We’re Just Out Of Waldorfs

Some decades ago, in another millennium, I learned how to teach German language at the Cincinnati Waldorf School — by learning to flow smoothly.


Waldorf pedagogic method follows the thought and moment of Rudolf Steiner.

We’re still here, Bill. And we have a question. Is there a difference between pedagogic and pedantic? By the bye, we are bored.

Yes, there is a difference. My apologies for the tedium that now threatens tedia.

Each student had this blank book and a set of block crayons.


A fine point between  a pointed crayon and a block crayon. Boundaries are the literal point of a more muffling model. Art, dance, theater and connection to the Earth. Veganism was the norm, as it should be.

You have a gift for wandering off task. Do you know that?

The German for poison is das Gift. Snow White (Schneewittchen)  bit into a gift from a person of some political moment. The gift was Gift. On a side note — where I prefer to spend my time — you can frequent souvenir shops all over the place called: Das Gift Haus. Caveat emptor!

Bilingual puns are the death of wit, an affront.

Some few years ago, between 1989 and 2013, I enjoyed another singular privilege: teaching at the TriState German-American School. It’s a local institution that arose from a large number of emigrees to Cincinnati, arriving from German-speaking countries.

Pedantry alert. Pedantry alert.

The TGAS principal did not impose a curriculum on my class “Getting Around in German.” If the students were happy she was happy. My students were happy. This happy happenstance allowed me room (did you know that the name Zimmerman arises from the German ‘Room Man’ for carpenter. A Ziegler lays tile. The first mayor of Cincinnati was David Ziegler.


My green italic critics shift nervously on respective chairs.

You stray like a thief in the night, Herr Ziegler. These Pults are a horror.

God save us from the prison that the Prussian system of student control imposes. Just my 7 1/2 cents.

From Fawlty Towers: “I want a Waldorf Salad.” Fawlty: “I think we’re just out of Waldorfs.”


It’s quite a comfort to holiday at the Fawlty Towers. Let’s listen in on a few fellow guests recently arrived from Deutschland.

“We didn’t start it. Yes you did, you invaded Poland.”

But to return to something completely different, I developed a number of techniques in my Saturday German class that offered a more gentle way in my lesson un-plan. I introduced concrete objects without recourse to the succor of English.

Point at the sun, define a circle with your fingertips. The sun is big. She is yellow. She is big, round, yellow and hot. How can you remember that something is round — leave the round part “o” out, and so rund.

Two favorite verses did I glean from Waldorf and refresh in my class:

Hutsch He! Hutsch He! Der Ackermann sät.

The classroom floor became a plot of land to sow in Spring. In Autumn (Herbst/harvest) that same floor became a field of wheat that flowed with the wind and became ready for harvest.

Hutsch He! Hutsch He! Der Ackermann mäht. 

Use the same arm movement used for sowing the seeds, but then suggest a scythe that cuts the grain and readies it for baking bread.


Spring to Fall   —sät to mäht.

Thanks for reading.



Author: Bill Ziegler

I am a former resident of Delhi Township. These are memories of my life and times in that community during the 1950s and 1960s. A time capsule.

3 thoughts on “We’re Just Out Of Waldorfs”

  1. But how did you get them to understand how to decline adjectives. Isn’t that the point where most students trying to learn German give up the ghost? It’s actually a cruel point, just after you think that everything is a cognate. Then you find out that its not enough to know the damn noun’s gender (which you spent endless time memorizing), number and case. You still don’t have enough to know what endings to put on the adjective!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A cruel point indeed. By the numbers, German has 3 genders, 16 ‘strong’ endings and 12 ‘weak’ ones (though there are only two weak endings: ‘e or en’ — what a break :-)). Adding to the jape, prepositional objects follow rule-based case assignment too.
      An education major, native German, once followed my class to learn the grammar behind all the rules.
      Rosetta Stone is enormously unhelpful in its German incarnation since it expects the user to intuit all those rules from sequenced photographs.
      So DK, you have inspired me to write a post about the heuristics I created for teaching German to the inflect-challenged.
      Meanwhile, here’s a glance at how the Vikings changed all the der, die, das, dem, des and den to ‘the’ 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Bill, When I first studied German it was to read scholarly articles and books. (There is something about the Germans, who make scholarly works even more painful than they otherwise would be.) So I wanted to cut to the chase. No swimming like a turtle in ein Meer der deutschen Sprache. So to get the gender thing down, I just memorized whole lists of words with the nominative definite article: der Mann, die Frau, das Kind, der Fingernagel, die Brust, das Auge, usw., usw. Then I discovered the dative and the possibility of der Frau! What was the point of learning all the der/die distinctions? Germans are clearly insane or sadists. All I can say is thank you, Vikings.

        BTW, for a language that has such a tortured way of indicating the function of a noun, the Germans are surprisingly anal retentive about word order. If you really are going to insist that word order matters, then just do away with declensions, like English. If you are going to have insanely intricate rules about identifying the case of a noun, then you should at least put the endings on the noun and have the articles and adjectives follow suit (like Greek, Latin and Romance languages). And you should let word order be relatively free. Frankly, the advantage of having an insanely intricate grammar like Greek, is so you can have poetry like Homer and Sophocles, where word order is dictated by metrical and musical considerations. Because we have no declensions in English, our poetry is filled with verses about June/moon and life/strife. German has the deficiency of both: words are relatively fixed so there is no metrical or rhyming freedom (like Italian or Spanish). But you still have to learn when to put the -e on braun, depending on whether you are saying Die braune Kuh ist groß or Die Kuh ist groß und braun, which is the same thought, right? Maybe the whole excessive rule redundancy is just a German thing. After all, classical music (which, let’s face it, is simply German music) always was extremely rule-based, from the Baroque (which had intricate rules about how fugues had to be composed), to the classical (with rules about the structure of pieces, like the sonata form, development, scherzos, variations, etc.) to the Romantic (where there were rules, constantly growing, but rules nonetheless,) about harmonic relations. English-speaking people never had the arbitrary-rule aspect of their language, so the only new music they ever produced was the blues (which was actually produced by people whose ancestors spoke African languages)..


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