Author: Adrienne Chapman
Current Third Grade Teacher and College Chair
I am getting to be one of the old timers around here! I have been a class teacher for most of my years in Waldorf Education. One great aspect of teaching at Shepherd Valley is that all of the class teachers teach in a few different classes other than their own. This way, not only do we form a close knit community in our class, we also get to know all the children in the elementary school over the years. As teachers we also challenge ourselves in different disciplines and with different ages. This keeps us on our toes and young at heart!
This year I have the pleasure of teaching handwork with Ms. Chadwick to the Dragonfly class. To help a child learn how to knit is amazing. With all the tangles and knots, one always wonders if it will ever happen. But one day it happens and viola! Everyone is knitting! It never fails! When they finish a bunny, the first project, there is great excitement and a sense of accomplishment. The next project, a flute case for the flute they get after the first of the year, takes longer and they learn the skill of changing colors. When they next complete a horse or a lion or a gnome, that is really a feat! This harmonious working with their hands helps to bring balance and engages many capacities in a non-intellectual way. When I take their work home to look more closely at how everyone is doing, I untangle and rescue dropped stitches and it feels as though I am making everything right in the world.
At the other end of the spectrum, I teach the eighth grade math skills. The challenge I bring them is to follow step-by-step procedures in order to accomplish something and to exercise their observation and thinking.
Over the break I learned a different algorithm for extracting roots than I have used before. Why teach this when one can just push a button on a calculator? Again, it is an exercise in thinking and brings wonder of numbers and a sense of accomplishment when it is mastered. Of course it is great for my own thinking as well!
My home base is the third grade. This is my third year with them and I am amazed at how much they have grown since I did their first grade assessments. As all the third grades I have taught, they are hungry for the Old Testament stories and to learn about how different native peoples of this country built their homes from materials at hand. This week they will bring in their own model home to share with classmates, schoolmates and parents.
This past fall they harvested the vegetables that they planted last spring and made a meal for the Faculty. They also enjoyed French fries and salsa from the garden veggies. We have yet to make a pumpkin pie with our pumpkin!
They are writing their first paragraphs in a cursive script. They are adding horizontal symmetry to their form drawings. In painting they are mixing the complimentary colors they learned about last year as “best friends” to make browns. Their paintings have a solid horizon now.
In math they are learning the times and division tables out of order and are learning to add with carrying and subtract with regrouping. They are all reading now, some simple books and others, chapter books. Our next block is their introduction to grammar.
It is wonderful to challenge the students’ thinking, feeling and willing in such diverse ways and in three very different age groups. I try to picture what each first, second and third grader will be like in eighth grade and how each eighth grader will be as an adult. The future will be an exciting, interesting and challenging place to be!