As educators, parents, and just as humans in this future-oriented culture, it’s almost reflexive to look at the children before us and ask “I wonder what they will be when they grow up?” The question usually implies “what profession they will take up?” but when expanded might include more details one might find in a MASH/MARCH game - where will they live, who will they marry, how many kids will they have, where will they go on their honeymoon, what type of car they’ll drive. Take that question one step deeper and consider “Will they be happy? Will they feel fulfilled? Will they be surrounded by people they love who love them back?”
In saying goodbye to our first graduates in June, we were offered the opportunity to reflect on our initial impressions of the students when they first joined our school. Was it clear that the Kindergartener who was up for every hike and dirty adventure would end up being an articulate, outspoken activist? Or that the affable and distracted 2nd grader would become a self-driven filmmaker? There were hints, maybe little indications but it’s only in retrospect that we can see the path from there to here.
In the Waldorf world, we practice Biography work to bring insight into our own life rhythms and milestones in an effort to develop self-knowledge. With that self-knowledge we can further develop our intuition, first personal intuition but also a deeper capacity to see the other. The practice of reflecting on one’s past in such directed and meaningful ways creates more grounding for the present and trust in the future.
Teachers and parents who practice Biography work carry this grounding into their interactions with children. Using the lens of Biography - the rhythms of life, 7-year cycles of human development, milestone moments, life themes - one can better observe the child more fully. While we may still consider the question about who they will become, we will have the capacity to deeply and thoroughly see who they are. As the adults in their life, it is then our responsibility to hold the knowledge of who they are in supporting them in becoming who they will be.
I love sitting with the question of what my kids will be when they grow up. I love even more that any answer is possible as long as I stay out of their way.
An exercise offered by Dr. Karen Nani Apana