Preparing for First Grade, High School, Life, and a Nobel Prize

This week I have read about Thomas Südhof, a Waldorf School graduate, winning the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. This is an amazing accomplishment that recognizes a lifetime of dedication and work.  He graduated from the Hannover Waldorf School in 1975. You can read his autobiography here  .  What in his personality, background, and education created such persistence and curiosity?  Reading his autobiography we can see hints of the forces in his background that shaped his personality – being born in post-war Germany, he and his family move to the United States. In a recent interview he mentioned that the most influential teacher in his life was his bassoon teacher, Herbert Tauscher. He ascribed his powers of concentration and analysis to his musical study.  He felt this teacher awakened the discipline needed to practice for hours on end. Study of a musical instrument at this level develops persistence.

I found myself wondering about his parents.  They held the same concerns for him that all parents hold for their children.  They wanted their child to have friends, to be valued as an individual, and to be successful.  As he grew older the concerns, joys, hopes and disappointments grew more nuanced. As he was getting ready to enter First Grade did they worry if he would make friends, eat his lunch, and follow the mischief maker sitting next to him? When it was time for High School were they concerned that his quiet and studious nature would make him ostracized or that his focus on playing the bassoon would distract him from his academic subjects?  Maybe they were disappointed that he did not become a teacher or join the military.  I hope that they felt the normal worries and concerns of parenthood (I wouldn’t have missed them for the world!) and at the same time I hope they felt confident that his education at the Waldorf School was allowing him to find his interests and learn skills for life-long learning.  I hope they felt that he maintained his enthusiasm and interest in the world so he could travel his path.  I know that my three adult children feel their education prepared them well for their unique journey through the world.

You can’t really plan for your child to win a Nobel Prize.  You can’t plan your child’s future but you can do your best to give them a good education, a supportive home life, and the resilience to complete the tasks that they are given to do.

Asked what advice he would give to a new college graduate, Südhof replied, “More than anything, follow your passions. What are you actually interested in? What work satisfies you? I have met so many unhappy rich people. I think that, in order for a person to reach his or her potential and to be happy is to work in an area that they enjoy, can support and feel good about. I have given the same advice to my adult children.”

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