What is the purpose of an ENSWaP conference? To bring Steiner Waldorf parents (including ex-SW-parents, would-be and will-be parents), teachers, pupils and friends together to exchange ideas, listen to inspiring speakers, discuss current topics in workshops and have fun. Also as a direct result of the last conference three countries, Hungary, Poland and Ukraine, started working towards national Steiner Waldorf parents’ associations, which will strengthen the position of Waldorf education in these countries. Most of the existing NPAs, whose representatives are involved in ENSWaP’s work, support and help these budding new initiatives to be realised.
I cannot tell you all about the conference, as it was a wonderful kaleidoscope of lots of activities, but I try to give you a taste – believe me, these meetings are really worth to come to.
We had around 70 participants from 14 countries. Many local parents, connected to our school also came and enjoyed the company. A team of five people organised the conference, with the help of many other volunteers, the ENSWaP core group and the 12th class of our school. These pupils baked cakes and made coffee and tea in the breaks, they gave a presentation about their Erasmus+ youth exchange project and one of the class who had spent one semester in Scuola Novalis, an Italian Waldorf school, as an exchange student talked about how it had been for her to be part of another class, family and culture. They also organised the youth programme for the conference: they took part in some of the discussions and lectures, and besides this they had some fun “tourist activities”, such as bowling, rowing on an underground lake and visiting Lake Balaton.
The adult programme was thought of in such a way, that when sitting and listening might have become tedious there was always something to do. There was eurythmy (one father said that he hugely enjoyed it, and it was the first time ever in his 17 years as a Waldorf father), we sang songs and had Bothmer gymnastics to wake us up in the morning. We visited the most famous organic/handcraft market in Hungary, and at the school tasted real Hungarian gulyás. During the breaks and the lovely lunches and dinners we chatted with each other and came to know many people.
In workshops we tried to get to the bottom of the question why we had chosen Steiner Waldorf education. We shared the present situations of the movement in our individual countries, and talked about the added value of having national parents’ associations. Francesco Di Fiore and Giovanna Uzzani from Eletto Tour, Italy gave an impression of their wonderful possibilities for artistic class travel and artistic competitions around Florence. The 13th class of the Fehérlófia Waldorf School had already made good use of their wonderful art trip, their accompanying teacher told us all about this experience.
We had three inspiring speakers, firstly Christopher Clouder, who has been with ENSWaP from the beginning. He gave an inspiring and entertaining lecture on “Building Bridges or Building Walls? The task of Waldorf Education”. You can find more about this lecture further on in the newsletter.
Eszter Salamon the president of the European Parents’ Association kindly accepted our invitation to tell us about the EPA and its work. She talked about how important sustainable education is, how parent and child participation in education had become more and more relevant to be able to raise healthy individuals who are ready to face the challenges of this century. It is also essential that as a teacher you tell parents (and later on pupils) what you are doing and why you are doing that. What I found especially interesting was this: there is research which shows the importance of parents, schools and peer groups in the development of the child. It turned out that the most influential till age 11 are the parents, then the peers and after that the school (teachers). From about age 12 this changes, the peer group becomes most dominant, then parents, and school keeps its third place. This shows how incredibly important it is for schools to cooperate with the home front.
Sam Betts, who is teacher at the Hungarian Waldorf teacher training college, gave us a very enjoyable lecture on child development and the challenges of our age. He started out from the 16th century when a sense of the “sense” developed, and the meaning of inner and outer sense fused together. This was the age when clocks became important and humankind started to live by them. Since then we have reached an age when the physical (which is researchable and controllable) has become primary and the spiritual has become unimportant. Today we make machine based choices, relying on our telephones – it’s hard to make sense of them. He emphasised how important the kind of meetings such as this ENSWaP conference was, as these are face-to-face meetings, where we can make sense of each other.
At the end of the conference we asked the participants to highlight those aspects of the weekend that impressed them. Here are some words and expression: wonderful lectures, good balance between listening and doing, richness in cultures, finding a community, taking home many things, practical advices, new connections, meeting with young people, encouraged to go on, inspiration generally and for national parents’ association, enough informal moments to talk, well-organised, FUN.
What was my impression as the main organiser? Loved the shared experience, the feeling of “we are part of a greater whole”, new friends and acquaintances, widening our networks. And after everyone had left I also enjoyed a good glass of Hungarian red wine with a sense of a challenging job well done.