Farewell Letter from Joy Levin

I have been at Imhoff Waldorf on and off for the last 11 years. It has been a spiritual home for me, my son, and a connection to a full feeling of community. During my studies, in 2002 I did my first year practicals here, in Cindy’s class, which at the time was combined with Lucy as there were too few students. I sat at the break in Jenny’s wooden hut office, and I remember Alex coming in and discussing her Grade 7 astronomy lesson, and I knew, “this is the school I want to be at”.
I arrived the year after the fire, into what was to be the ‘new class’. This was a little hut that had been taken down from a caravan site by Robyn, and rebuilt. I knew all holidays that I must make every toy to go inside the classroom, but I got a surprise arriving to set up that there would be nothing prepared outside- no fence, no sandpit, no jungle gym. At that time it was quite a dry piece of land with the big clay pit. I had my tea party in a tent because we were still laying the floor. On the first day, instead of a fence we made a boundary with wool! There was no deck yet and the north facing classroom was a sauna. The sponsorship program had started for the first year, and all of the children were put in my class, alongside other new applicants to the school. I think I lost about 5 fee paying children on that first day, just because they could not imagine how a hot classroom and a garden with nothing could ever become a proper space for their child.
Jay and Lotte were building furniture at the time, and I had approached them months before to say, “If I ever have my own classroom, I want you to build me a jungle gym.” When we first designed it, we came up with huge elaborate designs that were not practical. Finally we saw some photos of Australian bush jungle gyms and eventually designed what became their first ever Dream Weavers jungle gyms!
I have worked with many colleagues, parents, and groups of children. Each one has been so special, and each year I have understood more about myself and teaching. I took off a few years in between, to follow a path of doing a Masters degree. I studied Sunvalley school and Imhoff to compare Grade 1 literacy environments, and had the opportunity of studying Fezile’s Grade 1 class in 2016. I also spent a term in Coffee Bay at Judy’s little school, which was an enlightening and meaningful time. This paved the way towards my Phd on the relationship between storytelling as a teacher mediated activity and the play of the kindergarten child.
I have also worked at the high school as a secretary on one of my year’s off, a job that made me so happy. I could see some of the first class that I had taught in Scarborough, at the time were in Grade 9, as well as some of my first Imhoff class in Grade 8. I could see the work in the early years made manifest in the high school, and feel the power that the school had for creativity and personal growth. I will never forget when the assessor came to do the ANA tests in Grade 9, and Janis insisted that the class would still do their verse. The woman was so amazed, came to me running for the verse and telling me that of all the schools in the Western Cape she had ever been to, these children were the most relaxed and present that she had ever met. I leave Imhoff with an incredible pride for what our high school created, and will keep that in my heart forever. In fact I enjoyed the job as high school secretary so much, I thought I had found my future, but was gently nudged out and back into the classroom!
I have been part of bringing some of the teachers to the school. Josephine I met through Work for Love, doing a puppetry workshop. She just glowed with creative potential and I asked her to come and join us. Theadora was also a parent of the school I taught in Scarborough, and when I met her I knew instantly that she must become a teacher, and she was one of the first assistants to come and help when I started. Now both of them are lead teachers and I feel so proud.
I had the good fortune of Daniel being my son’s primary teacher, bringing the nurturing, maturing and holding that he needed. It was Daniel that inspired me to commit to the teacher training, years ago, when Nan and I were friends and I introduced them to each other at one of my father’s healing courses! How life turns its circles!
Probably one of my most fun tasks at Imhoff has being the MC of the art auction. Every year it has been incredible to see the creativity coming from the parents, and feeling the night of laughter and artistic appreciation, that has given our Imhoff fundraiser such a great flavor.
Imhoff has become my spiritual home. The diversity of the children, the laughter and sense of freedom. The gardens blooming in the mornings as I walk into the class always greet me with the happiness of nature. The children have shown their incredible creativity, listening power, singing, and activity. They have climbed to the top of that pine tree, collected the pine nuts that fall, and added magic into the garden daily. The porcupines that eat all the bulbs, the snakes that lie sleeping (sometimes to be stumbled upon at the January tea party!) and the mongoose provided many stories. The constant look for scorpions and spiders reminds me of the importance of the slightly dangerous tasks for children. The white eye that sits at our window singing as we do ring time makes us feel that he really does want to join! The fish eagle flies above during our fruit time, as we share our stories brings back the sense of what is real, alive, and possible. How I dream of what the future home will be like for IWS.
I have grown so much from my time here. I am now moving on to teacher training at the CCE where students will be able to do a Bachelor’s in Foundation Phase, and this includes early childhood. Although I can look forward to interacting with many future teachers, I will deeply miss our parent body of such creative adults, my beautiful colleagues and the children. No matter how I feel arriving at school in the morning, with in minutes the children have taken me into my happy space, and ready for a day of creativity, rhythm and play. I think I am going to miss that, but it has provided me with a richness that I can only share to any one else that wants to take on the privileged life of a Waldorf teacher, where spirituality and work are mixed together! I give thanks to all the colleagues who shared with me, all the parents who trusted me, and all the children who inspired me!