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UC Berkeley
L2 Journal
Title
Theatre Clowning in L2 Teacher Learning: An Example from Waldorf /Steiner Education
Permalink
https://escholarship.org/uc/item/2x98289t
Journal
L2 Journal, 14(3)
Authors
Rawson, Martyn Paul
Bryden, Catherine
Publication Date
2022
DOI
10.5070/L214350976
Copyright Information
Copyright 2022 by the author(s).This work is made available under the terms of a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License, available at
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
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L2 Journal, Volume 14 Issue 3 (2022), pp. 1-12 Produced by eScholarship, 2022
_________________________________________________________________________________________
Performative L2 Teaching in Steiner/Waldorf
Schools in Europe and Asia: The Role of Theatre
Clowning and Scaffolded Reflection
CATHERINE BRYDEN
Independent clowning facilitator Nose to Nose Deutschland https://www.nosetonose.info/de/
Email: zuluayo@hotmail.com
MARTYN RAWSON
Honorary Professor, National Tsinghua University, Taiwan, Freie Hochschule Stuttgart
Email: rawsonmartyn@hotmail.com
__________________________________________________________________________________________
This article illustrates one way in which L2 teachers can learn to teach performatively. It explores the practice of
theatre clowning in Steiner/Waldorf teacher education and ongoing teacher learning developed over the past 20 years
and how it can help L2 teachers to develop performative teaching dispositions. L2 teachers have to be creative,
imaginative, skilled in narrative and performative presentation as well as being spontaneously responsive to student
needs and capable of improvisation in unexpected teaching situations. Theatre clowning has been previously studied
in teacher development and this study affirms the outcomes of that research and adds the contribution of structured
reflection to L2 teacher education and professional development. The study offers an initial theoretical account of
theatre clowning and suggests that it can be a valuable contribution to performative L2 teacher learning, especially
when supported by reflection.
_______________
INTRODUCTION
L2 teachers in Waldorf schools have to be skilled at improvisation, storytelling, mime and non-
verbal communication. They also need to have general teacher dispositions such as creativity,
empathy, self-confidence, humour and have presence in the classroom. As described by Bellezza
(2020), performative teachers have to be able “to create, to be team players, to demonstrate inter-
and intrapersonal qualities, to show the ability to adapt, to deal with the unpredictable, to solve
problems, to embrace diversity, to multi-taskin other words, to perform(23). Fleming (2016)
refers to performative teaching and learning not as a particular classroom methodology but rather
as a concept that encourages an embodied, playful, joyful approach that valorizes emotion as much
as cognition; it is therefore an attitude rather than a method. In the context of L2 teaching and
learning, Schewe (2020) associates the term performative arts with focusing on artistic process
without necessarily aiming to perform for an audience. Performative teaching means using what
Bellezza (2020) calls a performative-humanistic approach. For Even (2020), performative teaching
transcends drama methods and drama activities and, indeed, might not feature dramatic
performances at all. Instead, it points to a different mindset of what it means to teach
and to learnaway from mere presentation of facts, standardized procedures, and static
knowledge towards an approach to teaching and learning that is characterized by teachers
and learners making their own connections, forming relationships, co-constructing
Bryden & Rawson Performative L2 Teaching in Waldorf/Steiner Schools
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knowledge, seeing mistakes as learning opportunities, and regarding the process of learning
as essentially dynamic and unpredictable (Even, 2020, p. 4).
The question is: how can teachers learn performative teaching, especially if they are not ‘natural
talents’? This article explores how theatre clowning using reflection can contribute to L2 teachers’
learning dispositions to performative teaching.
The pedagogy of L2 teaching in Steiner/Waldorf
1
schools requires teachers to practice
performative teaching, and this is the field both authors work in. Catherine Bryden is a clowning
facilitator and experienced L2 teacher, Martyn Rawson is a teacher educator and L2 teacher, and
both of us live and work in Germany, though we teach courses internationally. Waldorf education
(Dahlin, 2017; Rawson, 2021a) is one of the largest alternative education movements globally.
There are currently 3,142 educational institutions in 74 countries (Paull & Hennig, 2020), served
by around 200 teacher education programs. Over 20 years ago a group of Waldorf L2 teachers
based in Germany started annual English Week events out of a recognition that L2 teachers need
to develop performative skills through working with a group of professional artists in the areas of
storytelling, improvisation, drama, speech and theater clowning. In subsequent years similar
‘Language Weeks’ have been established for teachers of French, Russian and German as a second
language, and most Waldorf teacher education programs in Germany now include this kind of
work in their initial L2 teacher and class teacher education programs. In recent years, this work
has been extended to include Waldorf L2 teacher education in China, the Czech Republic, France,
Italy and Taiwan. This paper focuses on the contribution of theatre clowning to L2 teacher
development and draws on data in the form of narrative writing gathered from 107 participants in
clowning workshops in Germany, including teacher students in an International Masters’ program
in Waldorf education.
THEATRE CLOWNING IN WALDORF EDUCATION
The idea of using theatre clowning in Waldorf teacher education was first proposed by Skillen
(1997). He suggested that there is a need to cultivate and extend teachers’ powers of language
perception, referred to as sense of language (Lutzker, 2002, 2014, 2017), which includes the ‘reading’
of gestures and body language. Skillen suggested that L2 teachers need to cultivate awareness of
their own speech and movements and understand their effects on learners. Skillen, himself an
accomplished storyteller and drama teacher, writes,
the teacher is required to practice an art of teaching which mediates between language,
conceived as a sensory reality, and its sense organ; conceived in whole-body terms… the
second language teacher’s task then is to re-open access to this sense, and this must be
done using materials and processes analogous to those of primary orality. So in its early
stages, language teaching must be a kind of ‘applied orality’ …but even when the stage of
literacy is reached, oral values dare not be neglected, for in them lies the very life of
language” (Skillen, 1997, pp. 113-114).
In order to learn to do this, he suggested teachers should experience improvisation and drama, in
particular Vivian Gladwell’s approach to theatre clowning. This idea was taken up as the core of
the annual International English Week conference courses, which have been running annually
since 1998.
The practice of theatre clowning in Waldorf L2 teacher education was first documented
by Lutzker (2007, revised edition 2021). That study focused on the work of Vivian Gladwell, whose
roots lie in the Bataclown theatre clowning tradition and the performance pedagogy of Jacque
Lecoq (Evans & Kemp, 2016). Lutzker’s study highlighted that participants (both student teachers
and teachers) gained confidence and readiness to engage with unexpected situations in the
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classroom, that they felt they had gained a new receptivity and attentiveness, that the activity was
rejuvenating, and that they increased their trust in their own creative abilities.
Lutzker (2021) points out that an essential part of the clowning process is reflection and
the mutual sharing of experiences among fellow workshop participants, guided by the clowning
facilitator. Following each exercise or clowning session, the participants talk about their
experiences, difficulties, and moments of break-through and then the others who have been
observing share their perceptions. These discussions are followed up with open-ended questions
based on what has been said. The circle then shares moments or images that moved them. The
facilitator might add technical suggestions to support the next improvisation exercise, but
otherwise the participants are asked not to judge or offer advice. The task of the facilitator is to
explain the exercises, retain a formal structure in the reflection, and create a safe space, ensuring
that participants only offer respectful descriptions of their own lived experiences. At the end of
each workshop, participants are asked to record their reflections in journals. The co-authors
decided to explore this aspect of reflection within the workshop process by asking participants, as
in Lutzker’s original study, to use narrative writing to describe their experiences at the end of the
workshop and make these available to us, so that we could gain insight into the reflective process
within what is essentially a performative activity.
We agree with Bellezza (2020) when she says, “while a great deal of emphasis on the part
of researchers has been placed on learners’ needs, expectations, and styles, I believe not enough
investigation has gone into teachers’ education, their role, and the effects that training and practice
or the lack thereof have on students’ learning experiences…” (p.40). This paper builds on
Lutzker’s “milestone in foreign language pedagogy” (Bellezza, 2020), by re-visiting clowning
workshops with L2 teachers, this time with another facilitator and taking account of the role of
structured reflection in the process.
L2 PEDAGOGY IN WALDORF SCHOOLS
The theory of Waldorf L2 is embedded within the overall theory of Waldorf education (e.g., as
outlined in Dahlin, 2017 and Rawson, 2021a), which space does not permit a fuller account of
here. A number of generative principles have been derived from this pedagogical anthropology
that have led to certain ways of teaching and learning L2.
Waldorf pedagogy depends on certain embodied teacher dispositions and beliefs relating
to learners’ developmental stages and learning processes, which dispose them to pedagogical
action. Rawson (2020) has likened this capacity to knowing-in-practice (Kelly, 2006) and to what
van Manen (1991, 2008) calls pedagogical tact or knowing-in-action. As skilled practitioners, L2
teachers (among others) use their pedagogical craft-knowledge to shape learning situations for
their students, both in their preparation and in the actual classroom situation. This is what Lutzker
(2021) refers to as the art of teaching. The process of combining pedagogical elements in a given
context for a specific purpose requires skilled artistry to realize in the classroom. A teacher’s
presence is a key factor in the learning process. By presence, we mean “being wide-awake to one’s
self, to one’s students and to their learning in such a way that …learning is served through skilful
and compassionate analysis and access to both subject knowledge and pedagogical strategies”
(Rodgers & Raider-Roth, 2006, p. 284). Presence is both a precondition and outcome of teacher-
student relationships built on a day-to-day basis. As Biesta (2019, p. 264) has argued, “young
people [want] to learn something, learn it for a reason, and learn it from someone.” Rawson (2020,
2021b) has described how Waldorf teacher education and professional development seeks to
cultivate dispositions to presence, on the one hand through hermeneutic study leading to
embodied ways of seeing and knowing, and on the other hand through transformative artistic
practice, including theatre clowning. We believe that theatre clowning can contribute to learning
dispositions to presence (Even, 2020) in teaching. Presence refers to the active link between verbal
and non-verbal teacher immediacy and student learning; teacher cognitive presence enables
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students to construct meaning, social presence enhances authenticity and teaching presence
enhances learning (Witt et al., 2004).
It is important to stress that theatre clowning is not primarily concerned with techniques
that can be used in the L2 classroom, though some may be. It is more about attuning the teacher
to the pedagogical moment (Lutzker, 2014), which is why it is also used increasingly for class
teachers as well. It enables teachers to put themselves in the situation of the learner, who doesn’t
come to the lesson with a plan. In clowning, it is the experience of not having a plan or set of
intentions that is important. This involves letting go, opening oneself to what is emerging,
accepting, welcoming and engaging constructively with what emerges. This operates in the
exercises from three perspectives: one’s own experience, my perception of the other and, during
the sessions, witnessing empathically the process in others. In many exercises, two people
‘perform’ and the rest observe with empathic interest. It is about developing the awareness of what
is emergent in the given situation, often through observing others in the process, and subsequently
making this conscious through the use of reflection.
A short description of a typical clowning exercise by co-author Bryden may illustrate the
processes involved. Exercises and warm-ups in a theatre clowning workshop focus on inviting
connection to oneself, to others and to what is present in a particular moment. The emphasis is
on body movement and awareness, eye contact, breath and voice, along with making space for
playful confusion. In one exercise, participants look around the room to see what catches their
attention. Once they have seen something, they walk to the object to look at it close up. After
doing this several times, they are invited to make a sound as they near the object. Making sounds
changes the exercise making everyone more visible. The exercises are followed by feedback.
Participants usually share feelings of embarrassment or surprises such as enjoying making noises.
Gradually participants learn to improvise, be spontaneous and fine tune skills such as receptivity,
attentiveness and empathy; they also begin to realize that that this work is not about ‘getting
something right’ but rather about how they feel while doing an exercise.
The exercises also engage pre-verbal dimensions of mutual recognition, intentionality and
communication, which are seen as preconditions for meeting and encountering the other.
Clowning also uses exercises in which the encounter is dialogic, in which understandings are
constructed in the situation. Such communicative understanding is particularly important in the
L2 classroom when the lessons are conducted in the target language and where situated learning
is important. The students should be able to very quickly grasp what is intended. Since clowning
works without scripts and pre-set themes, the participants have to let go of their assumptions and
intentions and ‘read’ the situation as it is, and more importantly, as it is emerging, though in the
L2 classroom situation the teacher has of course intentions and directs the students’ attention to
the relevant themes or skills. Given that much L2 learning involves role play, enactment, and
drama, such performative skills in the teacher are essential, so that they can more effectively
support the learners and mediate their experiences. Furthermore, we believe that the reflective
dimension of the clowning workshops is an important aspect of teacher learning, as Rawson
(2021b) has shown in his study of reflection in Waldorf teacher education.
All teachers, but especially L2 teachers, need what Loebell (2017) calls creative agency in
unexpected situations. The classroom needs to be a safe space in which learners are relaxed enough
to cope with the ambiguity of not fully understanding, that they feel able to improvise in the target
language and respond situationally without fear of making mistakes. Learners need to feel they can
communicate and be understood in the target language. It therefore helps if the teachers can
empathize with students’ hesitancy in letting go and taking risks. Like any performance artist,
teachers have to be able to quickly learn through reflection and feedback from peers and be able
and willing to transform themselves professionally.
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THEATRE CLOWNING IN TEACHER EDUCATION:
A THEORETICAL SKETCH
Theatre clowning in L2 teacher education has drawn on a number of sources and has family
resemblances to a number of other performance activities, though it has its own practice and
methodology which has yet to be fully described and theoretically positioned. Educational theatre
clowning obviously draws on the tradition of the clown, whose primary characteristic in whatever
field clowning is practiced is that the clown is intuitive. Today clowning has a wide range of
applications in therapy, emergency pedagogy, actor training, and now teacher education.
Jacques Lecoq drew on this rich heritage and physical theatre when exploring mask and
clown work. Following Lecoq (Evans & Kemp, 2016), what distinguishes the clown from the actor
is a way of looking at the world that is different and unexpected. What the clown performs is not
scripted and has a fluid character since the clown adopts and modifies a variety of personae. These
roles are not character interpretations of a role because the clown persona, the performer and the
role are temporarily aligned; the clown is not playing a role, the clown is the role, though
transiently. The clown also has the ability to play with the audience “and to create a sense of
complicité with them by using play to connect with them” (Peacock, 2009, p. 14). Indeed, the
qualities Lecoq (2006) valorized most were jeu (playfulness in the sense of being open and not
trapped in a role or function), complicité (mutuality, shared awareness, common understandings)
and disponibilité (availability, openness, actively curious and receptive to the environment, especially
other people). The otherness of the clown is symbolized by costume and mask, and its most
essential form, by the red nose, the smallest mask in the world.
Kemp (2017) draws attention to three other key notions in Lecoq’s approach. The first is
tout bouge - everything moves. This is linked to playfulness but also implies ongoing change and
transformation and points to the observation that at source, all thoughts, feelings, gestures, words
and actions involved embodied movement and perception. Kemp links this idea to recent studies
in embodied cognition (Gallagher, 2006) and the idea that sensorimotor experience is the basis for
conceptualizing the world. We believe reference could also be made to Massumi’s (2002) notion
that the intrinsic connection between movement, affect and sensation (including perception) as
properties of the body are sources of qualitative change in a person’s engagement with the world
and are also preconditions for emergence. Massumi observes that perceptions are possible
actions” (p. 91), and that anticipations are perceptions of emergent change. This is actually a good
description of the clowning process and also of presence and pedagogical tact, the ability to
anticipate the emergent moment in the classroom situation.
The second key idea in Lecoq’s approach is le fond poétique commun, which is linked to the
notion of movement but goes further in suggesting that people share a foundation of sensorial
knowledge based on physical engagement with the material world, which underpins mutual
situational knowing. This relates to Lakoff and Johnson’s (2003) idea that sensory experience in
the world forms the basis for metaphors we construct to explain complex concepts. In the case of
theatre clowning, situated shared understandings draw on common embodied experience that
generates a temporary experience of recognition: “we know - we understand”. This links with sense
of language, described above. The third idea of Lecoq is dynamique, which implies a blend of rhythm,
force and space and a pre-reflective level of activity and engagement with our immediate
environment, including the other. Each of these qualities experienced in clowning links to what
Berger (2013), in connection with translation, called the pre-linguistic realm of language which
enables us to have shared understandings through different languages.
Following Biesta’s (2013) notion of subjectification in education, the subject is
unexpectedly summoned by the other or by the situation to step up, take responsibility for the
situation and for her desires and actions. The interruption can be suppressed, ignored or the
subject can open herself to being changed by the encounter and thus brings about transformative
self-formation. In theatre clowning, the subject plunges into the given situation unprepared,
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without a plan, without a script or a role and engages with the other and her embodied self. In
order to be open to alterity, we offer ourselves as a sentient and social space to the other. It is a
profound form of generosity. The inner gesture of a theater clown is ‘yes!’ to the other, to what
we encounter. In the data gathered in this study, one of the most frequently expressed experiences
was the sense of liberation of agency that accompanies opening to the other.
Describing her own work as a theatre clowning facilitator, co-author Bryden characterizes
clowning as an art of relationships, emphasizing authenticity and emotional transparency as
essential elements. The clown is in continual relationship to her own feelings, to others and to
what is taking place in the now. These practices are vital for teachers. Clowns are not acting, they
are being. Clowning opens up a world of play, playing with fictional stories, without need for
coherence. However, their eye contact with the audience shares that they are fully aware that they
are pretending. They can step in or out of a role, and reveal their true feelings about the role in the
play. The clown invites us to be more flexible, fully ourselves, and to celebrate all that it means to
be human.
In theatre clowning the facilitator is both guide but also clown, making the role ambivalent
and vulnerable but possibly also therefore more effective in building trust because of the way the
roles of teacher and student/participant become blurred. In L2 teacher education, the primary
function of clowning is neither therapeutic nor primarily aesthetic, but rather starting to learn
dispositions, such as a capacity for improvisation, the cultivation of the sense of the language of
gesture, openness to what is emergent in the students, being a resilient learner (coping with
resistance and learning from mistakes) and acceptance of one’s embodied sense of self as a basis
for agency, which are seen as vital to L2 teachers.
Lutzker’s (2007) study of theatre clowning in teacher education showed empirically that
participants gained confidence and readiness to engage with unexpected situations in the
classroom, that they felt they had gained a new receptivity and attentiveness, that the activity was
rejuvenating, and that they increased their trust in their own creative abilities. He concludes that
The rejuvenating effects of the process are evident in what the participants wrote.
Overcoming their intense fears, the participants learned to let go of their ‘plans’ and trust
their own and others’ imaginative potential. Within an ‘empty space’ participants
discovered a new world full of creative possibilities. Clowning thus offered the participants
the direct experience of a creative and personal ‘knowledge in action’ which differed
substantially from anything they had previously experienced. These experiences were
dependent on the presence of the other participants both in regard to working together,
as well as in their resonance as an audience and later in feedback. The vital significance of
the group in supporting these developments was referred to in most of the responses
(2007, p. 218).
As Lutzker points out, an essential part of the clowning process is reflecting and sharing
feedback. In the clowning workshops in this study this occurs in two stages; following warm-
ups/games and improvisations, and at the end of a workshop session. The facilitator prompts with
open questions and seeks to create a safe space for personal contributions related to direct
experiences, rather than technical judgements, advice or analysis. The facilitator might round up a
reflection session by pointing out some of the technical elements, themes or challenges which
arose, or close with a question to consider for the next session. Participants are encouraged to
keep journals during the workshop, recording experiences in the same open-hearted, non-
judgmental, curious style. The following session might include a warm-up or improvisation
structure where participants re-live/play out moments or images that are still present with them.
During a weeklong workshop, the closing circle includes a review of impressions, struggles,
learnings, and open questions.
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THE RESEARCH
The data was collected in the form of narrative writing (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000) over the
course of three years and six separate workshops, drawing from a total of 107 participants. At the
end of each course the participants (L2 teachers in Waldorf schools and teacher students during
their practice year) were invited to write down their responses to the questions: What did you
experience during the workshops? What was your experience of the feedback and reflection process? Few of the
participants were native English speakers and they included teachers of English, French, Spanish,
and Russian as additional languages. The reflections were either written in English, German or
French, which we then translated as necessary. For the purpose of this paper, the authors
conducted some follow-up interviews with participants. These texts were analyzed using
interpretative phenomenological analysis (Smith et al., 2009), in several cycles of reduction
(Saldana, 2009) to identify comments and descriptions of lived experiences from which emergent
themes could be constructed in relation to the research question. In a further process of
abstraction, super-ordinate themes were identified across the various emergent themes. To
distinguish the participants’ voices, those cited are numbered starting with p1 [participant 1]. In
what follows, we illustrate the main themes we constructed from the data. We have quoted
participants verbatim.
KEY THEMES
1.The role of reflection within the process
Ninety-six percent of the participants mentioned the value and role of reflection in relation
to teaching and personal development. This is a typical example:
The reflections were personally very important in order to sort and order the deep
experiences in a bigger context - this in particular has a strong and direct link to being a
teacher. (p47)
The exercises during the workshops required the participants to observe each other during
the activities and to draw on this in the subsequent reflection phases:
The reflection supported the process of exact observation and highlighted the alignment
or difference between the various participants and how they acted. Explanations about the
intentions of clowning supported my own authentic experience within the improvisation
exercises. Thus, clowning became a field of practice in which I could experience myself
and my responses to others and enhanced my capacity for spontaneity. (p98)
Through this process of observation and reflection 100% of the participants were able to
notice how the workshop process affected them:
I started with considerable mistrust in (social) interactive games, in encounter groups, at
the beginning of meetings etc., but I quickly got involved and encountered the other
participants. Joy and lightness arose in the exercises. With growing curiosity, I noticed how
much I was able to perceive the others and what was in the atmosphere beyond what was
possible to see in the gestures, movement, gait and facial expressions. Reflecting was a
great help for me. A lot of things became comprehensible through being put into words
afterwards. I learned to allow myself to enter into the situation and thereby what was
experienced in the feeling, the movement or eye contact and afterwards to re-experience
these qualities with more distance. I consider myself no longer as vulnerable as I was. In
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the action I was more able to attend to the other person and the situation and less to myself
and therefore less likely to lose the thread. I experienced the reflection actually as the most
important part (though of course without the action nothing can be learned) because our
attention is focused through verbalizing and thus to a deeper effect than during the actual
exercises. Thus, the experiences in the situations became tangible for me in the review. (p35)
2. Letting go
Another recurring theme was that of gradually learning to let go and being present (90%
of participants mentioned this theme):
Learning to let go and not control situations and people; being myself…or rather
acknowledge my feelings and what is going on at that moment. Notice and include others,
feeling safe. Daring to be. I can evolve as a person and as a teacher. (p52)
Connected to letting go is the experience of opening up to self and other and the interest this
generated (mentioned by 85% of the participants):
In the clowning seminar I experienced a progressive letting go. Over several exercises I
noticed how precious listening, noticing and admiring another can be, in order to develop
a shared story. Out of spontaneous situations something authentic revealed itself, which
was apparent to both performer and audience in a lively way, what it feels to be a clown
from the inside. More and more we were able to abandon rehearsed forms of speech,
gesture, thought out ways of being and acting and more and more an inner spontaneous
poetry emerged, a poetry of humor and life itself. I was able my second workshop to more
quickly, more willingly open to the other and to get into the spirit of the exercises. Each
day I went to the course with growing curiosity, fascination and wonder for what would
emerge and joy in discovering one’s own hidden talents and those of the other participants.
I increasingly noticed that ever deeper layers of humanity welled up in waves, making
authenticity to a life-feeling. I experienced this as a particular gift, and felt I would be able
to generate similar interest in my students in school. (p12)
3. Cultivating teacher dispositions
Eighty-five percent of participants made links to teacher dispositions or habits of mind necessary
for the L2 classroom. The process of empathically observing self and others in the workshop exercises
helped some participants discover the attitude teachers need towards their students:
As observer of the others, I noticed that some people, especially those who seemed to be
most struggling to open up, produced a new picture in me, a gentler picture that generated
empathy in me. The reflection was also very important in understanding the pedagogical
significance of clowning- what happens when I meet another person with an attitude of
appreciation and admiration? The other opens and become beautiful… (p24).
Seventy-five percent of participants made a connection between observing others, self-
observation and reflection and the classroom teaching situation:
Through the reflection one can recognize the basic methods of teaching. This recognition
helped me recognize my own feelings and understand the experiences I had doing the
exercises and I could apply this to my teaching situation. I discovered new sides to my
character- I always want to plan everything before I act- but here I learned to trust that I
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can act out of the situation, open, not with a head full of thoughts. I gained something
natural in my activities. This is a very effective way to learn the method- through one’s
own feelings one learns faster, deeper and more sustainable. There was an intimate
atmosphere among the learners, and everyone gains trust. I opened fully. (p3)
Another participant noted that her attitude to learning from mistakes changed, which is an
important pedagogical stance,
In the reflections we discussed a wide range of such issues and found answers ourselves.
The reflection gave us a sense of security and confidence because we were able to recognize
that everything is good, in the sense that we can learn from it, each process in everyday
life, even mistakes, are helpful, even supportive- which is the opposite of what we often
think. (p8)
The same participant felt that some of the mirroring exercises used in the clowning workshop
were felt to be useful preparation for the classroom:
The exercise of mirroring was already a form of reflection. Standing in front of a class is
like improvisation because in order to get their attention we need to ensure that body
language, gesture and words align. (p8)
Another aspect linking the experiences in the workshops with the classroom was expressed
by one participant as follows:
Concerning my pedagogical skills and abilities the workshops showed me how important
it is to be in contact with your own emotions and they can be an instrument or better a
way of being that can create an openness in the classroom that allows pupils to relate to
the subject in a strong way. I’m more that ever convinced now that this emotional
connection is essential in teaching. (p10)
4. Presence
Some 90% of participants expressed the connection they felt between being allowed to be
themselves in the workshops and being a better teacher through being more present and authentic
in the lessons and in communicating more joy in learning.
For the teacher to be able to truly meet the other, the child, one has to be fully present and
in full essence or beingness. That's so hard to achieve and practice. But I believe, based on
my experience that clowning can strengthen and deepen that. If I could embody this, I
think I can really succeed in many ways and for sure I'll be a joyful teacher! :) If one
succeeds on this (which I also aspire for myself), it will have a great implication in the inner
development of the teacher and in effect her/his own work. (p74)
Sixty-five percent of participants highlighted how the experience in the workshops related
to their classroom persona:
It helped to recognize that I can let go and achieve something, to open myself in
classrooms situations. It helped me to extend my consciousness about myself and the
effect I have on others, to overcome my own weaknesses and fears and have fun doing so.
It helped me to tackle my weaknesses in my teaching. (p101)
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In teaching I continuously need a certain courage to deal with uncertainty. The workshop
helped me to face the abyss and recognize the plurality of the possible. The exercises
helped me become more conscious but also at the same time, much dissolves in a relaxed
smile. One can develop the necessary spontaneity and empathy for situations in which one
feels uncertain. (p38)
After the data had been analyzed, we conducted interviews with three clowning
participants who had done several courses and asked them to look back and think about what they
thought they learned doing clowning and what it was like doing subsequent courses. All three were
certain that they encountered unexpected challenges in the classroom with less fear and greater
openness, and experienced a greater willingness to encounter the other. Pursuing this finding
constitutes the next stage in our research.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
In our brief outline of the skills and attitudes required for L2 teaching in Waldorf education, we
highlighted the importance of presence in the classroom, the ability to respond to the moment,
‘reading’ the other and having ‘sense of language’ in the specific sense outlined by Lutzker, and
‘applied orality’- that is, a range of performative skills. The participants’ statements confirmed that
the exercises involved these aspects to some extent. The clearest outcome was that the scaffolded
reflection process was considered to be an important part of the learning process. Observing
others with empathy and the reflective process seems to be almost as powerful as actually doing
the exercises. This confirmed that reflection is a vital part of the clowning workshops. There is
frequent reference to noticing, listening, admiring, discovering, opening up to what is emergent.
We interpret this as evidence that the exercises and approach cultivate a sense of trust, embodied
empathy, or inner participation which we associate with Lutzker’s (2017) sense of language but
also with a particular quality of the performative approach that can be understood in terms of
Massumi’s (2002) notion of being in a perpetual state of emergence, and that specific practices can
develop this into creative moments of doing and insight. Indeed, it suggests that sense of language
might also be called sense of emergence.
The data also suggest that experiences that can be described as presence, being present or
coming into presence, are often associated with letting go and that this calls for courage in one’s
own intuitions and trust in the other. We have not cited them here for lack of space, but many
statements confirmed Lutzker’s (2007) original study regarding the value of improvisation in
clowning and the cultivating of artistic sensibilities, which participants felt would enhance their art
of teaching ability, being able to communicate without words, and the aspect of encountering and
engaging positively with the unexpected. Our reading of the statements, but also the behavior of
the participants in the workshops, suggest that this involves a subtle shift towards greater teacher
agency. This shift may be characterized by two processes. The first involves overcoming the sense
of holding back from pedagogical action because of fear of failure, and the second involves being
willing to act in spite of the risks. We feel that both of these processes have the dual effect of
freeing up the teacher and at the same time enabling students to experience the role-modeling of
their teacher in this kind of risk taking. Part of this is the disposition to resilience in learning
expressed in the willingness to make mistakes and learn from them. A second aspect is the potential
freeing up of the teacher to opening herself to the pedagogical possibility of the situation and the
needs of the students. Teachers are often preoccupied with delivering their prescribed curriculum,
meeting targets, being effective in terms of evaluations, and are perhaps not open enough to the
learning potential of the actual situation and the actual needs of the learners in the given situation.
This study is limited in its scope and was not funded. However, data continues to be collected
from L2 teachers who have practiced and deepened their interest in clowning over many years.
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Our tentative conclusion from what we have presented here is that theatre clowning can
prepare L2 teachers to be receptive to what comes from the students in the classroom situation,
which cannot be predicted and does not always fit what has been planned. It is good that teachers
have lesson plans with aims and criteria, but it is also good that teachers can recognize what
happens in unplanned ways, and be able to greet it (clowning facilitators encourage participants to
say yes to what is offered). This activity can help L2 teachers have the courage to leave their lesson
plan, trust themselves and the students, be open to the possibility that something useful will
emerge. Reflection helps the teacher to understand what happened, to judge its fruitfulness. In
particular, we believe it can help teachers be able to recognize and support the growth of
unconstrained skills, which can go on growing beyond school and throughout life. What also
matters is the process of getting therethe méthodosthe route the educational journey takes. This
should support the self-formation of the person.
For L2 teachers in any school that values performative teaching, we believe that
performative skills are essential, and these are not easily learned in conventional teacher education
settings. It may take activities such as theatre clowning as well as storytelling, drama, improvisation
to unlock the performer within. We believe that these artistic processes benefit from structured
reflection. In particular, we believe that theatre clowning can enable L2 teachers and student
teachers to experience performance not in the sense of entertaining an audience but in the sense
of using the whole body and voice to respond actively to emergent situations in the classroom.
The confidence gained through such exercises and processes supports the teachers in developing
greater awareness of gesture, body language, using shared intentionality and being able to
improvise meaningfully in unexpected situations.
NOTES
1
Rudolf Steiner founded the first Waldorf School for workers’ children in the Waldorf Cigarette Factory in Stuttgart
in Germany in 1919 (Dahlin, 2017). Schools following this approach are variously called Steiner (e.g., in Scandinavia,
the Netherlands, Australia) or Waldorf (e.g., in the USA and Germany). The terms are synonymous. This article uses
Waldorf in alignment with the educational approach rather than the person.
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