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© Joseph Tame 2000~2009

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My Education:
The Hereford Waldorf (Rudolf Steiner) School

Over the past year I have come to appreciate that my time at the Hereford Waldorf School in Herefordshire really served to set me off on the right foot in life. I was fortunate to be a part of this community from very early on in its development, thus witnessing it's growth from 30 to over 200 pupils. In addition to this I was lucky enough to have a great teacher for much of my time there - he had a fantastic Welsh sense of humour that always served to lighten up those maths lessons. (Thanks also to my Dad who suffered having to teach me for a couple of years!)

My Steiner Education was defiantly the best thing that ever happened to me (after birth, that is). Over a decade on from my leaving the school, I now appreciate that it was my time there that gave me the self-belief and courage that has since enabled me to embrace, with little fear, the many challenges that life has thrown at me. The firm foundations it gave me have resulted in my success in the many varied fields I have worked in, from managing a major IT project for the UK’s largest electricity provider, to teaching children to Morris Dance in the isolation of Northern Japan. Recently, after a 9-year-break from formal education, I decided to embark upon a university degree course, which to my delight, is going extremely well. Once again, I can’t help but think that if my parent’s hadn’t come across Steiner Education all those years ago, my life over the past decade would not have been half as rewarding as it has been.

I could talk about the philosophy behind Steiner education, but I don't think I'd be able to put what little I do understand of it into comprehensable sentances. Instead, I would simply like to quote:

"Waldorf education challenges the one-sided emphasis of intellectual education typical of our times, enabling children to be educated in body, soul and spirit and receive a foundation for life through their childhood schooling."

I will now direct you to a couple of websites, The first is that of the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, which "represents 31 schools, 45 kindergartens, and eight teacher education seminars in the UK and Ireland. It is also the home of the European Council for Steiner Education bringing together some 550 schools in 14 countries." There are currently 871 schools internationally, spanning 55 countries.

The second is that of my school, The Hereford Waldorf School, which in September 2008 was renamed the Steiner Academy Hereford, becoming the first Steiner school in the UK to receive state funding.

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Click here to view my photographs taken in Herefordshire between 1988 and 1999

Joseph at Primary School, North Yorkshire, England age 6 (ish)
My Education:
The Decision to go to University as a mature student

After 9 years of shying away from university and all that it represented, in the Spring of 2003 I did a complete U-turn in my thinking. Here, in a Letter of Application to a college where I will do a one year pre-university Access Course, I tell the tale of what has led me to make the decision to commit to 5 years of study.

N.b. This is no great piece of literature, just a document that I threw together in an hour. The first part of the story can be found in other guises thoughout the About the Tame section of this website. The new bit starts under the heading "Making that Big Decision".

Letter of Application

Joseph Tame

It’s now been nine years since I left formal education, with the vocal opinion that university was all a complete waste of time and people only did it as that’s what society dictated that they “should” do. I decided that instead of following the wool pack, I would provide my own higher education by attending the University of Life.

From the age of eight I had had the fortune to attend the Hereford (Rudolf Steiner) Waldorf School. Back in those days it was just like one big happy family, with only thirty students and a handful of dedicated parents who devoted much of their time to build the school up from a dream to the reality that it now is. As my class was the pioneering year, the curriculum was always new to our teachers. Because of this, school to us wasn’t a place where we would go to sit in rows and take down dictation, but rather a place where we would get together with our friends (that included the teachers!) to embark upon a voyage of discovery. In July of 1994 the eight remaining students in my year became the first to take GCSEs at the Hereford Waldorf School (English, English Lit, Maths), before going on to attend either the Hereford Sixth Form College or the Hereford College of Art and Design.

I took a dislike to the Sixth Form College right from the word go. I had chosen to study Theology, English and Theatre Studies at ‘A’ Level, and GCSE Geography. I found the lectures terribly boring and the complete lack of interaction between pupils and tutors a complete turn off. In one year of Theology classes I think I learnt more about building than religion due to the fact that the window by my desk overlooked the construction site of the new Drama centre! However, the final straw came when, in the middle of my first year exams, I was diagnosed as having epilepsy. The epilepsy I could handle, but the side effects of the various drugs prescribed were horrendous, and resulted in me undergoing a complete personality change almost overnight. I blamed the doctors, the NHS, the government, the education system, and anyone else who in my view was a part of The System that had made me feel like such a failure. I was one hour into a Theology exam when I just thought, “I’ve had it with this rubbish!”, wrote “fish” all over my paper and walked out, never to return.

I had grand ideas to travel the world, but these were soon put on the back burner when I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime in the form of a position as Trainee Manager of the world-famous Wormelow Stores and Post Office, the rural general store where my parents had done a weekly shop for the past 10 years. I was seventeen – young, impressionable – and so signed away the next five years of my life.

Eight months later I took a holiday in Crete. It was fantastic; the freedom of the open road, new people, new experiences – all so exciting in comparison to trying to work out how to boost sales of tinned soup back in Wormelow. Upon my return to England (where incidentally, it was raining at the time), I informed my employers that I would be leaving for sunnier pastures. Thankfully, in addition to the fact that their dog had eaten both copies of my contract, their son was waiting in the sidelines to take over the business – I was free to go.

I’d decided to hitch-hike to Australia, but upon reaching Switzerland I ran out of money, and so settled there, working in a hotel 11,000 feet up an Alp for 10 months. Following that, I flew to America to work as a volunteer on a summer camp for adults with severe physical and mental disabilities. That was an intense experience, but with the help of 150 others my own age from over 30 different countries, I got through it. Whilst there I met an English girl and once again, my plans to travel the world were put on hold. We returned to the UK together, where, age 19 we bought a house and settled down in Torquay in the hope that that would help improve our fatally flawed relationship. Two years of saying “everything will be alright next year” later, we decided that we had to face reality and go through the pain of splitting up. I felt that the only way that I could manage this was by having a complete change of scenery, and so having sold my half of the house to my now ex-girlfriend for a pound, I headed back to Switzerland. There, after 6 months therapy through being an organic farm hand, I returned to my mountain hotel and worked for another three seasons. That was an mad experience. In the daytime thousands of Japanese tourists would pass through our resort on their way up to the Jungfraujoch “Top of Europe”. Then, after 6pm, when the final train left for the valley way below on the little cogwheel railway: complete isolation. Not a single sound. No roads, no traffic. No-one, except for thirty staff tucked away on the top floor of a 150-year-old hotel.

During that time I became very interested in the Japanese guests that would rush through Kleine Scheidegg on their whirlwind bus-tours of Europe. They were always so polite, so friendly, and so different. When I had the opportunity to take a six week holiday between seasons it was off to the Land of the Rising Sun for me - and since that time I have been completely hooked on everything Japanese. Having completed my final season in Switzerland I returned to Japan with a one-year working holiday visa, which I used to secure jobs teaching English in central Tokyo and as a general staff member in a very small family-run B&B in Hokkaido, the most northerly of Japan’s four main islands. It was whilst I was there that I taught myself basic Japanese, studying for up to 30 hours a week for five months until I could understand what I was being asked to do by the owner who spoke very little English. In late August 2002 my Visa expired, and so I returned to Europe.

Making that BIG decision

Following three months living in Italy, I headed back to Tokyo to try to find a way of obtaining a visa that would allow me to work in Japan. This was like hitting my head against a brick wall: the restrictions were so tight that without a university degree I had no chance of obtaining anything but a 3-month visitor’s visa. I realised that it was time for drastic action.

Over the past few years I have started to feel a little like I missed out on something by not going to university. Also, (and I kick myself for saying this), I have felt this kind of “us and them” thing, “them” being the successful people who have been to university and got their amazing careers etc. I hate to admit this, as ever since I was 16 I have been trying to convince myself that it makes not a jot of difference…

Since early 2002 I have been thinking about how I could become successful. My idea of “success” covers many aspects of life, but one clear goal of mine is to become fluent in Japanese. Ever since my first visit to Asia I have found something addictive about this fascinating language. I always hated French and German at school, but Japanese – why am I so hooked? I don’t honestly know. What I do know however is that speaking, reading and writing nihongo (Japanese) really makes me happy. I also love to write, and so one of my dreams is to become a well known author within the huge Japanese book market. Despite the recession, there are still a myriad of opportunities for qualified foreigners in Japan.

Of course, it’s not just the Japanese language that I’m interested in, it’s the culture too. At no other time in my life have I observed a culture that is going under such astonishing changes on a daily basis. Old meets new – you see it everywhere, whether it be the 300-year-old teahouse in Odaiba dwarfed by 50-floor mirror-plated skyscrapers, or the old granny in her kimono on the train, sitting next to the teenage girl in with her peroxide-blonde hair and Barbie-doll lace-covered clothes. Never before have I felt so at home in a place as I feel in Japan, and it is for this reason that I feel that now is the time to get serious and go to university.

I have a very definite idea of the course that I wish to do: Japanese Studies at the School of East Asian Studies, Sheffield. With the possible exception of SOAS, I believe that Sheffield can provide me with the best education in my field of interest. I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to sink my teeth into learning all about something that I have a great passion for.

It is for this reason that I wish to do an access course at the City of Bristol College. I chose Bristol having heard many good things about the city from friends and family, and, despite having only been back in the UK for 4 weeks I must say it is living up to its reputation already!

Joseph Tame

29th April 2003