A Case for Including Educational Support Programs
in Waldorf Schools
by AHE Board Member Mary Jo Oresti
We have reached a crossroads in education. Each day in the classroom we experience that all children, including those raised in nourishing environments, have individual needs. This has been true for decades, and we have been free to pursue the best practices to ensure that each child is being met. However, let's consider that in our present times the matter is more urgent as childhood is being eroded. Nutrition, movement, disruptions in life's rhythms, and sensory impacts for instance have all changed. Not all of this is counterproductive; yet, the question remains, “ What is our response to these changes?” If a child needs more than mere moments of attention, are we equipped to intervene? Have we expanded our definition of normal? Do we deepen our understanding of the pedagogy with the fervor that was exhibited in the first Waldorf schools?
Obviously the life of a professional educator is a never-ending journey of research and self understanding. Not only does the curriculum hold many secrets but each child is also a mystery. For new teachers, the goal of reaching the level of master teacher can look formidable in light of the complexities. However, there are so many jewels available for us.
In the Waldorf movement, we have methods that break ineffective ways of thinking and create new approaches to old problems. For instance, if a child has poor handwriting we can work with the feet as Dr. Steiner recommended. A child with poor or lethargic thinking can be helped with body geography exercises or walking geometric forms with different movements. These activities can be standard practices in our schools. We have the methods and only need the courage to create the form.
One very successful form is an Educational Support program, which can be designed to fit a school’s needs. A support team could include a trained remedial teacher, outside resources, master in-house teachers, therapists, Eurythmist, etc.
By weaving a program into the life of the school, parents and teachers experience an enrichment of the educational journey of all the children in many settings: classroom, faculty study, child study and in individualized sessions.
The Educational Support Program emphasizes pedagogical methods and interventions. And, like other pedagogical streams, it has two pillars. The first pillar is our understanding of the curriculum and our understanding of the universal progression of child development. The second pillar is our ability to perceive and respond to the individual whom we wish to engage in the process of healing and education. These two fields, knowledge and an individualized response, obviously improve when the teacher also has support.
An Educational Support Program can:
At a Pan American conference, Dr. Glöckler spoke about the task for our times. The mysteries for the future are about the engagement of the will. It is not about knowledge, it is about not wasting ourselves. How grateful we can be that Waldorf schools have this directive to educate children for the future, help them escape from body bound thinking and be free to act toward the good.
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On Compassion Through Understanding
"... When the knowledge of man has been so transformed in the teacher that he is able to experience the condition of the child in this intense way, he will then have also transformed himself, so that a beneficial influence is conferred by his soul-attitude on the life forces of the child."
Dr. Walter Holtzapfel, from Children with a Difference
"Our rightful place as educators is to be removers of hindrances.
In “The Spiritual Ground of Education,” Rudolf Steiner stated: “Each child in every age brings something new into the world from divine regions, and it is our task as educators to remove bodily and psychical obstacles out of its way; to remove hindrances so that his spirit may enter in full freedom into life. These then must be regarded as the three golden rules of the art of education, rules which must imbue the teacher's whole attitude and all the impulse of his work. The golden rules which must be embraced by the teacher's whole being, not held as theory, are: reverent gratitude to the world in the person of the child which we contemplate every day, for the child presents a problem set us by divine worlds: Thankfulness to the universe. Love for what we have to do with the child.”
Rudolf Steiner, “Spiritual Ground of Education”, Lecture 4 >> Read lecture
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