Interview with Marie Cier, 3rd grade teacher

Did you know about the Steiner Waldorf School?

My parents would have liked this pedagogy for me, but as the nearest school was in Lyon, they put me first in the Montessori pedagogy, then in a private Catholic school. Then I insisted on being in a public school, and I passed my scientific baccalaureate there, with an art option.

Did you continue your studies?

Yes, I started medical school, but after two years I stopped. Looking for new motivations, I did a year of travel around the world.

And did you find your way?

Yes, curiously enough, I kept coming back to the Waldorf pedagogy. So, finally, I contacted Avignon from New Caledonia, for the Didascali training. And I was admitted.

Was it full time?

Oh no, and at the same time I prepared a degree in applied foreign languages in English and German.

And you walked away with a bachelor's degree and a Waldorf graduate? 

No, after two years I wanted to learn more German and finish the teacher training in the language of Goethe. So I looked for a nice place in Germany, where I could finish my studies and work at the same time. It was in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, south of Munich, that I did a civic service with the Office Franco-Allemand pour la Jeunesse (OFAG), as a French assistant in a Catholic high school for girls. I didn't even know that it still existed! In 1919, Steiner created mixed schools and there I discovered a society which, in certain aspects, remained frozen in time. This experience was a change of scenery, with a very kind welcome in a family and in this high school, and I was finally able to put aside my complexes and speak German. I also wanted to validate my degree and I turned to the CNED (Centre National d'Enseignement à Distance), which offers all kinds of training. Surprisingly, language licenses did not exist. So I looked at the different options offered and, with my photography practice and my taste for the arts, I chose to apply to the Sorbonne for a3rd year of an arts degree. My application was accepted and I was able to validate this last year from deep Bavaria. So I was ready to face my3rd year of teaching in German. I applied to Berlin and Basel, and I chose Basel, finishing my studies at the AfaP (Akademie für anthroposophische Pädagogik) for one year full time. This meant that I had to work 4 days a week at the school in Aesch, in addition to the theoretical training.

Did Basel have a special appeal?

Of course, my friend Stive was starting his eurythmy studies there, and we were able to find free accommodation for the first 5 months, even though we had very little money. So, when it's right, doors open by themselves!

And once you completed the training, did you teach?

Yes, I was offered two jobs at the same time. One as a 5th grade teacher in Colmar, and the other as a teacher of French as a foreign language in Aesch. At that time Stive was not working and I had to make a pragmatic choice: the French salary could not afford to pay two rents, one in France, the other in Switzerland. Not to mention that the vacations were staggered. So I accepted the position in Aesch, while at the same time training to become a language teacher from1st to 8th grade. It was very beneficial for me because I was able to work with the different ages, giving me a global idea of the needs of each class and building a progression.

Were the young Germans hostile to the language of Molière?

Of course, it is not their favorite discipline, but I ended up having them with me and we worked together with a lot of enthusiasm.

And how long did you teach in Basel (Aesch)?

Three years, the time it took Stive to finish his eurythmy studies. Then I applied to Geneva.

What do you see as the difference between the Geneva School and the Aesch School?

Here, human relations are easier and more immediate, one feels quickly in a family. There, there was a certain distance; parents could have a strong link with Anthroposophy and "ask for accounts". Here, many seem to me to have put their child in a private school, more than for this particular pedagogy. But if there is a whole "Waldorf culture" there, which means that things do not always need to be explained, it is nevertheless true that here certain aspects of Anthroposophy are very present, notably with the daily reading of the Calendar of the Soul in the teachers' room, to start the day with a common intention.

Are the children different?

Not so much. Of course, here there is the international aspect linked to the city of Geneva. As for attention disorders, dyslexia, special needs, they are present everywhere. Screens and video games are a little less abundant there, and their hold on youth seems to be better controlled.

Was the spiritual aspect of the Waldorf school off-putting or easy for you?

Comfortable. My parents cultivated something similar. For me, the cardinal feasts, the songs, the meditations were already part of my childhood. This is also one of the reasons why I chose this pedagogy. It offers a global vision of the human being and I find my values in it.

Interview conducted by François GAUTIER

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