Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School

Stronger, Brighter, Deeper

“A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.” 
― Ursula K. Le Guin

During the break I came across this quote from a great writer. Ursula Le Guin was one of the leading science fiction and fantasy writers of the 20th century (Wizard of Earth Sea trilogy, The Left Hand of Darkness etc). Her father was an American anthropologist and she grew up close to indigenous cultures and their traditions of powerful stories.

She puts in a few pertinent words here something that could describe the heart of our education. Teachers should also use words well to strengthen the souls of their students. Teachers are story tellers, and often poets. Glenaeon teachers in particular use words and tell stories to both inspire and to educate. Our curriculum is built on a blend of the scientific and the poetic. The intangible and the immeasurable are blended with the formal and the concrete.

The human mind is wired for stories: we think in narrative sequence, and as any good teacher knows, a story well told can introduce a complex concept and carry student attention into unexpected learning pathways. In Class 1 we might introduce “The farmer went into the forest and there he met a strange little, old grey man who said ’Since you have a good heart, and are willing to divide what you have, I will give you good luck. There stands an old tree, cut it down, and you will find something at the roots.’ The farmer cut down the tree, and when it fell there was a goose sitting in the roots with feathers of pure gold.” The story, via a drawing of the magical golden goose, becomes an introduction to the letter G.

Or even Mathematics: Year 7 are just beginning their Maths Main Lesson on Pythagoras and the theorem of right angled triangles, and Class Teacher Elena Rowan began with the old story of the poor man who asked an Indian emperor for one grain of rice on the first square of a chessboard, two on the next, four on the next and so on doubling the amount each time. The king agreed, and what happened…? Well, you work it out, as the students did.

Or Modern History in Year 11: our master of anecdote Mr David Green might start a unit with “It was June 28 1914 and Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, was riding proudly through the streets of Sarajevo with his wife Sophie in an open limousine. But the Black Hand terrorist group was waiting for him….” and the story of the assassination naturally leads into an analysis of the complex causes of World War 1.

But even more so, the human heart is wired for stories expressed in words. Our hearts beat with the struggles of the characters, their sadness and their happiness, their doubts and their triumphs.

Stories hold a dynamic that stretches and inspires our feelings: the struggles of the simple farmer in the Class 1 fairy tale, the drama of individuals holding the fate of nations in their hands in Year 11. If we are really to educate the whole person, then classrooms should be places of emotional growth as well as quality intellectual learning. Our souls should feel their learning, and as feelings grow, we grow as whole human beings. As whole human beings we are more ready to face the complex challenges of an uncertain world, not to mention being better people as parents, friends and citizens. 

As Ursula Le Guin says for writers, so for our teachers as they work each day to create classrooms that foster emotional growth, making the souls of our students stronger, brighter, deeper.

Have a great term!