Human relationships and a safe, supportive learning environment are the proven foundation upon which learning happens.
Teachers in the elementary grades present as role models whom children will naturally want to follow, gaining authority through fostering rapport and nurturing curiosity, imagination, and creativity. In the middle school grades, teachers now empower the children to take that “front seat” for their own learning, with a more socratic-style approach and discussion groups.
Each grade level typically remains together as a cohort throughout their years, developing as a social community whose members know each other quite deeply. In the elementary years, the main class teacher teaches the primary academic subjects. A central role of the class teacher is to provide supportive role models both through personal example and through stories drawn from a variety of cultures, educating by exercising creative, loving authority. Class teachers usually to teach a group of children for several years. A traditional goal in Waldorf education was for the teacher to remain with a class for the eight years. Now at BVWS, teachers cycles are more flexible, often 1st-5th or 6th-8th. Specialized teachers teach individual subject classes such as orchestra or band, handwork, movement, or Spanish.
“Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.”― Parker Palmer,
In classes, students are the active participants. Social-emotional learning comes first so that all children feel emotionally secure and ready to learn. Teachers, especially in the younger grades but even up into middle school, pause academic lessons to address students’ concerns. Time is built into the daily schedule for students to learn to regulate their own senses. Celebrating unique strengths and talents as well as working on areas for growth, are made easier by a sense of engagement as contributing community members. Cooperation takes priority over competition. This classroom motivation approach also extends to physical education; competitive team sports are introduced when children are a little older and can appreciate the responsibility.
“We must be guardians of spaces that allow students to breathe, be curious, and to explore.”
—Brené Brown, PhD LMSW and Research Professor at the University of Houston
Brené Brown speaks to the importance of a student-teacher relationship and classroom climate that invites in vulnerability, and by doing so, creates courageous classrooms where innovation, creativity, and learning will thrive. A key aspect of Waldorf Education is the ongoing self-education and self-development of the teacher as a learning, growing human being. It is through ongoing striving in this way that the teacher learns to set themselves aside and be “present”, listening with the heart to what the children themselves are bringing and to what they need. As trusted and respected role models, Waldorf teachers work together with their students to create a safe, predictable, and inclusive learning environment.