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Joy Levin shares her experience with Early Childhood Education

My name is Ya-el Joy Levin, and I am a Waldorf kindergarten teacher, with a Masters Degree in Education, I am currently working on my Ph.D. I now work at a training facility, The Centre for Creative Education, based on Waldorf education, but in line with the specifications of the Department of Education.

Ayelet attended our college last year by invitation and gave a 3-hour talk to the students of Early Childhood education. Most of them are living in townships and suffering from incredibly high abuse in their environments. The students were so moved by Ayelet’s talk and would love to see her again for more training. I also am the Early Childhood lecturer in our Bachelor’s of Education program, which is a 4-year Bachelors in foundation phase teaching, both Waldorf, and State.

I did my Waldorf training in 2002-2004 and opened my school in 2005. I then taught for 11 years at another Waldorf school. Waldorf education believes in protecting childhood, understanding that children are developing in their bodies and need love, imagination, stories, and goodness in their environment. Our program allows for many hours of play in the kindergarten morning, understanding that this is the age-appropriate activity for a pre-school child in their development. It also uses rich language, songs, movements, and stories to stimulate their imagination. Waldorf praises the old fashioned skills of crafts, and children are encouraged to sew their toys, make pom poms and weaving, which are not only benefiting their sensory and coordination abilities, but also preparing for early literacy.

Ayelet hit home with our college because her methods also revolve around the imagination and a sense of wholeness and protection that a child needs to feel. When we tell a fairy tale to the children, it is always about a person finding a way through their challenges, to be protected, and find the light at the end of the tunnel. Children need this hope. They also need to understand how precious their body is, and to be given an imaginative image for that, such as the turtle. Because children’s thinking in a pre-school environment, based on their imagination, allows the stories and characters presented to be healing to them.

The students that Ayelet spoke to in our college were so moved that there could be a system which could empower these children from a young age, without bringing more fear and terror to them. Her positive imagery gives the ability for them to connect to themselves, and be able to gain tools.

Ayelet was then invited to give a 3-day workshop at our Waldorf National conference in April 2019. There were educators from around the country, as well as support staff, who are often the ones coping with abuse issues, including bullying. She presented in 3 days an introduction to her work and systems for the younger and older children. We could have had her a few more days to practice her work. It brought up many stories from the participants that they were keen to work through in the workshop space.

The system of Ayelet’s works on children, respecting their feelings and boundaries. That is so needed in this world. Children are so overloaded with sensory noise and sight, that they become confused about their morality. Adults are often not models for them to feel safe and heard, and the extra dangers of normal society pose even more fear and vulnerability. South Africa is one of the most crime-ridden countries in the world, including rape and violence to children. The teachers, parents, and support workers are needing skills. And young people need to become aware of the tools they can use to support them.

The sad thing is many parents work long hours and the children are left, in crowded places full of unemployed people, to their own devices. They play in the streets with other children as their houses are tiny and crowded. They are vulnerable all the time. Rape is so high, and women are even scared to attend the shared toilets at night in fear. The children feel that fear, and yet are so vulnerable to baby sitters, boyfriends, uncles, etc. Poverty creates the divide of how the parents can be there for their children, and the areas they live are dangerous, to begin with. Add drugs and gangs. So this country is in great need of support.

Bringing a sense of wholeness, goodness, self-respect, and respecting others are lost in much of this insanity. I feel that Ayelet’s program can help empower teachers, support people, and train facilitators to promote this program.

Ya-el Joy Levin, The Centre for Creative Education