The last school year, 2020-2021, presented challenges for schools around the world, many schools choosing to keep all lessons on Zoom. Here at Rudolf Steiner School, through the hard work and dedication of the administration and staff, we were able to keep our doors open and have in-person classes for the entire year. This brought its own challenges for the teachers and students: wearing masks, social distancing, and teaching both distance and in-person classes which doubled the teaching load for many teachers. I think everyone would agree that it was well worth the effort and offered many surprising rewards and inspirations for working in new ways.
Teaching eurythmy had its own unique challenges. The assembly room where I taught eurythmy was now the fifth grade classroom and my classroom became Central Park. Even after finding a relatively quiet space, there were often people walking by, noises from the city, dogs joining in, weather, and a myriad of other distractions. What was interesting, though, is that the students were more engaged.
Traditionally eurythmy is practiced indoors for several reasons, not the least of which is the spatial orientation that having four walls offers. While being outside offered more space, it was often difficult to do certain forms-choreographies- without any boundaries, so I had to adjust my curriculum and simplify some of the movement, especially for the older grades, where the choreography can be more complex.
While doing complex forms was difficult, work with gesture, rhythm, rod and concentration exercises, and circle forms went well. At times we had children in the park pick up sticks and try to follow along with what we were doing with the copper rods.
Another challenge was no longer having live music. Generally, at least half of each lesson is accompanied by the piano. While using recorded music is somewhat taboo in eurythmy, I had my former accompanist, Mr. Lefevre, record music and send it to my phone and then I used a speaker so we could adjust the volume. This worked well for rod exercises, concentration exercises, and rhythm exercises, and helped the students to stay focused and move as a group.
For the winter months, I held my classes indoors, doing eurythmy in their classrooms. Luckily, the classes were on the small side. Being in these small spaces, with fewer children, was reminiscent of when I first started teaching and was working in smaller schools with no designated eurythmy space. It encouraged a feeling of “pioneering” and working together that was refreshing.
Being able to teach in person for the entire school year was quite an accomplishment. Rather than feeling isolated and distanced, our school offered a sense of community. I was grateful to be able to sustain the eurythmy program through such a difficult year. It was well worth the effort, and while so much had to be compromised, new inspirations arose.