Being a teacher in the Kufunda Waldorf Inspired School - Zimbabwe
Who am I ?
I am Dorothee, 18 years old and I grew up in Belgium. In June 2017 I graduated from the Waldorf School in Leuven. I had the luck to go to this Waldorf School, from Kindergarden to Primary School and finally graduate from its Secondary School. I decided to take a gap year with the idea of giving back to the world, helping others. I also wanted to go to different places in the world. A year of helping, learning, discovering, travelling, volunteering, enjoying... My first destination: a Waldorf-inspired school in a community in rural Zimbabwe - the Kufunda Village School.
Let’s get started
Without a teachers degree, but with lots of Waldorf experience and motivation I arrived, ready to help this small but growing school. I joined a three-days teachers workshop, which gave me the core of Waldorf Education. A lot of resourcebooks were available too - so, that by the beginning of the term I felt that my backpack wasn’t only filled with experience, motivation and love - but also with the core of Waldorf as in background information.
About the school
The school was founded about five years ago, having one part in town and the other out in the farm as part of the Kufunda Learning Village - an intentional community that strives to find a sustainable way in living and working together, based and driven by people’s individual passions and skills. In the beginning of 2017 the two branches split and Kufunda Village School was re-born. A small Waldorf-inspired school, dedicated to teach the children through thinking, feeling and willing.
In the Kindergarten are currently around 20 children, taught by two teachers. In the Primary School were 19 children, divided over the classes 1, 2, 3 and 5. Elizabeth, the main teacher, teaches classes 1 and 2 and I have been (mainly) teaching class 3 this term, with Ethel - an assistant teacher, teaching class 5. The class 5s have recently left us as they are joining the neighbouring school, because Kufunda school is not yet ready for exams. We are now left with 16 children (class 1, 2 and 3).
Lessons take place from eight until one o’clock. The day always starts with half an hour of morning ring, where verses, mental arithmethic, songs, riddles, etc are done. Gently awakening the children and already learning with the whole body. Then it’s time for Main Lesson - three weeks we dive into a subject and explore, experience, write, sing, listen, talk,... about it. After half an hour of break, two running lessons of each fifty minutes are conducted (Maths, English, Shona and Form drawing). The last lesson of the day is always the creative one: painting, music, movement or handwork. And then it’s so called ‘home-time’!
Me as a teacher
It wasn’t my first time to stand in front of a class and to teach - but the context and settings were definitely very different! And even though I don’t have a teachers degree (yet), I was dedicated to give and do my best. And that is actually what I have been doing, and still do now - every day. In the beginning I was still strongly supported by Maaianne, for which I am very grateful. I had some time to settle and take over. And now here I am - the main teacher for the third grade and also giving music and movement to the other class. Sometimes I have a tougher day - or I can feel that the general attention and the energy from the children is very low. But overall, in general, I love what I do. I put my energy in creating fun, interesting, challenging lessons and what I get back from the children is so much worth it. I found out that doing a word puzzle to introduce the farming main lesson was a hit, that giving love to the form drawings was the magic word, that it’s not so easy to count how many feet there are in a classroom with 11 children and one teacher,... It’s the little magical moments that make my heart grow bigger with love - love for the children, love for Waldorf, love for teaching.
Another aspect that I find important to mention, is about us, all of the teachers. We start every school day together, at ten to eight. We sing a song and say a verse. Then there is time to share any business, in order to start our day clear and free. It does so much, I can tell you. During break we sit together outside, enjoying (and often sharing) our food. At least once a week (on Wednesdays normally) we come together after school and have a teacher’s meeting. We take our time for child study - to hold a child more conscious in our thoughts and to support it. We spend time on learning more about Waldorf education together - whether it is by a book, or by someone sharing from a teachers conference. Everytime I leave these sessions with at least one great insight or something I can immediately implement practically in teaching. And then there is time for any community (school) business. From my first meetings I remember that I often thought or realised: “Oh, this is really real.” By now this thought has evolved towards: we’re creating a school TOGETHER. We are a small, but motivated group to ensure the quality of this school. We are planning and we are growing - from a core filled with love.
My hope/wish for their future
I had the luck of going to a Waldorf School from Kindergarten up until my graduation, as I have said before. After these 15 years I can say, with my heart full of love, this education has prepared me for life. I will always remember my school years as an amazing time. It offered me so much more than what is normally taught in school. There are so many parts about this alternative way of teaching that I do not only agree with, but also wish for others to experience. For example: rather than educating the child how to learn, you teach them to love learning. You address the whole child in it’s unique way of being - harmonizing the thinking, feeling and willing. As a teacher you create a safe place/environment for the child to freely explore and discover him/herself. Apart from the intellectual development, there is (a lot of) space for arts, crafts, music,..
For me there is no doubt that this type of education does good. I hope and would wish that more children could benefit from this. That’s why I hope with all my heart that, despite the current struggles in Zimbabwe, this school will keep on building it’s strong foundation. So that it can slowly grow - maybe eventually even have it’s own graduates? That is a very far away wish, I’m aware of that. My close future wish is that it will be possible for the children who are joining today, to be able to come tomorrow and the day after again.
The school has planted its seed and I’m looking forward to and supporting every step in its developmental stage: a little green plant, a stronger stem, the first leaf and then finally (maybe?) a beautiful flower.