Splinters of the Sun

Teaching Russian Literature to High School Students

By Betty Staley   |   AWSNA Publications   |   2008

Having taught Russian literature to 12th graders for 27 years, I used Russian literature as a vehicle to stimulate their interest and appreciation of the culture and to awaken self-knowledge. This book includes biographies of Russian writers, examples of their work, examples of students’ writing, and plans for teaching.

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Betty Staley is an international teacher, author, and lecturer on education, adolescence, and adult development. She was a founder of the Sacramento Waldorf High School in 1974 and continued to teach there for nineteen years. Even after she retired, she has continued to teach Russian literature to the seniors. Her interest in Russian history, geography, and literature has inspired her students to continue their studies in Russian literature in college, and she has mentored high school teachers to bring the richness of this culture into their classrooms. She has led several trips to the former Soviet Union and taught in the Waldorf teacher training course in St. Petersburg, Russia and Riga, Latvia. Betty Staley is currently Director of Waldorf High School Teacher Education at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, California.

“I have now been teaching Russian literature to twelfth graders for about thirty-five  years. My approach as a Waldorf teacher has been to use the subject as a vehicle to stimulate their interest and appreciation of the culture and to awaken self-knowledge. I am not a scholarly historian, yet understanding the history behind the literature has always seemed very important to my teaching. Therefore, I am a voracious reader and student of Russian history.” 

“Through over a decade of visits to Latvia and Russia, my personal experiences have grown and deepened. When I read a story about a peasant’s hug, I remember sitting in a darkened kitchen, eating freshly made mushroom soup; making my first dark rye bread in a large trough and shoving it into the  brick oven fire on a wooden paddle; and warming my cold hands on the large tile wood stove. As I read about the Soviet government’s destroying the barns of private farmers and forcing them into collectives (kolhozes), I remember walking on the stone foundations of such a barn, delivering food scraps to the pigs. When Russian life changed radically in the unstable 1990s, I had to purchase yarn with U.S. dollars as the clerk would not accept rubles. And there are many, many more stories to tell.” – Betty Staley