Teaching eurythmy in the Norwegian Waldorf Steiner schools: Challenges and Opportunities

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1 Teaching eurythmy in the Norwegian Waldorf Steiner schools: Challenges and Opportunities Marianne Tvedt Submitted to the Plymouth University as a dissertation for the Degree of Master of Arts: Education in Eurythmy In the Faculty of Education September 2013 I certify that all material in this dissertation which is not my own has been identified and none has been submitted previously in support of any degree qualification or course. Signed: Marianne Tvedt 1

2 Abstract The aim of this study was to explore eurythmy teachers challenges and opportunities in the Waldorf Steiner schools in Norway, using mixed methods that included questionnaires and interviews. The study shows an overall feeling of well being at work although major challenges were salient, with a continually demanding situation where the eurythmists have to raise awareness on the subject and fight for it. Teaching a subject which is less recognized than other subjects, I conclude the eurythmy teachers to possess a high degree of resilience. Reduction in number of weekly lessons in eurythmy, and the feeling of not managing the curriculum was prevalent. A phenomenographic approach revealed five categories of description: Profound inner sensitivity, Belonging to a group, Vulnerability, To define your own importance and Challenging traditions. The questions of the legitimacy of eurythmy in the schools and whether their work justifies a lower key position then other teachers are discussed. 2

3 In gratitude to the willingness and engagement the eurythmy teachers have showed in order to make this assignment possible. 3

4 Table of Contents i. Illustration in the text: The total Professional Competence ii. Titelpage iii. Abstract iv. Acknowledgement v. Table of content Introduction A new art of movement Eurythmy in Norway My prerequisites and experiences A brief introduction to literature and methodology Relevant research and literature Research in eurythmy teaching Research into other arts subjects Research into teachers working conditions People in constant learning What could be sensible working requirements for a eurythmy teacher? Methodology and methods Methodology mixed methods Phenomenography The quantitative research

5 Analysis of the questionnaire (appendix 6) The qualitative research Interviews Interview analysing process Strengths and weaknesses in a qualitative study with particular focus on phenomenography What I have learned from the project and what I would do differently Results Workload Key position The first professional years Categories of description Profound inner sensitivity Belonging to a group Vulnerability To define your own importance Challenging traditions Preliminary conclusion Discussion Meaningful experience Recognition

6 5.3. Negotiation of meaning Developing skills Developing skills among eurythmists Eurythmy s aesthetic dimension Conclusion vi.references vii. Appendices: Appendix Appenidix Appendix Appendix Appendix

7 1.0. Introduction This study explores the work of eurythmy teachers in a social context in Steiner schools in Norway. I have limited the study to apply exclusively to eurythmy teachers and have studied the variations of their experiences of working as eurythmists in a school, as in how far they feel engaged and active participants, whether they feel supported, appreciated and recognized, how they are coping with challenges and opportunities connected to their work and to what degree they experience eurythmy embedded in the school. I will look at eurythmy as an art of dance, give an explanation of what it tries to achieve, and describe its development, especially its pedagogical impulse in Norway. I think it is important to illuminate my research questions through an understanding of the history of the eurythmy. A description of my own prerequisites and experiences, which determine my research questions, and the choice of literature and methodology will be provided. A presentation of my results and a discussion of them in light of the literature will then follow. In my writing up I am consistently using female gender A new art of movement Eurythmy was developed in ; in a time were various artists in many artistic realms searched for a renewal. In dance, the need was to get rid of old boundaries in the classical dance and find new modern expressions. In this period of change, Lory Smits, a young woman, developed eurythmy under the guidance of Steiner (Steiner 1965). Many were drawn to this new movement during the next ten years and the expansion in courses and touring were comprehensive (Steiner 1980). Steiner s last indications and descriptions 7

8 on the subject were held in lectures hold in (Steiner 1984) (Steiner 1985). Eurythmy is intimately connected to speech, above all poetry and music (Steiner 1984) (Steiner 1985). The objective was to visualize the spoken word and audible music through a transition of your physical body into etheric movement. It is deeply connected to the philosophy developed by Steiner, anthroposophy, which explained man as a physical body, soul and spirit (Steiner 1971). As an actor or singer speaks or sings so the eurythmist works from the same bodily laws (Steiner 1983). Steiner claims that speech has formative forces that can be transformed into movement. You allow what is inside to be artistically expressed on the outside [my translation] (Steiner 1971:163). In addition to eurythmy s artistic dimension, Steiner also claimed that eurythmy had health benefits, saying that all eurythmy is in every way drawn out of the formation of the healthy human being (Steiner 1983:1). When the first Steiner school was founded in Stuttgart in Germany in 1919; Die Freie Waldorfschule, eurythmy became a mandatory subject. Steiner provided a few specific pedagogical exercises, which he claimed, stimulated the child s social abilities, concentration and coordination, as well as the child s emotional and cognitive capacities (Steiner 1965). Beyond these exercises, the eurythmy teachers were above all encouraged to work artistically with the children, in order to enhance their development as human beings (Steiner 1971). Steiner was himself the chairman of the school during the first years. He initiated the teacher meeting, the so-called Konferenzen (Lindenberg 1997:678) where Steiner himself lectured on the understanding of man, Menschenkunde in order to develop the pedagogical impulse. Steiner 8

9 emphasized the importance of these weekly forums, which should act as the heart of the school. Pedagogical issues and difficulties concerning classes should be discussed and didactic knowledge generated. Steiner was aware of the social challenges with sympathies and antipathies among colleagues but according to Lindenberg (1997) stressed the necessity of overcoming this in order to create a spiritual and living faculty and school. He stressed the importance of teachers visiting the different classes as often as possible, in order to supervise and to have a direct contact with the students and knowing them by name: Wenn man sich gewöhnt, sich recht zu bestreben, die Kinder kennenzulernen psychologisch, dann bekommt man allmählich ein anderes Verhältnis zu ihnen Dieses Kennenlernen bleibt nicht bloß ein erkennen der Kinder; es wird zu einem anderen Verhältnis zu dem Kindern, wenn man sich bemüht, ihn kennenzulernen (Steiner 1975: ). Steiner s pedagogical theory was above all his didactic approach to learning. He emphasized the two day s rhythm. On the first day the teacher should characterize, the students should do the experiment and experience the pictures/ the movement without judging and drawing any conclusions. The second day, the students should consider and draw conclusions before going on. In this way, Steiner claims, you are activating the whole human being and says: Ich muss unter allen Umständen zuerst dasjenige befestigen, was ja da sein will. Ich muss [die Kindern] Nahrung geben (Steiner 1986:48). The essence, the nourishment of the second day s action is to conclude and confirm what you have learned. This has according to Steiner an impact on the students ability to deepen their knowledge and achieve self-experienced concept. 9

10 1.2.1 Eurythmy in Norway The first Steiner school in Norway was founded in 1926 and the chairman asked the eurythmist Roll Wikberg whether she wanted to be the first teacher, saying: The teacher who should start the first grade, must be one who has studied eurythmy [my translation] (Roll Wikberg 1970). Roll Wikberg (1970) tells in her memoirs that the school had to close after ten years and she believed the reason for it was that in the expansion during these years, they hadn t put enough time and energy into the strengthening of the faculty. She claimed that there was no solid backbone that could carry the school. Eurythmy has been taught more or less continually since 1945, and in an interview Mathisen (2001) did with Eva Lunde, she said that she also had difficult classes. Eurythmy was an unknown subject for both the students and the teachers, and it took years for them to accept eurythmy and says It was easier to work with the children in the state schools, but they were not as free in their movement as the children in the Steiner school [my translation]. Stories show enthusiasm and devotion towards the new art and in an interview conducted by Arden & Sørum (2010), Lunde tells that even when some of the anthroposophists didn t understand the meaning of eurythmy, they tried to be positive since it was initiated by Steiner [my translation]. How the working situation for the eurythmy teachers was at that time is nevertheless not easy to read out in the memoires. It seems as if they had been very active, with a lot of teaching in both Steiner schools and state schools, for children and grown-ups (Mathisen 2001). In Norway, eurythmy is part of the school s curriculum at all stages of the school, from kindergarten upwards (Ringheim & Kentström 2007a and b) and from the 50s the recommended 10

11 amount of lessons was one eurythmy lesson from first to fourth grade and two lessons per week from the fifth grade up to the Upper Secondary school. The first eurythmy performance in Oslo was as early as 1921, in the National theatre, with 1200 people in the audience! The performance was harshly criticized the day after in the newspaper, saying that it was a scandal letting the temple of art be so shamefully desecrated [my translation] (Christensen 2008:154). Steiner (1985) stressed that eurythmy first and foremost should have its place among other arts, and that its acceptance in the public culture would be a prerequisite for a full acceptance of pedagogical eurythmy. This acceptance despite 100 years of artistic activity has not been achieved My prerequisites and experiences My first encounter with eurythmy was at the age of 21. I went to a performance of the Opera Orpheus and Eurydice, produced and performed by students and teachers at the Steiner school in Bergen. When Orpheus enters the Kingdom of Death, he meets creatures from the underworld that threaten and tempt him. These creatures were played by a group of students who performed a type of rhythmical dance. They floated across the floor in beautiful wave-like movements accompanied by music. I experienced a correlation between the movement, music and the words that were spoken. It deeply impressed me. This was eurythmy. After some research into the field, I decided to start the training. 11

12 My main teacher in eurythmy training, Werner Barfod was unlike many other eurythmy teachers in the 70s and 80s, concerned about the eurythmy students need for professional skills in pedagogical eurythmy. He introduced pedagogical lectures, weeks of introduction on teaching eurythmy and internships in a Steiner school. Despite the way I entered this training, with fairly vague ambitions for the future, I enjoyed these internships and ended up becoming a eurythmy teacher in a Steiner school. The faculty in my school had for seven years worked hard to get eurythmists, because as they said: Only when there are eurythmy teacher can a school be called a Steiner school. My eurythmy colleagues and I were lucky. I had a preparation time in the school, with fewer lessons, and much time for visiting the classes. During the introductory phase I helped out in classes. This gave me the opportunity to get to know the students in different situations build a good relationship with them and become integrated into the life of the school. The students got to know me as a person, and not just as a eurythmy teacher. This may seem strange, but in my opinion it was vital because this subject was often perceived as a bit awkward and strange, as it stood out from traditional school subjects in many ways. Students did things in eurythmy that they had never done before and which no, or very few, schools other than Steiner schools taught as a subject. The teachers in such subjects were then also likely to be seen as a bit strange. Rouso (2010) highlighted this in her dissertation: The teacher s style in being and teaching has a big impact on doing eurythmy (Rouso 2010:83) and pointed to the significance of the teacher s personality. My experience tells me that if eurythmy is successful, students are proud because they are doing something different; it is cool and 12

13 they want to be a part of it. In contrast, if it is not, students experience the subject as peculiar, embarrassing and strange. I was able to develop eurythmy in my way, without supervision. The position was flexible and the faculty always encouraged my work. However, the first three years were still characterized by huge emotional highs and lows, from delight and enthusiasm to hopelessness and melancholy. I was deeply connected to eurythmy and enjoyed the subject, and put all my energy into it in order to ensure that students enjoyed it. Despite an overall positive working atmosphere, some students still commented that what we were doing was boring and useless. Through experience and supportive people around me, I developed a clearer self-understanding and a more professional attitude to myself as a teacher. This transition from being an independent art student engrossed and strongly associated with my art, to become a communicative teacher, was both challenging and humbling. Once I asked a singer whether she taught singing and music in school. She replied: I would destroy my love of music by teaching it. This was for me paradoxical. Surely you have to love what you do in order to communicate it to your students? Or can it cause disillusionment, because your students are not receiving your affection? My joy of teaching students was greater than the frustrations that arose following my less successful lessons. The performances with golden moments when the students did their very best, deeply focused, joyful moving in powerful musical expression always confirmed the importance of going on and kept me at the school for 19 years. Through teaching, parent courses, performances, festivals, demonstrations, presentations, workshops and faculty work eurythmy 13

14 can have a major impact on a school. Is this of importance for a schools social life? As a eurythmy teacher, a need arose to clarify and understand eurythmy teachers experiences and impressions in their daily work. When I started teaching in the eurythmy training a few years ago, this subject became even more relevant as I was preparing students for their future profession. In my meetings today with eurythmy colleagues in schools, I experience enthusiasm for the teaching profession and a great love for the children. However there is also frustration, resignation and fatigue. The feeling of being overwhelmed by teaching challenges, a sense of falling short, both in relation to the child s learning in general and eurythmy in particular is salient. Some statements also indicated a lack of knowledge of eurythmy in the faculty or leadership, as well as an explicit fear of the subject gradually disappearing from schools. My own experiences have naturally led to biased opinions, which have dictated my choice of research area. They have also affected my choice and phrasing of research questions, which can be summarised as follows: 1. How do eurythmy teachers engage in and create their professional and social working environment in their school? 2. How do the eurythmists perceive the attitude and acknowledgement from colleagues and students? 3. How do they experience the working conditions and what is the workload? 4. How is eurythmy acknowledged, grounded and included in the school? 14

15 1.3. A brief introduction to literature and methodology Since my research questions contain the eurythmy teachers perceptions and experiences in their work, these questions largely point to cooperation and interaction among people. I have therefor deepened my understanding of social learning and ways of creating meaningfulness as a professional. Literature that claims individuals are in a constant learning process will be discussed. The theories chosen will present different starting points and angles, and stress the important qualifications connected to the ability of cooperate and to being flexible. My phenomenon will be on the one hand, looked upon in the light of Lave (Lave & Wenger 1991) and Wenger (1998). Wenger claims that we normally look at learning as an activity separated from daily life, an activity that is for all being taught. Learning is further normally seen as an individual process, where some persons are good, others are poor learners, and the process has a starting point and an end. However Wenger (1998) points out that we are all good learners, that learning is a social phenomenon, which reflects our deeper social nature as understanding beings, and is therefore optimal outside the classroom. Learning is an interactive process in which the human being is constantly involved, although we are not always aware of it. These social constructions create meaningful experiences and are identityforming and are called Communities of Practice (CoP). Lave and Wenger (1991) focus on the changeable aspect of learning and its situated character. A teacher s professional ability is not only dependent on her professional competence but also on her dependency on the socio-cultural context. These theories will be contrasted with Skau s (2008) vision of professionalism. Like Lave and Wenger (1991), she points out that a professional is in constant 15

16 development throughout life. However she illustrates that people s suitability and professional qualifications consist of three areas of competence and her focus is on developing these competences in order to be qualified for a job. Personal competence is a concept she introduces, a competence challenged by your own values and attitudes, and which is important in interaction with people. Schön s (2001) theory on how professionals think in action will be presented as an option to develop as a teacher. I will present research on teacher resignation, tiredness and attrition, which underpin and confirm that many teachers meet major challenges in schools today. Unfortunately, I have found little research on working conditions among eurythmists, dancers or other artists. The research I will refer to in this context has only touched my phenomenon indirectly. However it has interesting findings, which will supplement my research. A methodology that integrates both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods called mixed methods (Creswell 2003) has been used. I considered this methodology appropriate because I had two wishes: I wanted to chart specific facts and experiences concerning working conditions from an entire professional group via a questionnaire (appendix 1) (Hannan 2007), and on the basis of these findings conduct in-depth interviews with a sample from this group (six interviews). This combination gave me a broad understanding of the phenomenon, as the impressions and trends that came to light in the questionnaire could be illuminated in depth in the interviews and vice versa. For my qualitative approach in data collection and analysis I applied phenomenography, which I considered as sufficient for my purpose. 16

17 Phenomenography was developed by Marton (Marton & Booth 1997) and is an approach in which the interviewee s unique perception and variations of their ways of experiencing forms the final result called categories of description (Marton & Booth 1997:124). The two collections of data and the analysis have been worked out separately. The results from the two data sets have then been equally illuminated, contrasted and discussed. The results are limited as the questionnaire does not provide room for independent elaboration and is, to a certain extent, 'controlled by me as I have formulated the questions and set the limits of which questions are to be included. The interview, however, does provide scope for more depth and elaboration on experiences. Furthermore, the number of eurythmy teachers interviewed is limited, which means I am careful not to generalize the results. Nevertheless, my hope is for the results to contribute to an increased awareness in the eurythmy teachers' situation in schools. 2.0 Relevant research and literature 2.1 Research in eurythmy teaching Hasler (Hasler & Heinritz 2010a) conducted an interview with teachers (noneurythmists) in a German Steiner school asking what they wanted to see in research into pedagogical eurythmy. The overall desire among teachers was research on eurythmy as a personality-forming subject with the following focal points: How eurythmy is connected to life, what students experience when carrying out eurythmy, how to understand the subject and see the value in it. 17

18 The same questions were posed independently to a group of eurythmy teachers. Their focal point was not on the value of eurythmy and its place in society, but on the need for research into working conditions, working terms and job descriptions. The majority of those asked did not feel valued and believed their working terms and conditions did not correspond with the strain they experienced. The clear difference, between which areas of research were desired, highlights a genuine challenge in which you can ask the following question: If you could prove the personality-forming effect of eurythmy, would it lead to greater recognition of the subject? And would greater recognition of eurythmy increase the general understanding of the eurythmists work? In a study by Barz and Panyr (2007) of Steiner school students who had graduated in Germany, some of the challenges eurythmy faces in Steiner schools were documented. The statements on eurythmy as a subject were predominantly negative; highlighting the sensitivity of the eurythmist, the unfamiliar, the chaotic lessons, and the problematic and little known subject which is nicht genügend gewürdigt und anerkennt (Barz & Panyr 2007:279). The positive statements emphasized the joy of moving, insight and understanding of poetry and music. The findings in the study reveal challenges in teaching eurythmy, both in the subject itself and from out the socio-cultural context. I see recognisable issues, such as the lack of didactic in teaching eurythmy, the perception and statements on the strangeness connected to the subject and the fact that eurythmy is not fully recognised in public cultural life. 18

19 2.2 Research into other arts subjects Research into both dance and eurythmy has become of interest in recent years. The dance teachers and choreographers I contacted through Trondheim and Stavanger University did nevertheless not know of any research into my subject matter. In the material I investigated, which included Nordic forum for dance research Nofod, (Pape 2010), member publications for Nofod (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), articles written by dance teachers, my subject matter was only addressed indirectly. Dance is not a mandatory subject in the state schools in Norway but is integrated in the subject music or more often as part of physical education. Bamford (2011:27) confirms this trend saying: Subjects drama and dance may occur, but on a less regular basis...as a component of other subjects, such as language learning or physical education most schools admit that [dance] is largely neglected (Bamford 2011:31). Nordaker (2009) questions whether this connection of dance with physical education is an obstacle if you want to profile dance as an art subject in schools. In his analysis of four dominant publications within dance, music and gymnastic, he was surprised at how little the dance content was discussed. To argue the need for dance in schools, Nordaker (2009) claims that dancers need a verbal tool with which to talk about dance. Pape (2010) confirms this, saying that to be taken seriously, dancers need to increase focus on the knowledge of dance in general and dance teaching in schools, through verbalising the qualities of dance, content-wise. She even believes that this is why dance lessons have been reduced in schools recent years. This was an issue the teachers in Haslers interview (Hasler & Heinritz 2010a) also highlighted and of which I will look into from the eurythmy point of view in my discussion. 19

20 Dale (1990) claims that the Norwegian school system has a lack of art s aesthetical dimension and claims that this has been systematically undermined in the schools. He brings forth Nordaker s (2009) argument, saying that the combination of physical training and art is unfortunate. Dale refers to Hegel s aesthetic verdict saying: the condition for art as an object of aesthetic consideration is that it is free from serving other interests than itself [my translation] (Dale 1990:30). Mathisen (2000) confirms Hegel s argument and claims that you can find obvious benefits in doing eurythmy in schools, however the reason we perform art must lie in the art itself [my translation]. He says the joy of movement must be the reason for practising eurythmy. Bamford (2011) concludes that the general attitude to art and culture in Norway is positive. Nevertheless, in ten years the amount of time teaching art in the public schools has been reduced from 20 % to 12, 5 % due to expanding of the subjects language and mathematic. She furthermore concludes that leadership has considerable autonomy in programme determination in Norwegian schools and has therefor the opportunity to encourage and promote art. Robinson (2009) pointed to a prevailing hierarchical subject system in the school, with math at the top of theoretical subjects and art at the bottom. In the hierarchy of arts subjects, theatre and dance are at the bottom. Based on the culture-historical context, this makes dancers and eurythmists a vulnerable group in schools, which accentuates Nordaker s (2009) argument for the dance subject having its own status in schools. Dale (1990) points out that through artistic and aesthetic formation you learn to handle different skills and gain a tool that you can use to express yourself with. 20

21 This is brought further in Steiner s (1971) intention with eurythmy. He claims that the inner experience should be expressed through outer artistic movement and stresses the fact that eurythmy is not brought into the Waldorf School out the need to create a kind of physical education, but has purely artistic intentions Research into teachers working conditions Research into the working condition of other teachers shows some trends. Because of a large problem in US caused by teacher turnover and students lack of good and experienced teachers, Zielinski (2011) looks at the teacher attrition because of the fact that many teachers leave school. After one to three years of working in a school, 9.1 % quit teaching and 13.7 % moved to another school. They find the pressure of being a new teacher overwhelming ; they feel isolated, humiliated and overworked. From four to six years 97.6 % teachers changed schools where 56 % of them did it because opportunities were better in another school, saying that the teachers have figured out their [own] teaching patterns, they get bored and leave. Zielinski (2011) concludes that lack of satisfaction is due to low salaries, large workload, student behaviour, working conditions and lack of administrative support. In Norway some of the issues are recognisable. In an interview, Myhrer (Løvstad 2011) claims that teachers are increasingly subjected to threats and harassment caused by the breakdown of respect and authority in the teaching profession, and in society in general [my translation]. He even claims art teachers to have a more strenuous working situation then other teachers (Myhrer interviewed in Aasgaard 2008). 21

22 Skaalvik and Skaalvik (2009) conclude that teachers are one of the professional groups that suffer most from work-related stress and burnout. They point out the discrepancy between the low degrees of dissatisfaction at only 4 %, while as many as every third constantly think about ending their teaching career. Skaalvik and Skaalvik (2009) state that teachers describe teaching as stimulating and challenging, and the positive progress they make with their students as particularly satisfying. Their findings nevertheless show incidental causes making teachers retire earlier, reduce the workload or change jobs. The feeling of not being recognized, low esteem and lack of collegial support have a huge impact on the teachers resilience (Skaalvik & Skaalvik 2012). 2.4 People in constant learning In his social learning theory, Wenger (2000) claims that learning is a social phenomenon and stresses the fact that we are as learners dependent on each other in diverse informal and formal social situations. He encourages learning about and being aware of these settings, and names them Communities of Practice (CoP). Wenger s use of practice and his intention with it is essential here: a process by which we can experience the world and our engagement with it as meaningful (Wenger 1998:51). Wenger deepens the effect of this learning process by saying that in a community, the individual s identity can be nourished and developed through meaningful experiences, a belonging and a close experience of learning by doing in life. Wenger introduces the concept of negotiation of meaning (1998:52), the interactive process between yourself and your perceptions, which is in constant 22

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