Ex-Teacher 4

The following is excerpted from the introduction to

Ron Odama's



(Bennett & Hastings, 2009)

When I went to college I was caught up in the hysteria of the nation as we tried to compete with the Soviet Union in science and technology after Sputnik. I studied mechanical engineering even though I had no aptitude nor interest in it ... I was caught up in the materialistic values of a “good” life. I worked as a mechanical engineer/aerospace engineer for six years and surrounded myself with status symbol possessions. I found them to bring emptiness of soul ... I went to Europe with friends. We traveled there in a VW van for eight months, and I discovered my own natural rhythms and instincts....

...When I returned to Los Angeles I was determined to go back to school in a more humanistic  and spiritualized course of study. I chose to study psychology and astrology. I found my perfect partner and was married in 1973 at my Saturn return [i.e., when Saturn returned to the position it held on the day Ron Odama was born] ... I went to work on a construction job ... I was there for one hour when a steel door slammed shut in an “accident,” and I lost the tips of three fingers ... I recognized that I had a karmic relationship with the owner of the company, the brother of my stock broker. In a previous life he had lived as a woman, and I had carelessly cut her fingers with my sword.

...I worked for the Los Angeles Public School system as a teaching assistant ... After completing my degree I went to work teaching English as a Second Language to refugees....

At this time I began to study Anthroposophy ... I then found the Waldorf School teacher training program at Highland Hall [a Waldorf school] in Los Angeles ... After completing my course of study I went to work as a Waldorf teacher at the Denver Waldorf School ... After two years, we left to start a Waldorf School in South Dakota  to be free of political differences ...  Financial hardships forced the teachers [there] to abandon Waldorf education principles in deference to pragmatism. I didn’t agree with this compromise.

I went to teach Special Education on the Pine Ridge [Amerindian] Reservation, working with Lakota children.

...After two years I went to work in the public school system at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota....

When it became time for my wife and I to find a Waldorf school for our own children, our search led us to Portland, Oregon. There we found a Waldorf school where I could teach and our children attend. I would teach there several years, taking a class from third grade through their eighth grade graduation. It was a very satisfying experience ... Teaching the Waldorf curriculum while incorporating Anthroposophy as a background for inspiration was of great benefit ... I took my graduating class to Europe for three weeks ... 

Upon returning, I went to work as an insurance agent/financial planner ... I wanted to teach in Waldorf schools. I found a position in Kona, Hawaii ...  After four years of living in paradise [i.e., Hawaii] we left to teach in Seattle. I was forced out due to political differences and then spent three years teaching Special Education in the public schools ... My last teaching attempt was at a Waldorf school in Bellevue, Washington. To my dismay I found that the Waldorf school was not following Rudolf Steiner’s indications....

...I retired and began to devote my time to astrology.... 



by Roger Rawlings

Ron Odama's story is unique is some ways (stockbroker, insurance agent/financial planner...), but in a larger sense it is representative of the lives led by many Waldorf teachers. Odama ran into "political differences" at least twice, at two different Waldorf schools. We can only guess at the particulars in his case, but heated disputes between Waldorf teachers are not uncommon. The teachers may stand almost anywhere on the political spectrum, while their educational and even spiritual views may also vary widely. This may seem surprising, since most Waldorf teachers are devoted to Rudolf Steiner and his teachings. What is there for them to disagree about?

Almost everything. Steiner is not easy to read or comprehend. Different Waldorf teachers have differing interpretations of his work, and their levels of comprehension may differ greatly. This can lead to vehement, angry debates and even feuds.

Beyond that, as Anthroposophists, Waldorf teachers think they can rely on their own intuition, clairvoyance, and dreams to decide what to think and do. This obviously opens a Pandora's box of conflicting opinions. Thus, one teacher may decide, on the basis of a dream, that the student John Smith is phlegmatic and not yet well incarnated. Another teacher may draw very different conclusions about the same boy, based on a horoscope or just on a "feeling." And there is no sensible way for the teachers to discuss these matters, since they are all working out of a profoundly irrational set of concepts.

Bear in mind, too, that true believers of any faith often wind up at each others' throats. Think of Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, or Protestants and Catholics in Ireland. True believers are passionate about their beliefs, and they usually reject the very thought of any compromise.

Because of all these factors, many Waldorf teachers wander from school to school, as Odama did, while many others simply burn out. This is obviously not true of all Waldorf teachers — some stay at the same school for years of even decades — but it happens often enough to form a recognizable pattern. I have known a number of wandering Waldorf teachers, people who never find a comfortable, permanent niche. Their aspirations never quite match up with reality.

A similar pattern can be seen in the lives of many Waldorf graduates. Some — especially those who spent their entire childhoods in Waldorf schools — find themselves incapable of performing normally in the real world. They have been "educated" in a dream factory, an "enchanted" world of myths and fantasies and spiritual longings. The world outside Waldorf's walls strikes many of them as nearly intolerable. Some enroll in college after college, dropping out repeatedly. Some take job after job, testing this career path and that, and never hold any job for long. Obviously this is not true of all Waldorf graduates; it may apply only to a minority. But the minority is large enough to be cause for concern.

The largest subgroup of the minority, I think, deals with the problem by effectively retreating back to Waldorf. They take jobs in Waldorf schools, enroll their children there, move to Waldorf-centered communities, join Anthroposophical groups of various sorts, and do their best to remain forever in the enchanted Waldorf circle. They become lifelong escapists, hiding from reality.

To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.


A student, teacher, believer — who left 

Another firsthand account

A third firsthand account


Leaving Waldorf, finding something better

The real skinny

The child vs. the cause

Teachers as priests

A wayward Anthroposophist

Reeling away from Christchurch

His reply

Focus on Steiner schools

A big year coming

A square peg


Parent and teacher

Founding member

After 10 years...


You will be lied to...

A chat between friends