preponderates in each child, and education and teaching must bring about the harmonizing of these four principles.
If the ego preponderates… [in the child), we have the melancholic temperament. If
the astral body preponderates, we have the choleric temperament. If the etheric preponderates, we have the sanguine temperament. If the physical body preponderates, we have the phlegmatic temperament.
Frequently there is more than one temperament within one person. Most peopleshare a bit of all four. And it is important to keep this in mind when we focus on each temperament at a time for the sake of clarity. It is still helpful to observe whether a child has a dominant temperament, for this will show his or her particular tendency to one-sidedness.
Having taught for some years and having had many interesting talks with
colleagues I think it is important to say at this point, that in the 21st century this working with temperaments and identifying of children’s temperaments is much more difficult than
when I started teaching. The influences on the children which affect their behaviour and even their physical body — such as bad diet, overdose of media, lack of rhythm in their daily lives, even maybe different beginnings of life — cloud the picture we try to make. Nevertheless, although coming to simple conclusions may be more arduous nowadays, careful observation will eventually highlight one
particular aspect of a child which can be helped through his/her temperament being
There are many publications, some by Steiner and others by teachers who have worked with the temperaments in their own particular field. Not wishing to repeat all that has been said and can be found in these excellent books (see Bibliography), I will endeavour to try and give a useful foundation on which any beginner can start to build. The most important aspect to remember is that this knowledge of the temperament must be a developing wisdom and become an ‘instinctive’ tool in the activity of teaching. Applying it as dogma will end with the child not responding to
a constricting label; in fact children often rebel under the yoke of dogmatic teaching.
Working with the temperaments in story-telling
Children from different temperaments can help each other to complete a picture. The teacher’s role is to give the children the possibility to reflect back to the others their experience of a story. But before this the children need to feel that the teacher has prepared the lesson with them in mind. The children wait expectantly maybe in complete silence, but their inner being is reaching out for the b
beam which is just for them, the colour that speaks to their soul, it envelops them in a feeling of warmth of recognition and is the beginning of their process of transformation of the content given by the teacher. This process is one of individualising and transforming the content into new skills.
Steiner also recommends that we allow children of the same temperament to influence each other in order to tone down their temperament e.g. by sitting them together in the classroom.
In Discussions with Teachers Steiner’s work with the teachers on the art of storytelling is described and there he pays particular attention to the different ways language can be used to involve children from all four temperaments.