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Ivan: One of my colleagues discovered that once. He called all the hiring managers our students applied to. With one exception, all of them said that grades were not meaningful. With a portfolio of work that the applicant is able to provide information about, they would be able to see much better whether a young person with his or her interests and skills would fit into the company.
SZ: In the lower and middle grades, Waldorf students do not learn from school books; they keep period books in which they independently record what the teacher taught in the classroom. And often in an aesthetically pleasing way. Isn't that already a kind of portfolio?
Ivan: In fact, this prejudice is stubbornly adhered to in my school. But many children have forgotten what is in their notebooks after a very short time. And: I only find learning content in it, not the learners themselves, I can't see what really interested someone. It is simply written off. That kills any learning impulse. And at the end it says under the physics booklet: "Booklet: very good, pictures: satisfactory".
SZ: The Waldorf School is better known for elaborate verbal certificates.
Ivan: It's sad but true: parents want grades, students want grades and teachers miss the disciplining effect of this form of performance feedback - at least as long as they don't know of a reasonable alternative. And the verbal testimony is not such a thing. If only because of the risk of empty phrases. But when students start to talk about their learning based on their own work, everyone involved is amazed to see how much is visible behind abstract performance measurement.
SZ: Art is also very important to many parents. One of the highlights of every 12th Waldorf class is a play.
Ivan: In the artistic field, Waldorf schools were exemplary until the 1980s. Today, other schools have long since advanced. They aim for the same thing, but better organize it. Acting in the Helene-Lange-Schule in Wiesbaden, for example, is done exclusively for weeks. With us it often turns out to be an acid test: first normal lessons, then rehearsals.
SZ: Is it really possible to simply skip technical classes in the year before graduation?
Ivan: The realization in Wiesbaden was: The cognitive performance has improved. Because of the theater - not in spite of it.
SZ: As a high school teacher for German, history, sports and theater, can you put your way of structuring lessons and assessing performance into practice at your Waldorf school in Schwäbisch Hall?
Ivan: I can maintain my style there, but the chances of school development are very slim. The question of leadership has not been resolved. That's why I go outside, cooperate with independent schools as well as with state schools.
SZ: At Waldorf schools there is no director, but the self-administered teachers' conference. Steiner had imagined the college as a teacher republic of free and equal. A reformer like you will benefit from that.
Ivan: Only to the extent that I can be king in my kingdom. The way self-administration is handled in most Waldorf schools, it is free of a consciously installed hierarchy, but the informal power structures seem all the harder. The simplest terms for school development are often missing. You study Steiner's "General Human Studies", but the awareness that this will not result in any change in traditional school structures is only gradually becoming established.
SZ: Everything you say sounds like a warning to parents and teachers about the Waldorf School. Nevertheless, you are a panelist at the 90th anniversary celebration in Stuttgart-Uhlandshöhe. Are you going to spoil the game?
Ivan: I will say what I think. But there are definitely positive impulses: dozens of Waldorf schools have, according to the so-called Bochum model, abolished the separation between main and subject lessons, at least in the first three years, teachers teach in tandems, and in the mornings only one fairy tale is read out instead of, in the worst case, three - what a child can be overwhelmed. In any case, I advise you to take a close look at the school in question and the respective teachers.
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