Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School

Living for Others: Glenaeon’s Year 11 in the Northern Territory

Our highest endeavour must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility—these three forces are the very nerve of education.” 
― Rudolf Steiner

How do we put this high ideal into practice at Glenaeon? A core element is a commitment to building a sense of responsibility in our students, responsibility for themselves, and most importantly, for others. We express this deep responsibility by living for others: being aware of others, listening to others, being considerate to others. This commitment takes many forms at our school, and a high point is the Year 11 trip to the Northern Territory each year, a journey of service. Students go to serve, to learn, and commit to the lives of other Australian children, so different from themselves, but sharing membership of the same human family.

Our Director of Students, Dani Finch, has taken our Year 11 students for two years now to MacFarlane Primary and here she outlines this year’s recent trip, and some very exciting plans for the future. 
Andrew Hill

From our Main Lesson curriculum to the environment in which we work and play, from the excursions we plan to the nutritious food served by the school café, a Glenaeon education is carefully considered and delivered with Dr Rudolf Steiner’s highest endeavour at its heart.  And so, Year 11s each year, embark on a journey of service. Working for a week at MacFarlane Primary School in Katherine NT where the enrolment is 93% Indigenous students, gives our students new perspectives, knowledge of a culture and heritage very different to their own and perhaps most importantly, a real connection to people whose lives, although lived at the same time in the same country, are immeasurably different.  

Our Year 11 cohort of 2018 have continued the remarkable foundational work begun by our current Year 12s in 2017 when our relationship with MacFarlane began. During our week at the school at the end of Term 2, each Year 11 student was allocated to a primary class where they worked as teacher’s aide for a week.  Duties such as listening to children read, assisting with maths groups, patiently helping with hand washing or lining up for lunch, were part of each day. Lunch time was opportunity for vigorously fought games of basketball, handball and ‘tip’ that left our students sometimes staggering towards the finish line (the final bell of the day) with cries of “Dani, being a teacher is really hard!”.  

The MacFarlane staff and students welcomed us with open arms and were thrilled with the positive role models that our teens set for the younger students.  Year 11’s willingness to work hard, their empathy and good natured sense of fun shone through in our week at MacFarlane leading to requests to “Bring this mob back next year please Miss.”

Cultural learning and awareness are also an integral part of the trip, and preparation for this aspect begins in the three weeks before departure with Andrew Hill’s ‘First Nations’ Main Lesson.  Before arriving, our students had a working knowledge of the different notion of family that exists in Aboriginal groups as well as moieties, skin names, and Dreaming. Culture sessions with Elders Levina Vonsenden and Arnold Ahfat brought this knowledge to life. Mr Arnold and Miss Levina are ‘Aunty’ and ‘Uncle’ to many of the students at Macfarlane and are employed full time at the school to deliver Culture programs to every class. The MacFarlane kids adore them as do the Glenaeon mob! Their knowledge, and ability to bridge the gap between two different worlds – taking the best from both – is a remarkable gift.  

Heading into Kakadu at the conclusion of the school program became a journey of discovery, featuring natural waterholes, rock art galleries, crocodiles, heat and red dirt all under incredible, open skies. In this part of the program, our students debriefed regularly about their time at MacFarlane as they pondered the question “If you had all the money and all the resources, how would you ‘close the gap’?”.  Many hours were spent in contemplation and discussion with some interesting propositions raised.    

Trips such as this extend knowledge, forge relationships and imbue a service ethic that lives within our students far beyond the end of their time at MacFarlane School – making this the lived experience of “The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility”. With this in mind, we now aspire to make these opportunities reciprocal – that is, we plan to bring MacFarlane to Glenaeon!  Our aim is to bring cultural leaders Arnold and Levina along with four MacFarlane Year 5 and 6 students, to experience a week at Glenaeon.  Planning is well underway and we have dates in mind.  Our hope is for this to be a furthering of the relationship between our schools and an opportunity for Glenaeon, with the help of Arnold and Levina, to imbue Indigenous understanding and perspectives throughout our curriculum – something we have wished to do for some time. Stay tuned for updates!

Dani Finch 
Director of Students