Every teacher values the individual contributions that each student brings to the class – love of learning, making others feel appreciated, artistic or musical gifts, being able to persevere with tasks, or enjoying the stories the teacher is telling. But sometimes, we keep a special place in our heart for those students who share a particular love of a subject that we love as well. As a Waldorf® school, Camphill Special School tries to balance the interplay of learning through Head, Heart, and Hands.
As a teacher of the special subject of Handwork, I have been allowed to share the gift of learning to create with your hands with many students. And I have been allowed to experience some of the unique ways in which our students respond both with enthusiasm and with creative problem solving when they experience the challenge of learning a new manual skill. Jenna and Eva are two students who share in my love of the crafts.
Jenna, a senior, came to Camphill for High School and joined our pre-vocational program where all students practice acquiring new skills in the context of an actual workshop or outdoor setting. Jenna’s first placement was the Weaving Workshop where she could unfold her love of making things and she chose to return to this workshop three times over the years. She also joined us in the Pottery Workshop and requested to be part of this group each year. Jenna learned to be an excellent weaver and potter, continually surprising all of us in the workshop with her unique color and design choices. If everyone else was making a round plate you could count on Jenna to be brave enough to try making a square one. If the next logical color in a sequence was green, Jenna would try orange. Her projects were both unique and beautiful. Jenna, as a true artist, is brave, loves experimenting, and works very hard to implement her ideas.
Eva also has a love of making things and though, at times, she may struggle to get her hands to do what she wants them to, her determination and enthusiasm always triumph. Eva will never say, “That’s too hard for me.” She will give it a try every time. When we were learning to sew our own handwork bags, Eva had poked herself a few times with the needle and was a little cross. So, together, we found a piece of foam to put a hat on “Nancy needle” and Eva never tired of waiting until Nancy had her hat on and she could pull the needle through the cloth. Despite the waiting, Eva was determined to finish her project at the same times as everyone else. Eva is also very clear about her color and design choices and now that we are learning to knit (and she already can), you will see her in the autumn wearing her warm bright red wool hat!
These are two students whose unique approach to learning has taught me to listen, be patient, problem solve, and finally – to be a better teacher.