Jack in Chengdu – A Waldorf Window into China – Part 1

October 17, 2012 at 12:17 am 2 comments

Please enjoy this guest post from Highland Hall Waldorf School’s  high school practical arts and sculpting teacher Jack Bryant from Week 1 of  his two-week teaching adventure at the Chengdu Waldorf Teacher Training Program…

Hello dear friends, family, colleagues and community,

It’s been a very busy week here in Chengdu, China! I’ve been teaching metalsmithing as part of the high school practical arts curriculum and focusing on developing the will activity of overcoming the daunting task of what I thought would be coppersmithing. It is always wonderful to have flexibility in your back pocket for when plans change!

Students of Jack's training heating up metal

The annealing process

I arrived after a 20 hour epic journey from LA, and was pleased to discover that the Waldorf school here in Chengdu was able to obtain the dozen or so massive logs we would need and the forty or so ball-peen hammers, files, torches and, of course, the metal. Unfortunately, or maybe it was good fortune…instead of obtaining copper for our simple bowls we would be forming, they had sheets of brass ready to go. If you are not familiar with the consistency difference between metals, brass is a lot harder than copper and takes about twice the effort to form into simple bowls!

Students working with brass.

A student prepares the sheet of brass in an octagon shape

One thing I am constantly reminded of is how much we take for granted here in the U.S. as far as the availability of modern tools. The torches I was provided  were gasoline-fueled…I am pretty sure gasoline torches were outlawed in the U.S. about forty years ago. These seemingly small details provided just the amount of extra challenge I thrive on when launching into training in a foreign culture to non-English speaking students!

Here is a good shot of the gasoline fueled torches we are using

The gasoline-fueled torches.

What added to the challenge was being informed upon arrival that I was scheduled to deliver the keynote lecture, beginning this module of the teacher training course, on Rudolf Steiner’s “Study of Man” …in just six hours! It was at once an honor and quite daunting, especially in light of my travel exhaustion. The gauntlet was down…But I picked up the proverbial glove!

The Study of Man by Rudolf Steiner

Here is “The Study of Man” in English and Chinese!

Luckily, I had downloaded the ebook version of “The Study of Man” on my brand new iPad and had been re-reading it on the flight from LA. I was grateful to stay  coherent and conscious during my talk…and to later have a very solid sleep that night on my very solid bed (a bamboo platform with a one inch thick “mattress”).

Always fun to sleep on a bamboo plank!

My bamboo plank in my “penthouse” flat!

The next day was the first day of a seven day intensive focusing on how to hammer hard metal into the shape of a bowl. Most of my attention for the week was  centered on safely using those gasoline fueled torches, for the last thing I wanted was to set fire to myself, my students or the campus! Fortunately we had no mishaps, and the bowls the participants created are beyond outstanding in form and beauty. My students also discovered that the best thing about using brass instead of copper is that each of the bowls has the ability to create a lovely ringing tone…a singing bell!

Hollowing of the brass bowl.

A student hollows out his brass bowl.

I had the opportunity to present Highland Hall to the Chengdu Waldorf School community. The evening lecture was well attended by at least fifty souls willing to face the rainy weather. There was a lot of interest in our wonderful school. Who knows…perhaps one of my students will teach at Highland Hall some day!

After a day of rest, I was very much looking forward to teaching clay modeling of the Platonic Solids to the teacher trainee participants as well as a staff and faculty of the Chengdu Waldorf School. Along with that, I mentored  five of the teachers here, complete with classroom observation. And, as a bonus, I also was invited to present a two-day overview of the eighth grade physics block concerning hydraulics and aerodynamics, complete with demonstrations and hands on experiments!

"If I had a hammer..."

Here students hammer with rocks!

The very forward thinking planners here had the forethought to house me with the family that includes the architect who is designing the new kindergarten buildings. They are very efficient here in China… For the price of a simple Waldorf teacher they received advice on construction! For after all, as you may know, I built my own house from the ground up.

Don’t be too concerned about the fourteen flights of stairs I had to negotiate to get to my penthouse apartment; the view was nice,  the stairs have put me in really good shape, and the climb helped me appreciate home even more! “This too shall pass!”

14th floor view!

Chengdu from my 14th floor window!

Please stay tuned for part two!  I look forward to getting back to Highland Hall!!!
Best Wishes from China,
Jack Bryant


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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Brooke  |  October 17, 2012 at 3:44 am

    Yay Jack, great update!!!

  • 2. highlandhall  |  October 18, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    There’s more to come!


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