Reflection on the Waldorf Development Conference
Mhairi Gray teaches Grades 6 and 7 at the Mulberry Waldorf School in Kingston,Ontario. She recently attended the Partnering with Parents conference as Part of her Professional Development for Waldorf Teachers part-time program. Below are her reflections on the conference with inspirations and questions it has stired in her for how best to meet the needs of her students and build a stronger school culture. -ed.
"In their partnership to foster the well being of a child, the parent, teacher and school need trust, confidence and clarity of communication to avoid distrust, doubt, fear and confusion."
I found myself quickly immersed and engaged in the clear, sharp and open professionalism of Liz Beaven. Throughout her presentation, Liz moved between the role of the parent and the teacher as she brought forth the picture of the child in the centre of a triangle with each outer point represented by the parent, the teacher and the school. What do we want for our children? What drew us to a Waldorf School? What are common conflicts between parents and teachers/schools?
It is the first of these three questions that Liz presented where we found the most commonality. We can rest on the fact that all parents want their children to be loved, challenged, confident, motivated, responsible, etc..
What draws us to a Waldorf School is individual: the smell of the building, anthroposophy, the aesthetics, the look of the children, etc.. This second question made me consider how, with our exposure to a Waldorf environment, we are presented with an opportunity to develop our inner life. Regardless of how we come to it, this Waldorf impulse asks us to meet it. Perhaps we never understand what it is that we are drawn to and become fearful that it is a spiritual element that draws us? Aren’t we all on a quest to heal wounds?
Common challenges that arise between parent and teacher/school such as sports, festivals, field trips, ask for an open, responsive professionalism on the part of the teacher. Balancing the demands and concerns of the parents and community, remaining awake to the constantly changing needs of the students while maintaining the essential elements of Waldorf education in the classroom is an often overwhelming task. As Liz pointed out, the work we put into this area will never go to waste and may lead to a positive ‘living’ experience of education for parent, child, teacher and school community.
I began to wonder why the child was at the centre of the ‘tricky’ triangle. After all, we are all on a path of development and arrive in the community of Waldorf education with our own particular tasks and challenges. Parents, teachers, the school community and the child require relationship in order to reflect and develop. For obvious reasons the child needs loving authority and guidance. However, I think of children more as seasonal foliage crowning a trunk that has several arteries and deep roots. We, as adults, are present for ourselves in a school as much as we are present for the child. Perhaps some of us are not even aware of this?
I was also left with a question about specialties in the middle school. I am appreciative of the opportunity, as a class teacher, to strive intensely to meet the curriculum expectations of the upper grades. Although my class has several other teachers (French, gym, handwork, choir) I have the responsibility to carry the rest of the curriculum. I am aware of the trend in larger schools toward specialty teachers and wonder if my class might be better off with a teacher who can really inspire and challenge them in more specific areas of focused study. Is it naive to think that it is beneficial for students to sense my striving in areas that are difficult for me and to be guided toward making surprising discoveries about their own capacities?