Today you are in for a treat as Kai Miller shares her keen insight into the soul of a child and her experience in working with children in a Waldorf classroom. She offers a beautiful perspective on how teachers and mothers alike can be models of serenity and compassion for our beloved children.
What soul work has your vocation as guide and teacher to children entailed for you?
Kai: Becoming a Waldorf teacher has been a deep inspiration to become a better human being. Rudolf Steiner taught that the most important thing you can do to educate the young child is to become worthy of imitation. My soul work has included both becoming aware of my habitual patterns and striving to teach and live beyond them while expressing gratitude for their presence in my life.
The young child is very imitative making this a great responsibility for both teachers and parents. They are watching our speech, gestures, and attitudes and even feel our subtle energies. I strive each day to be aware of what I’m bringing and to leave out the door what does not belong with the children. Such awareness supports what I can offer in all aspects of my life.
How can we accomplish the soul work needed to enrich our lives and the lives of our children?
Kai: My practices have included meditation, yoga, contemplation and devotion. Through meditation we can access the true essence of who we are. That very essence is what young children still have in such abundance. Yoga as an embodiment practice assists me in moving energies stuck in my body. Contemplation or inquiry allows me to be curious about ideas, situations, and feelings both in the classroom and in life. Last, the devotion that teaching has brought to me is the truest gift of all. Devotion to serving in a way that brings us closer to that which is greater than all of us.
How do you tune into and honor the soul of each child as you meet them day-to-day?
Kai: Tuning into the soul of each child requires an openness of heart and mind. This attunement occurs in the present moment through observation and presence. But can also be worked on outside of the classroom in meditation. Observing a child is a gift. Watch without judgment or bias the words, behaviors, cries and laughs of each child therein lies much of the child’s soul as well as his needs.
What makes a Waldorf teacher unique is the practice of mediation and its ability to help us understand the soul of children. Taking our observations into this sacred time allows the essence and intuitions of the teacher to arise.
Parents too can adopt this practice. Before bed take just 5 minutes to remember the child’s face in detail, his actions, speech, laughs and cries. Notice what arises. Pose a question if you are searching for some way to support the child.
Last, the soul of the child is honored by providing them with a beautiful and soulful environment to dwell in, allowing them to express their imaginations, offering them rich opportunity for the arts and with natural materials, and not asking of the child what he is not ready to give. In this way, the soul can soar!
What do you see as the greatest gifts of working with children? Challenges?
Kai: The greatest gift of working with children is to be in the presence of their consciousness, their innocence and pure joy. They do not yet understand things like hate, prejudice and intolerance. They are pure and unconditioned. That’s is truly a daily gift. Other gifts are the being that they inspire me to become knowing that they will be taking in every part of me all the way down to how I blow my nose! I am a better person for that!
One of the greatest challenges of working with children is bridging the gap between the values in the Waldorf classroom and society. I believe that it takes a village to raise a child and consistency between school and home and community is key to creating security and health in the child. In this time we are faced with so many challenges like media, violence, busyness, and over commitment. Outside of the classroom (and home) life can lack rhythm, beauty and imagination. This contrast can prove challenging for both teachers and parents.
Reflecting on children and your presence with them, how does the quality of ‘Serenity’ speak to you?
Kai: Serenity is something that speaks through the environment created by the teachers, the state of mind of the teachers, and the quality of care and relationship between the teachers and with the children.
As I mentioned earlier, the most valuable teaching that Rudolf Steiner gave early childhood teachers was about imitation. So the question becomes “how can I cultivate serenity in my environment, in myself and in my relationships?” Most parents say that when they walk into a Waldorf classroom they can feel the peace and calming there. Even the color of the walls are intended to provide comfort and calming in the young child. You will often see candles and flowers abound. Creating beautiful things and touching beautiful things inspires serenity within the classroom. This can also be accomplished in the home. How each individual manages and maintains their state of mind is different. It should be the goal of every teacher and parent to understand themselves and how to best care for their physical, mental, and spiritual selves. When we meet the world from this space we can build relationships that are serene.
What words of wisdom about children and mothering would you like to leave us with today?
Kai: One of the most important things I want mothers here to be reminded of and that rarely gets mentioned is the idea of self-care and simplicity. In order to cultivate serenity in our families we need to cultivate it within ourselves first and foremost. Learn what makes you happy, what brings you rejuvenation and release of stress. Being a mother is one of the most important jobs on the planet. Take good care of yourself so you can be present, strong, resourced, and creative on a daily basis. This could be diving into a book, a yoga or meditation practice, and time with friends. You can be of the greatest service to your child when you are fully resourced. Take good care of you too! And remember in a time when overwhelm and complexity exists simplicity can be the healing our planet needs.
Kai Miller is a lead teacher at Applesong, a Waldorf-Inspired School in Lyons, CO. She holds an M.A in Environmental Education from Prescott College and completed her Early Childhood Waldorf Teacher training at Rudolf Steiner College. She is also the founder of The Institute for Culture and Environmental Education (ICEE) and a council member at The Integral Center in Boulder, CO.
Her spiritual striving has led her to become a yoga teacher and to focus on her own personal development as a human being through meditation. In the classroom, Kai believes it is her responsibility to be worthy of imitation and create a space filled with love, joy and warmth. May we follow in her intentional and graceful footsteps.