One of the rewards found teaching in a Waldorf school is the required opportunity to work with colored chalk on the blackboard. In the Waldorf classroom, we put drawings on the board to create mood and atmosphere in the classroom and to be an artful aid to the students, encouraging them to enter their lessons imaginatively.
In the Main Lesson, Class Teachers’ illustrations range from first grade castles, frogs and princes from fairy tales to the eighth grade teacher’s drawings illustrating Renaissance history and the history and geography of the modern world. Class teachers and specialty class teachers as well work with color on the black board to illustrate lesson content.
Teachers work in different styles, and teachers temper personal styles to best serve the interests of the children. Any tour of any Waldorf school anywhere is like walking through an art gallery highlighting the key points of the development of humanity on earth, in styles that tend to grow more complicated and instructive as the tour moves from the first grade classroom to the rooms of the high school.
We just call it a blackboard drawing, and it is a given in the work. Teachers often devote hours to the rendering, chalk on classroom blackboard, of illustrations to lessons. The blackboard gives a satisfying black background to the colored chalk, and the work with chalk allows us to engage directly with color – no interfering medium to complicate the experience.
At the end of the block the drawing comes down, giving us the exercise of erasing the old, perhaps very beautiful, to make space for something new.
While many drawings disappear into dust, teachers do at times take photographs of their drawings, one of our touching human traits being the desire to capture life in pictures and hold on to them.
Sometimes, teachers choose to work on drawings outside the classroom, either on portable blackboards or on black paper. These pictures come to school to illustrate lessons, and the drawings on paper have been known to continue with a life of their own outside the classroom when the lessons are over – one of mine got to go to college, and I know of others that are hanging in private art collections. The art of education.
I have enjoyed interesting conversations with colleagues about the intention of these drawings, and their role in the greater world of art and society. Not all of the drawings are original, in that teachers often find pictures to copy when designing a lesson, and most of the teachers I have met are more interested in the pedagogical effect of their work than in the artistic merits these drawings may have on their own. Still, faculty members of Waldorf schools around the world study daily the deep implications of art and employ artwork in their classrooms to deepen the experiences of the students. If allowed, the work can also stand outside the classroom.
At Living Traditional Arts we have not yet received permission to publish any of the drawings on the boards of Waldorf teachers around the world except our own. The drawings presented here, then, stand before you as a first edition, chapter one on blackboard drawing at Living Traditional Arts.