by Maria Dominguez
I worked for 20 years in Waldorf education, a rich and profound educational system that nurtures many aspects of the human being through a wide range of activities, skills and tools. This breadth allows children to find emotional security and self-esteem as the system brings out each individual’s gifts. The school I used to work in is a place where children learn with joy, curiosity and a desire to discover more…I have nothing but good to say, and I’m grateful for this important experience. However, as the years went by, observing children, families, society and the times we live in, I began to wonder if what I was doing was enough; despite all the good experiences, something was missing, and I began to wonder what education really is.
With the birth of my son, this question became urgent. As a teacher, I could see how students from other schools were demoralized and mistreated. And experience tells you that to make a child thrive again, you must, first of all, restore his self-esteem, confidence, and joy. And then, as if by magic, the child begins to learn and achieve previously unattainable goals.
As an adult, I know you remember only a few things about school: the good teachers because they opened windows to the outside world; you remember the good times of laughter and friendship. And then, beyond the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, you remember some of the things you learned because they were conveyed to you in a way that touched your heart.
As a person of a certain age, I have seen the lives of some of the people around me, and I know that economic or social success does not make us happier. So if a school does not fulfil the task of educating us, if our career, economic or social success does not fulfil us, if joy and self-esteem are so important for the complete development of a child, what should I focus on? What is the point of going to school? What is the most important thing I can give my child? And I realized that for me, the most important thing has to do with our quality as human beings. But can a school provide that? To answer this, it is essential to contextualize the moment we are living and to understand the meaning of what we are doing. The world has changed a lot since the first schools were founded. We live in an age where the availability of information is instantaneous and accessible to everyone. Where many of the jobs that exist today will no longer exist tomorrow, so many teachings need to be updated. Therefore, I believe in a school that teaches flexibility to cope with change, provides tools to solve different situations, and teaches how to stay focused in a rapidly changing world. We live in a society whose morals are increasingly poor, where children have difficulty finding healthy references to emulate, and where young people are increasingly lost; I am looking for a school where goodness, respect, loyalty, gratitude, kindness and joy… are a daily experience, offering solid references that always work, regardless of external circumstances.
In an educational system where the acquisition of knowledge is the result of pressure, I am looking for a school where teachers teach with enthusiasm so that learning is a motivating experience that keeps curiosity alive and makes us want to know and learn more. I want a school that promotes culture, not education. Finally, in a life that is not easy to understand and live, I want my child to have the tools to know himself and be comfortable with himself and others. Because, in the end, that is what makes the difference on a daily basis, regardless of the circumstances.
One day, while watching a documentary, I discovered that everything I was looking for, and much more, was there. It was a direct hit to the heart. It was about an Education for Life school. The impact was so strong that my family and I moved to Italy to learn about this method of education at the Education for Life School in Perugia. Education for Life gave me direction as a mother, teacher, and human being; it shaped my feelings. I spent many months in the classrooms, experiencing its principles first-hand. I carry with me the immense gift of seeing the personal work done with children, how they work on values and self-knowledge depending on their age.
My six-year-old son already knows things that took me a lifetime to learn! Of course, he will have his challenges, but I am giving him the best possible tools to deal with them. How many years have I spent studying books of dead concepts teaching nothing? In Education for Life, I have seen the art of teaching, where knowledge becomes tangible and connected to real life; where values accompany knowledge, and the teacher both teaches and trains; where learning becomes something so fluid and natural that it is easy and fun; where what is learned is not forgotten because it is related to life itself and known from the heart; where culture makes its way because teaching goes beyond the book and constantly opens worlds. All this and much more I carry with me, now all I have to do is to continue to share what I have learned because this is the education that the world needs, that new generations need. Education for Life is, for me, the education of the future, the education of the true human being.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.