support the idea of tuition as investment, no one discusses further the distinction between gift and investment.
I feel compelled to write on this distinction, however, because it raises some of the most fundamental questions regarding the governance of Waldorf schools and the role of parents in the decision-making process.

To whom is Waldorf faculty responsible? Are they responsible to the parents who provide, in the case of the Lexington Waldorf School, 96 percent of the revenues? And what does it mean to be "re­sponsible?"

Parents sign a contract with the school each year. In the current year at the Lexington Waldorf School each parent is even assigned a "Customer Number." The contract consists entirely of an itemization of the tuition and fees, with totals and with payment terms. In legal terms, it is a poor contract at best in that it does not spell out the conditions that both parties are to meet or the safeguards both parties have against default. So although the word "contract" is used, it appears to be a euphemism for "bill" or "bill of sale." It states simply what I, the parent ­"customer," owe the school and states nothing about what the school is giving in return.

We are entering murky and difficult waters here. Historically, teaching contracts have differed from commercial or fiduciary contracts. At the college level, where I have taught for over thirty years, a teaching contract spells out the number of teaching hours and of weekly office hours, the minimum number of student advisees, as well as committee assignments and other special services to the institution. It specifies the length of the contract and the conditions for renewal and for abrogation. It may even explicitly note the type and extent of scholarly contributions expected. The contract also states that the institution in return agrees to reimburse the teacher a per annum amount in specified installments. Usually accompanying the contract is a faculty handbook that spells out in more detail all of these condi­tions, plus what behaviors on the part of the teacher would release the institution from its contractual obligations.

The danger - the downside - of thinking of Waldorf teaching as a gift is that it implies an unrealistic and, in my judgment, an undesirable carte blanche given to Waldorf teachers. "Here," it may imply, "you take my child and do what, in your Anthroposophical wisdom, you think is best for him. I give you this salary with no expectations and with total trust."
Certainly there needs to be trust, for trust is at the very heart of any voluntary organization, particularly one to which we entrust our precious children. But the fact is that our tuition is an investment of a most complex kind. For me, I am investing first of all in a philosophy and practice of education that embraces the whole child - his body, heart, and soul, as well as his mind. Second, I am investing in maintaining and strengthening a community of parents, teachers, and staff - a community dedicated to a vision of human life and of the world that I can personally support. Third, I am investing in a special type of education that provides a corrective to the reductionism, the escapism, the "virtual" reality that progressively pervades North American society and the industrialized East and West. Fourth, I am investing not only in my children's future, but in the future of generations yet unborn who will have an opportunity to attend the Lexington Waldorf School. And fifth, I am investing in maintaining a physical school, a building with desks, chairs, books, and supplies, and a physical school that is attractive and functional and is an expression of Anthroposophy.

If we see our tuition as an investment, and we see ourselves as active, rather than passive, investors - which some Waldorf parents may choose to be - then we take on the responsibility to ensure that our investment yields the results we seek. This means that we, as parents, need to be as clear as possible about what we seek for our children. We need to understand the Anthroposophical worldview that undergirds Waldorf Education. We need to understand our own motives, our own inner needs that are being met through our children. We need to become involved in the life of the school in whatever way we can, to tune into its pulse, to respond to the ebb and flow of energy. It is no coincidence that many Waldorf teachers begin as parents of Waldorf children and through their children come to appreciate the important way of being that Waldorf Education offers.

By the time the meeting at the school ends, the wind and rain have ceased. A calm, slightly foggy New England night makes one look forward to the warmth of hearth and of quiet time for thought. Driving home, I realize that the tuition I pay is somewhere between an investment and a gift. It is at a balancing point on the continuum between my right to expect accountability from the faculty and to have my expectations met, and their right to be trusted to make sound decisions in all of the domains affecting my child's developing mind, heart, and soul. It is perhaps our greatest responsibility as Waldorf parents to find where we stand on that con­tinuum and then to act energetically and in good faith to have our expectations met.

Waldorf Tuition: Gift or Investment or Something In Between?       Written by George Eastman

Published in Renewal, A Journal for Waldorf Education, Volume 5, #1 (Fall/Winter 1996).

George Eastman has had a varied career as college teacher and administrator. as clinical psychologist, and as an organizational consultant, primarily to the nonprofit sector. He holds an EdD from Harvard University and a PhD in Clinical Psychology from New York University. He was one of the founders of The Independent School of Buffalo and is active on the Board of Trustees and the Parent Council of the Waldorf School of Lexington, Massachusetts He is in private practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and teaches at Berkley College of Music, Boston.



Funding for Australian Steiner Schools: Benefits, Challenges and Lessons of Government Support

 In this essay by the Head of the Steiner Education Assn. in Australia, Tracey Puckeridge discusses the funding structure of Australian Steiner schools and offers an assessment of the benefits, drawbacks and practical realities of the current government funding for Steiner Schools.

 Government funding for Steiner and other independent schools in Australia has been available through a number of avenues since 1964.  Since that time, the federal government has increasingly instigated education reforms, which are tied to funding agreements.  As a result, Australia now has 27 different funding models and a complex maze of regulatory requirements for schools.

For the time being, Steiner schools in Australia enjoy significant benefits from the national approach to educational funding. However, with a political and uncertain funding and regulatory future, they must remain creative and flexible as they face a growing set of challenges in navigating the country’s educational environment.

How the funding model is structured

In Australia there are three categories of schools: government (State or public), Catholic, and non-government (independent schools). Steiner schools fall under the non-government (independent) category. In some states there are also Steiner stream classes in State schools, which are fully funded.

Steiner and other independent schools in Australia receive funds from three main sources: the Commonwealth Government; State or Territory Government; and private income from parents (school fees), benefactors, tax-deductible donations (to building and library funds) and fundraising.

Each State and Territory has a school registration authority responsible for the registration of independent schools. They often apply different levels of scrutiny and compliance across their jurisdictions. Once registered, the school is entitled to both State and Commonwealth funding, with amounts varying according to a range of extremely complex formulae.

In 1964, the first government funding to independent schools was received through capital funding grants. From 1970, recurrent funding occurred on a per student basis. After 1973, these grants were calculated as a percentage of the cost of educating a child in a government school and linked to a four-year cycle under the Commonwealth Act. There have been many additional changes to the Act over the last 40 years, up to the latest iteration adopted in 2012.

There is currently a funding review of the latest model. Steiner Education Australia’s submission can be found at

What are the benefits of government funding?

Government funding for non-government schools provides choice and diversity of schooling in Australia. Parents can choose from a wide range of religious and philosophically based schools, or those in the public or Catholic sector.

In Australia, teachers are well paid. If independent schools in Australia did not receive government funding, most would close due to the high nature of wages -- approximately 70 to 75% of a school’s total expenditure. Independent schools are also able to access government grants for capital funding for building projects.

Another benefit of government funding is increased professionalism among teaching staff. Every teacher must have full university qualifications, be registered under their state teacher registration institute and be regularly appraised against national professional teaching standards.

The Commonwealth and State governments have also increased funding for many projects to improve literacy and numeracy, support students with disability, improve educational outcomes for indigenous students, empower school leadership, drive school improvement, etc. Many of these funds have been distributed through independent school associations.

With the introduction of an Australian curriculum in 2012, the Commonwealth government created an opportunity for a national Steiner curriculum to be recognised as an alternate curriculum framework. Steiner schools across Australia, therefore, agreed to work together to develop an Australian Steiner Curriculum Framework to ensure the integrity of Steiner’s indications and also meet curriculum outcomes as required by registration. Curriculum development is still in progress and many benefits have already been identified. (For more, visit )

What are the drawbacks?

Recently, managerial bureaucrats and policy makers in Australia have strongly influenced the educational agenda, emphasizing financial accountability and the goal of producing a multi-skilled and flexible workforce able to “compete in the global economy on knowledge and innovation” (Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, 2008). However, they have largely ignored international educational research and academic recommendations for policy reform in order to pursue their political/economic/business agenda.

The Commonwealth Government has implemented reforms to increase transparency in a push for public accountability such as the National Assessment Plan of compulsory standardised testing to measure student outcomes and school performance as part of the funding agreement.

Steiner school parents have the option to withdraw their child from these standardised tests but the school is obligated to offer them in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 with more tests on the way and the introduction of online testing in the next few years. The publication of standardised testing as a key measure of school performance on the national MySchool website has evoked much debate from stakeholders both for and against the publication of the data, which has resulted in the comparison of schools and published league tables.

What does this mean for Australian Steiner Schools?

Steiner schools are operating in a highly competitive educational environment. Many non-Steiner schools, for example, characterize their education in similar language as the Steiner schools; holistic, creative, imaginative, excellent music, art and outdoor education programs, balancing head, heart and hands, etc.  Steiner schools must clearly articulate what they stand for, what they promise and then hold up to expectations and constant scrutiny.

Administrative costs have increased to manage the barrage of reforms and to up-skill staff in order to meet increased accountability requirements and new legislation. Many schools have reviewed the role of the College of Teachers and have made changes according to their local needs and context as to how they manage workloads and expectations, while still retaining the core of pedagogical discussion and practice.

A new focus on school governance may also see directors of school boards having to complete accredited courses, so they fully understand their responsibilities. While this would be beneficial, small schools, or schools in regional areas that already find it difficult to find directors for school boards may see this as an added burden.

In Summary

The current government funding model is complex.  Formula for determining funding allocations is inconsistent, and difficult to analyze and understand. As a result, many schools are in a state of uncertainty as to how they can financially manage and plan long term in an increasingly competitive environment with higher accountability.

Tracey Puckeridge

Chief Executive Officer

Steiner Education Australia

Funding for Australian Steiner Schools: Benefits, Challenges and Lessons of Government Support


The Free Education Group at Michael Hall School in England : 1977-80

It was the late 1970’s and a number of us with children at Michael Hall, a well- established Waldorf school in Forest Row, Sussex, had an intense interest in Steiner’s social and economic ideas. We wanted to get away from the fee for service model of set tuitions and began talking to the faculty and council of the school about alternatives, tuition as a percentage of income or different levels of tuition. However, the Bursar, the English equivalent of the Business Manager, was set against any form of financial experimentation. He was even opposed to sending one tuition bill to the seven families who were interested in alternatives. So we began meeting once a month and decided to simply total up our tuition amounts and then to see what each of us could pay. This led us to talk, and to share our financial and life circumstances. One summer the farmer’s wheat crop failed due to hail, another spring a new roof was needed by another family, and a third needed to help an ailing parent. And yet for the first three terms we managed to have a surplus. This happened because when you listened to others you looked at your own priorities and expenditures with new eyes and decided to give more. Was the second car really needed or could we share with another family, what else could we cut or how could we increase income? As each family went through such questions we contributed more than enough money, indeed our surpluses funded a teacher vacation fund for the faculty for two years running. As we learned to pool our resources we also began a simple import business and began exploring other income creating ventures. Eventually we built the group to 30 families, in part through the school sending us their scholarship families. While we attempted to make sure the families were motivated by the same ideals in this we were often not successful and the group eventually stopped its work when we accepted too many families who both needed financial support and did not share our underlying values. Some of lessons learned : 1)     Every way of working with tuitions in unconventional ways takes more time and a deeper connection between people. 2)     Success is dependent on members of a group sharing the same motives and values and not working primarily out of self- interest. 3)     A deeper connection between people, sharing biographies and life circumstances, including finances, enhances generosity and initiative. 4)     Generosity can be contagious. Four faculty members in the school who shared our interests started a shared income community, using one checking account and pooling their resources. 5)     Tuition support groups of the type described can be worked with within a school having a traditional tuition model as long as the school can count on a set amount of income per child. Indeed there is no reason a school cannot work with a variety of tuition approaches at the same time. 6)     Involve the parents in the issue of how to develop alternatives to a set tuition model, indeed it is their task to assure the financial sustainability of the school.

The Free Education Group at Michael Hall School in England : 1977-80         By Christopher Schaefer

Navigating Leadership Transitions, a compilation of guidelines from LWS

Leading with Spirit

How to Navigate and Manage Successful Transitions

Life is constantly in transition and organizations reflect this. The dynamics of transitions, especially abrupt or unforeseen/unplanned changes in leadership positions, require conscious attention to an array of factors. The following article outlines some key areas that are helpful to consider in moving through and managing a successful transition. It borrows from important work from a variety of sources.

Understanding Transitions (William Bridges)

The Bridges Transition Model helps organizations and individuals understand and more effectively manage and work through the personal and human side of change. The model identifies the three stages an individual experiences during change: Ending What Currently Is, The Neutral Zone and The New Beginning. Developed by William Bridges, the Bridges Transition Model has been used by leaders and management consultants for more than thirty years.

What is the difference between change and transition?

Change is the external event or situation that takes place: a new business strategy, a turn of leadership, a merger or a new product. The organization focuses on the desired outcome that the change will produce, which is generally in response to external events. Change can happen very quickly.

Transition is the inner psychological process that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the new situation that the change brings about. Empathetic leaders recognize that change can put people in crisis. The starting point for dealing with transition is not the outcome but the endings that people have in leaving the old situation behind.

Change will only be successful if leaders and organizations address the transition that people experience during change. Supporting people through transition, rather than pushing forward is essential if the change is to work as planned. This is key to capitalizing on opportunities for innovation and creating organizational resilience.

What are the stages of transition?


Transition starts with an ending. This is paradoxical but true. This first phase of transition begins when people identify what they are losing and learn how to manage these losses. They determine what is over and being left behind, and what they will keep. These may include relationships, processes, team members or locations.

Neutral Zone

The second step of transition comes after letting go: the neutral zone. People go through an in-between time when the old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational. It is when the critical psychological realignments and repatternings take place. It is the very core of the transition process. This is the time between the old reality and sense of identity and the new one. People are creating new processes and learning what their new roles will be. They are in flux and may feel confusion and distress. The neutral zone is the seedbed for new beginnings.

New Beginnings

Beginnings involve new understandings, values and attitudes. Beginnings are marked by a release of energy in a new direction – they are an expression of a fresh identity. Well-managed transitions allow people to establish new roles with an understanding of their purpose, the part they play, and how to contribute and participate most effectively. As a result, they feel reoriented and renewed.

What is the transition management process?

Transition management in organizations addresses the inner psychological process that people experience during change. Successful transition management involves these steps:

  1. Communicating with the organization about why the change is needed.
  2. Collecting information from those affected by the change to understand its impact on them. Gaining their investment in the outcome.
  3. Doing an audit of the organizations’ transition readiness.
  4. Educating leaders about how the change will affect individuals in the organization to manage the transition effectively.
  5. Monitoring the progress of individuals as they go through the three stages of transition.
  6. Helping individuals understand how they can positively contribute to the change and the importance of their role in the organization.

For more information, visit

A Checklist of HR Tips for Sudden Leadership Transitions

When an important leader makes an abrupt exit from your company, the departure can leave your employees, customers and even the remaining leaders feeling uncertain.

Unanswered questions can inspire rumors about the past and cast doubts over your company’s future. That’s why it’s imperative to communicate well when there’s a sudden change in leadership.

Whether you’re dealing with this situation now or want to be prepared in the future, let’s talk through:

  • What can you say to employees?
  • What can you tell your customers?
  • How much detail should you give about the person’s departure?
  • What should be done if they don’t take the news well?
  • How can a leader reassure everyone that things will be fine?

When you’re speaking with employees and customers, these communication guidelines will give you a solid strategy for getting everyone moving forward together.


  1. Assign communication responsibilities.
  2. Acknowledge the change quickly.
  3. Stick to the facts and future.
  4. Confirm what won’t change.
  5. Give details relative to level of involvement.
  6. Be mindful of compliance.
  7. Acknowledge conflicting values when needed.
  8. Let employees move through the change cycle.
  9. Remember these notes to self.

As part of the interim or replacement leadership team, you’ll likely be going through your own change cycle in the wake of a colleague’s sudden departure.

To stay positive and productive yourself, don’t forget to:

  • Avoid criticizing the outgoing leader.
  • Value the work that’s been done.
  • Ask employees what the former leader did well.
  • Ask what the former leader could have done better.
  • Keep an eye out for new leaders who step up.


by Insperity Staff | Human Resource Advisor | Houston, Texas

Leadership and management

Factors Contributing to Successful Transitions (a compilation by Leading with Spirit)

  1. There is an agreement that you are facing a transition and that it needs attention to assure that the community and individuals are supported through the change in a good way.
  2. There is an agreement that management of the transition process will require additional time, energy and resources and a group of trusted people are empowered to provide leadership on behalf of the whole and are supported by existing groups and individuals.
  3. The value of outside advice, support, coaching or facilitation (consultant) is recognized. If a consultant/facilitator is hired, a plan for supporting and managing the consultant is created.
  4. Clearly articulated Goals, for example:
    1. Increased parent confidence
    2. Improved management
    3. Clarity regarding roles and responsibilities
    4. Improved balance in work/life
  5. It is acknowledged that there is instability and some chaos inherent in transitions and there is a thorough assessment of the nature of the transition/change and the potential effect it may have on individuals, groups and processes. There are plans put in place to manage any processes/tasks that need immediate attention and there are plans to deal appropriately with guilt, resentment, or anxiety that may emerge in people as a result.
  6. It is recognized that with every transition, there is the need to review (identify and consider) assumptions, risks, dependencies, costs, and cultural issues. Transitions, once the basics are attended to, can be a good time to consider doing an audit of processes, systems, or governance.
  7. It is recognized that every transition affects people in different ways. For the staff, there is a conscious identification of the interim procedures and agreements regarding managing everyday processes and making decisions.
  8. It is recognized that transitions effect everyone in the organization and community (stakeholders) to some degree and that each group’s (and every individual’s) input, perspective and insights are valued and considered.
  9. It is recognized that clear and regular communication is essential to a successful transition including communication that informs various stakeholders of:
    1. the realities of the situation, details (why and what)
    2. goals, process and leadership for the transition
    3. benefits of successful implementation (what is in it for us, and you)
    4. timeline, costs and expected outcomes
    5. ways in which stakeholders will be involved, engaged
    6. avenues for listening to and responding to concerns and/or resistance
    7. modes of support being offered to alleviate any change-related fears
    8. ways in which the process will be monitored, reviewed, evaluated, and fine-tuned.
    9. the celebration and orientation to new people, structures, and agreements (roles, responsibilities and processes)
  1. A communication plan is put into place that addresses the above


  1. In personnel transitions, there is a plan to facilitate the best possible departure for the person(s) leaving, including appropriate rituals for the organization and community culture.
  2. A plan is in place for recognizing and celebrating what is new when the transition is over, including:
    1. What people have taken on
    2. What new practices and procedures have
      1. been developed
    3. What new agreements have been made
  3. A plan is created for ongoing review and evaluation moving into the future.
  4. Individuals are encouraged and supported to take care of the effects the transition has on their soul and time is allotted for talking through feelings connected to the transition.
  5. Successful transition/change is reviewed and celebrated.



Change and the Threefold Organization

School Transitions in light of the threefold aspect of the school


All transitions have effects in each of the three realms of the school (individual, social and organizational). Because each realm has a particular qualitative character and expresses different aspects of the school life and wholeness, it can be helpful to look at any transition from three vantage points

Cultural Realm (social realm)

The cultural realm is the realm of agreements, and is most connected to the understanding of each person as a equal part of the community who participates in the life of the school as an equal, committed to the mission, the goals, the values, the rules, the procedures and the policies – all the agreements that together express the culture and spirit of the school. In this area, people want to know that they are protected, valued and seen as part of the process and that negative effects of the change are being dealt with. Focus: Confidence

Acknowledge (and if appropriate, celebrate) the change

Be open and consistent with handling the change

Strive to rely on values and agreements that are in place and allow each situation to inform the growing evolving body of agreements.

Make every effort to keep everyone appropriately informed. As a community, everyone has the right ot know at an appropriate level.

Communicate timely, regularly, clearly, respectfully and appropriately to every group.

Assure people that leadership is aware of the transition, its effects and are addressing it in a timely and well thought out way (build confidence)

Personal and Inter-Personal realm (individual realm) The personal - interpersonal realm  is the realm of creativity, encouragement, recognition of individual gifts and contributions, and commitment to growing and developing through self development and through the shared development of relationships. In this area, people want to know that they are unique and individual, that they are allowed to learn and grow in their own particular way and that others are also committed to self development. Focus: Dealing with individual feelings and relationships 

Consider and recognize the effect the change might have on each person, and each group – it might be a personal relational change and it might be a change of process.

Allow individuals to help by sharing their experiences

Provide opportunities where people can be heard and conversed with

Attend to conflicts directly and in a timely way

Help by reminding people that they are valued, their experience and insight is valued.


Structural and Process realm (Earth/Organization realm)

The structural earlthy realm is the realm of structures and forms and resources where each person is seen as a part of a working whole and through the common good, indivudals are supported in their work and development. In this area, people want to know that there are structures and a kind of architecture that holds the organization in place at any given time – structures and forms that allow individuals and groups to relax knowing that the dynamics of everyday work are being help together by a conscious whole that is informed and formed out of the highest values and ideals of the organization.

Focus: Responsibility

Attention is given to the fact and details of the change and it is understood that the transition will require resources to manage.

The change is acknowledged by leadership at all levels of the school

Attention is given to any underlying factors influencing the change and an effort is made to assess how the change might lead to new possibilities in line with the school’s mission and values.

All the tasks related to the change are reviewed and plans are in place for taking care of the them in the interim.

Deepening Our Work Together, K Jefferson

This booklet was written by Keith Jefferson (Themba Sadiki) while working at the Seattle Waldorf School in 1986. Keith/Themba was a class teacher, talented social development thinker, and creative influencer at the school.

Deepening Our Work Together notes by K Jefferson


Returning to a Renewed Community Life in Our Schools – Lisa Mahar

Returning to a Renewed Community Life in Our Schools: 

Four Keys to help regain Vibrance 


Lisa Mahar is a co-director of the Art of Administration summer training program of Leading with Spirit., offering  week-long administrative training  focused on the foundations of Waldorf education, explorations in school governance, school communication, meeting facilitation, roles and responsibilities, community building, leadership development, collaboration, and more.


As Longer, warmer days and the tentative emergence of buds and blossoms let us know that spring is underway and we are happily anticipating our return to community celebrations and festival life after many months of limited contact, modified events, and sustained precautions,  many school leaders are facing the reality that large portions of their student bodies and their parent bodies have yet to experience the full rhythm and richness of our Waldorf community celebrations, festivals, special events, and school traditions.  


While reintroducing a renewal of community life promises the special kind of refreshment, nourishment, and sustenance we long for, we are presented with a unique opportunity and challenge to pause and ask

How do we best renew our community activities?  

What new opportunities present themselves for a full refreshment of community life?  

How might we adopt and incorporate our ongoing and meaningful work aimed at broadening circles of inclusion and welcome?  

Which traditions still pulse with life, and which are ready to become meaningful memories of a past time?  

What new events and celebrations are peeking over the cradle’s rim ready to be taken up?


Each school community will answer these questions in its own way.  What follows are some reflections and insights from the work of Jorgen Smit on elements that make up a healthy, vibrant, balanced community life.  Schools might find these insights useful as they plan for a full return to community life.


Jorgen Smit, a long time Waldorf teacher and anthroposophist,  studied human community and observed human relationships. He developed his observations and experiences into a picture of the healthy human social organism, based on four dynamics of community life: Warmth, Initiative, Form, and Continuity.  When each of these four  dynamics is present and lively and when these dynamics are actively and consciously balanced and rebalanced, a living and vibrant sense of community carries us all. (See a brief introduction to Jorgen Smit below)


Consider these four elements and your own school community.



Community warmth creates an atmosphere of welcome, of extension toward the other, of striving for connection. Warmth is interest, curiosity. Warmth flows through and breaks down any separation between the long-time members of the community and the brand-new ones.  Warmth brings a sense of welcome, comfort, acceptance, enthusiasm.  Diversity, and its essential companion, inclusion, thrive in a community permeated by human warmth. In such a community, even challenges are welcomed because they often generate “heat” in our human connections.   Warmth is a necessary condition for growth, raying out and engaging those it touches.



Proposing, exploring, and manifesting new approaches demonstrate a commitment to our healthy future. Initiative asks questions, is willing to experiment and takes risks. Balanced with warmth, form, and continuity, it’s the fuel that moves a community forward.   Vibrant wholeness and energy characterize communities friendly to initiative. A school community that works to sense the future welcomes initiative from all quarters, including from new teachers, new staff members, and new parents, and from the students themselves.  After all, our new and our young community companions bring us the gift of fresh eyes. When balanced with warmth, form, and continuity we find initiative to be an inspiring energizer keeping us fresh and engaged.



Form is the structure of the community and its policies, procedures, protocols. Form reflects our living values, what is important to us. It holds us up and holds us together.  If we are committed to professional development for teachers, our budget should support it. If we are committed to financial accessibility for all, our tuition policies should make that possible. If we are committed to diversity and inclusion, our curriculum, staffing, enrollment, festivals, and celebrations reflect these commitments. We experience form in a framework: our values lead to principles; principles lead to policies; policies lead to practices. Form has a sturdiness and durability to it. We can count on it. Form is, of course, open to transform, yet it is, at best, the set of firm yet supple golden threads that weave our school community together.



Continuity embraces and continually refreshes what is valuable, inspiring, what works.  It lives in community rhythms, predictability, tradition, and the honoring of history. Continuity is carrying forward what is lively and true.  Continuity gives new ideas time and space to work.  Continuity is sensing and celebrating what we can rightly rely on: it was, it is, it will be. This is a gift for our children, a source of strength, trust, and security. Dynamic continuity calls us to be attentive, perceptive, and especially awake, avoiding doing a thing because “we’ve always done it”.


Warmth,  initiative, form, continuity, these four elements are guiding lights illuminating the path of community health and well-being. We can ask ourselves: Are all of these elements present in our school community? Which element are we especially good at? Does one or another need to be strengthened? How does each manifest in the life of the school?  Are these elements well-balanced with one another? Are there groups or individuals especially gifted in holding one or more of these elements?  Where do we see opportunities for further growth and development of warmth, initiative, continuity, and form?


In this new moment we are offered a unique opportunity: returning to fuller expression of a vibrant community life.  With a nod to the thoughtful work of Jorgen Smit, we look forward to making the most of the compelling possibilities that lay ahead.  Kind thoughts to all as you examine, strengthen, and renew your community relationships and deepen your school culture now and for our future.  Happy Spring!


Jorgen Smit (1916 – 1991) was a Waldorf Educator—a class teacher, trainer of teachers, international pedagogical leader, and one of the founders of the anthroposophical center in Jarna, Sweden, which now includes a teacher education seminar, a cultural center, hospital, school, biodynamic farm, dairy, and the international Youth Initiative Program (YIP). Jorgen Smit was a warm–hearted, compassionate human being, deeply interested in others.  He inspired many young people to pursue careers of service in Waldorf Education and other anthroposophically based initiatives. Stories abound of his interest in others, his humor, curiosity, and encouraging guidance.


To learn more about Leading with Spirit and our July 2022 summer course offerings in the Art of Administration, please visit Leading with Spirit or reach out to Lisa Mahar at


Finding Strength in Spirit: Growing Hope

Finding Strength in Spirit during Challenging Times

Like everyone, we at Leading with Spirit are finding these days to be challenging.  The rhythms of our lives have been disrupted, and the events unfolding around the world can easily lead us into a kind of despair. It feels at times that there is little we can do to make a difference in the systems we all would like to see changed - deeply embedded racism, economic inequity, a militarized world, and many people with great power continuing to promote negative untruthful narratives that separate people. Through this seeming darkness, it is possible to see new light - A growing light of self-reflection and personal transformation, of empathy for others, of finding small and large groups who share positive values and are working for change. Hope is needed more than ever in these times and it can only come through our own effort. We can see hope in others, and we can be hopeful in ourselves. We have to make hope. Working with our teacher training students at Sound Circle Center, and our Leading with Spirit Administrative training advisees, we are aware of the challenges people are facing, and the ways they are, day by day, meeting them with courage. This continues to be the joy and inspiration in our work. As we continue, please let us know if we can be of help in any way. 

Michael Soule

Here is an inspiration that I have found helpful in these times:


“Let your loyalty to another human being come about in this way:  there will be moments — quickly passing by — when he will seem to you filled and illumined by the true, primal image of his spirit.

Then can come, yes, will come, long stretches of time when your fellow-being seems clouded, even darkened.  But learn at these times to say to yourself:  The spirit will strengthen me; I will remember the true, unchanging image that I once saw.  Nothing at all — neither deception nor disguise — can take it away from me.

Struggle again and again for the true picture that you saw.  The struggle itself is your faithfulness.

And in those efforts to be faithful and to trust, a human being will come close to another as if with an angel’s power of protection.”

-Rudolf Steiner

When In Wilderness: Applying wilderness wisdom to navigating the current pandemic


By Karl Johnson M.A.

Our present situation with the novel coronavirus has thrust us all into new terrains - a wilderness of uncertainty. When that happens, it’s easy to feel disorientation and even trepidation - especially if one is unaccustomed to traversing such terrains. The complexity of wild environments and shifting variables, such as weather, all necessitate the need to steadfastly and bravely assess and meet new situations head-on with commitment. Being in wilderness can also evoke a feeling of excitement and curiosity. The unknown holds opportunities. A sense of adventure can arise. In life, adventures invigorate us.

Here are some guiding thoughts gleaned from many years of leading wilderness experiences. May these be helpful metaphors in navigating our current, uncertain landscapes.

  • Orient Yourself to Your New Surrounding and to Those with You

Start to pay attention to what is around you. What resources do you have? Where is your water? What is your orientation to the earth and sky? Who is with you? Being observant, alert, and identifying your essential resources that will help you survive physically, mentally, and spiritually. How do we take stock of what useful resources we have with us right now and what is close at hand?.  Have we been practicing for contingencies? Do we have a resource of people in our community we can count on?  Is there a way to accentuate strengths right now? Are there new opportunities that we see around us in this new landscape? Remember the essentials. Find the “waters” that will sustain you and protect the source. Make sure you keep practicing as a meditant to keep those “waters” flowing.  Trust in life and the guidance of the spiritual world.

  • Establish your Camp: 

Create a safe shelter. Protect oneself from the elements. Be prepared for sudden changes in the weather. Choose your site carefully. A home base is the foundation of safety in your journey. It allows you protection, support, and security. By having a secure base, one can venture forth, but also retreat. There may be dramatic shifts in the “weather,” but you can take shelter in what you have created as a “ base camp.”  Safety and security are foundational. Ground yourself nightly in the security of what is your well-made and well-maintained shelter. This can be your actual home, but also the safety and security of one’s nightly practice, which we build up every evening. “Building one’s hut” gives one the opportunity to begin to practice gratitude. Gratitude is the attitude that will change everything.

  • Quiet your Mind:

Stay calm. Mindfulness, on the trail and at home, is key to being resilient, flexible, and centered. Remember you are the “decisive element” in this moment in the wilderness. Practice mindfulness and steadfast courage. As the saying goes, “Worry never lessens tomorrow’s problem, but rather robs today of its strength.” Focus on the positive. Take deep breaths. Cultivate a still mind even amid the thunderstorms of the wilderness.

  • Listen to All that is Around You:

Listen intently. Attune to what is being intoned in the wilderness around you. Notice the wind. Listen to the “voices” around you. The capacity to listen in many different ways – to yourself, to your body, to others around you, and to the world at large is key to helping you stay focused. This includes all who are near and dear to you. And especially the “quiet “voices that we only hear if we ourselves are quiet. There may be other voices clamoring for our attention. We should learn how to listen carefully to dissenting voices. But learn also how to separate what is “essential from what is not essential.” Seek to hear the quiet voice of inner guidance.

  • Be Aware of the Sun:

When and where is the sun rising? When and where is it setting? What is its arc during the day? Can you orient to the sun and find the right daily rhythms?  The path of the sun through our days and regular daily rhythms are essential in new (and even in familiar) environments. In rhythm is strength. Be aware of the “Sun” - the big picture of guiding forces in our lives. Remember there are larger patterns in motion. Through these larger motions, seek to find your rhythms and steadfastly maintain them. Rhythm replaces strength - and rhythm awakens life. We also benefit greatly when we remember that “wisdom lives in the light.” Focus on the light.

  • Tend Your Fires:

At the end of every day, the night will come. Have you gathered your woodpile? Have you kept your tinder dry? Warmth is an essential of survival – whether in the wilderness or in your daily life. Especially when the new technology provides no supportive physical warmth – like a fire that won't stay lit or burns too small. When the light fades, we can tend our fire. Through the darkness, can we remember our core passions? What actually inspires and motivates us? How do we attend to those motivations when darkness encroaches? Remember, we need some preparation beforehand. Gather and sort the resources of your “woodpile.” Lay your fire well. Start small and feed it carefully.  If we are not careful our “fire” can easily become wild. A well-laid and well-tended fire will burn steadily and then, at evening's end, we can enjoy the abiding, glowing embers of our efforts.

  • Notice the Stars:

When the fire dies away, gaze upward. The stars, which have always been there, will now be revealed. Take time to marvel and ponder. A sense of wonder and awe are not just gifts but significant aspects of any journey. The stars are always above us at night, but do we take the time to notice? What secrets are arrayed before us in their nightly sweep?

What are the patterns which have “constellated” for us in this lifetime? Can we truly “re-member?” In other words, can we integrate all those parts of ourselves - even from pre-earthly existence - and remember what we said we would do in this lifetime? In so many ways, life is about remembering what we said we would do - before this incarnation - and doing it. The stars can help us “re-member”...


Karl Johnson, presently the Pedagogical Chair for the Santa Fe Waldorf School, is approaching his 35th year as a Waldorf Educator. He has also been an Outdoor Educator for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and founded the Santa Fe Waldorf  High School Wilderness Experience Program.  If you are planning real wilderness journeys for yourself or for your school or if you need help navigating the strange, new world we are experiencing, feel free to contact Karl for some advice. A guide is always helpful. An experienced mentor, consultant, and trainer, Karl Johnson has mentored and trained teachers at dozens of schools in the U.S. and internationally. He still goes out to rejuvenate himself in the wilderness at every opportunity.

kjohnsoneducator@     website:


Working Together Digitally and Staying Whole

Working Together Digitally and Staying Whole

by Michael Soule


Almost overnight, there has been a significant shift towards the use of screen technology as a primary means of communication. While this technology is not new, social distancing has brought us into a new level of dependency on it. As a consequence, many people are experiencing increased stress and a lack of vitality, phenomena described recently in articles in the National Geographic and the New York Times.


We already know about some of the negative effects of extensive screen time:  exposure to EMFs and screen light; the lack of physical movement; and an overstimulation of the eyes.  All of these are particularly harmful when not balanced with in-person human interactions, time in nature, full-body movement, and play.

Here are some thoughts about how to counteract these effects and stay healthy both in this challenging time and beyond.

Be grateful every day for the opportunity to connect online. Appreciate everything and everyone who has helped make our computers, the internet, and video conferencing possible and be grateful for the technologies themselves.  They are truly amazing tools. When we are grateful for something, our relationship to it changes for the better.

Appreciate Real Human Connection.  Do not think for a moment that web calls can replace real-time face-to-face in-person meetings. They are only a substitute for those situations where it is not safe or spatially possible to meet in person. The power of human connection cannot be replaced by a virtual meeting. Even now we can find ways to connect with people in face-to-face conversations from a safe distance. Do not underestimate the power of a single in-person conversation to bring joy into your day.

Have the Right Expectations.  Do not expect virtual meetings to provide you with the warmth and the range of experience that in-person meetings offer. At the same time, treat an on-line meeting with the same respect you would an in-person meeting. Many people are finding it helpful to prepare for an online meeting by imagining the others who will be on the call and thinking about them ahead of time. Even when we are meeting face to face, this is a helpful practice.

Create a Comfortable Space. The space you create for the meeting is important whether you are all together in the same place or in a virtual setting. Be comfortable. Be aware of what is behind you that others can see. Dress appropriately. Limit background noise. Try not using background pictures of a different setting, as this can be distracting to you and the others and it adds nothing to the meeting. It just brings in another illusory element to the event. It is helpful to have something beautiful to glance at when you need to turn your eyes away from the screen. It is much like driving – it is good and less stressful to keep your eyes moving, not just peeled on the road ahead. Sit where you can occasionally glance out the window or glance at something beautiful.

Be Conscious of Your State of Mind.  Take a minute or more before the meeting to check in on your mood and your frame of mind. Your thoughts and feelings are real and have an effect on you, on the space around you, and on other participants. Bringing your most positive self to the meeting may have a significant effect on what can happen in the meeting. Simple rituals can also help you feel more present. Consider lighting a candle or holding a stone in your hand. Consider turning off the video for parts of the meeting/conversation. Just listening, without added visual distraction can be less stressful.

Go Slowly, Breathe, and Look for Balance. The added stress of web conferencing requires more rest time for both your mind and your body. Find a few moments each day to be quiet, especially between meetings. The mind and the computer can move at a pace that the body cannot. Virtual meetings are better when breaks occur regularly that allow everyone to breathe out and recenter. You will find your own rhythm for this. Many people use games, breaking into small groups, or other activities to break up longer sessions. Make sure that the mission of the group is touched upon regularly. Make sure that everyone touches in (when groups are not too big). Begin and end the meeting with an inspirational quote or poem.

Recognize the difference between the picture and the person. It helps to remember that the other person is not what you see on the screen. The screen offers only a facsimile. The real person is vastly more dynamic, complex, whole, and wonderful than any screen image can convey. In many ways, the picture you have in your imagination, with all of its connections of memories, stories, feelings, etc. is a much more living picture of the person than what you see on a screen. Bringing an image of the other into your mind can help the screen connection be more living. When meeting with new people, take a few minutes to introduce each other, to share something personal so that the screen image is more alive. It helps to think of the person(s) before the meeting to bring more life to the online interaction. The interest you take in others, whether in person or virtual, can make a significant difference in the quality of your connection and your time together.

Take an Active Interest, Stay Open-minded to Others. Keeping an open heart and mind to colleagues, friends and new acquaintances can make a significant difference in the quality of interactions with them. There are many practices to help maintain an open attitude with others.  Try to see them in a positive light. Be grateful for how they are part of your life. Loving interest is a living force that can overcome all manner of interpersonal hindrances.

Separateness and Wholeness. In an online meeting, the digital nature of the medium cannot capture the wholeness of the meeting or the group. The participating human beings give the meeting a sense of wholeness, purpose, and camaraderie. To be really enlivening a meeting needs to provide a sense of individuality and wholeness.

We always live life on two levels at the same time.  We experience our life as a world of separate things, people, and places. At the same time, we also experience life and the world as a unified whole,  interpenetrated, interwoven, and full of unexplained wonder.

It is the combination of these two levels that allow us to create wholeness out of separateness.

One image that can help is to remember that the physical distance that separates people also connects them. We stand on the same earth. We breathe the same air. We are warmed by the same sun, see the same moon in its phases, and wonder at the same stars. The mountains, the valleys, the rivers, and the seas are all connected. Through them, we are and can feel connected and in touch no matter where we are.

All of these suggestions have a common foundation – the practice of interest, respect, and care for the self and others. One possible result of this global pandemic will be a much greater understanding and consciousness of the ways we are and can be connected, heart to heart, even over long distances.

Michael Soule

Whidbey Island

May 2020