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Parent Classroom Participation
As part of Waldorf Teacher Training, Waldorf teachers read The Study of Man. This book is a collection of lectures Rudolf Steiner gave to the original teachers of the first Waldorf school at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart in 1919. To this day, every Waldorf teacher reads these lectures as part of Waldorf Teacher Training.
As part of the "kick-off" of this series, Steiner says:
You will have to take over children for their education and instruction children who will have received already (as you must remember) the education, or mis-education given them by their parents. Indeed our intentions will only be fully accomplished when we, as humanity, will have reached the stage where parents, too, will understand that special tasks are set for mankind to-day, even for the first years of the child's education. But when we receive the children into the school we shall still be able to make up for many things which have been done wrongly, or left undone, in the first years of the child's life. For this we must fill ourselves with the consciousness through which alone we can truly teach and educate.
(An means that teachers read this in Waldorf Teacher Training.)
While at first this quote may seem disconcerting to the new or prospective Waldorf parent, keep in mind that it is taken out of context from the original circumstances. This quote is often used by Waldorf critics to create concern in parents about what is really happening in the classroom at Waldorf schools. Before you take this quote to seriously, you owe it to Steiner to read The Study of Man, and read the quote in it's complete context.
Positive Steiner Quote
Opportunities for Parent Participation at Waldorf
Based on the quote above, one might think that parents would have limited involvement at Waldorf schools, but nothing could be further from the case. On the contrary, there are many ways that parents are welcome to participate in their child's education at Waldorf. Some of these opportunities include:
- Participating in monthly assemblies
- Helping out with after school activities
- Helping out in handwork, and other special subject classes, sharing special knowledge
- Assisting with festivals and fairs, etc
- Preparing mailings
- Cleaning up at the school
- Preparing art supplies, etc.
- Serving on committees
- Of course, fundraising (just like any other non-profit private school!)
This is a summary of that discussion with I posted.
1. This is a summary of the DISCUSSION. It is NOT a fully informed description. It by no means represents the policy of Waldorf with regards to parent participation during main lesson.
2. This summary was VERY controversial. Some people agreed with this summary, some people didn't. Other people had alternative opinions that were insightful and meaningful.
3. This varies widely among individual schools.
Parent Participation In "Main Lesson"
One could argue that "main lesson" is the most important part of the day at Waldorf.
Describe main lesson........
Typically, parents are discouraged from participating in main lesson at Waldorf schools. This attitude might vary depending on the individual school or teacher. However, it is more likely a school policy established by the college of teachers, to maintain parity across the school. There have been rare cases of dissatisfaction with this exclusion, but most Waldorf parents don't want to participate in main lesson, and are glad that other parents don't help, either.
Why exclude parents from their child's classroom?
There are many good reasons why parents are discouraged from involvement in core academics at Waldorf:
- Main lesson is meant to be a special time between teacher and students (perhaps even sacred). Waldorf teachers have a very specific agenda for this time, which parents would disrupt. It is necessary to exclude parents from main lesson to enable the teacher to carry the class and establish a group dynamic with the children. In essence, parental participation inhibits and distracts from academic progress in main lesson.
- Parent participation could undermine teacher authority. Main lesson focuses on the teacher, and there would be no role for the parent other than as an observer. With parents in the room, it creates confusion for the students as to who is really in charge. Also, some parents may have preconceived plans for the classroom that are not consistent with the teacher's plans.
- The children behave differently when their own parents, or a classmate's parents help in class.
- Parental assistance in the classroom creates MORE work and stress for Waldorf teachers not less. Waldorf teaching is complex, a sort of "rocket science," and Waldorf parents don't have the necessary abilities to help in classroom; they would need to undergo some sort of training or orientation to be useful in the classroom. If one parent wanted to assist in main lesson, then all the parents would have to be similarly welcomed to assist. Also, there is some concern among parents that Waldorf teachers may not be capable of handling the dynamic of having parents in the class, and might "lose it" when parents help in class, though this is not a widely-shared concern
- There is a good chance that some Waldorf parents who want to help in the class room, though well intentioned, would not be helpful in main lesson. Like a "stage parent" or "little league dad," Waldorf parents with an unusual amount of interest in being involved in their children's main lesson could possibly be trying to fill an unmet need of their own,instead of meeting the needs of the child. It is misguided for a parent to believe that participating in main lesson would benefit the child. When a parent wants to participate in main lesson, they should ask themselves what their REAL motivation is for wanting to participate. Do they REALLY think that participating in main lesson would help their child's attitude towards, and progress in, school?
- Some parents may actually have the motive of evaluating the teacher to reassure themselves about Waldorf school. It is not the place, nor the right of parents to evaluate the teacher through participation or observation in class. This is best left to mentors, colleagues and outside evaluators. Furthermore, some parents might have a pedagogical disagreement with the teacher, and it is better for teacher, parent, and especially student, that such a disagreement be avoided. Preventing parents from observing and assisting with the pedagogy prevents suchdisagreements.
- The idea that parent participation in the classroom enhances the education experience for children is a myth. Parent involvement does NOT mean participation in the classroom. There are many more important ways for a parent to be involved with their child's Waldorf education than to participate side-by-side in the classroom.
Finally, there are other ways for Waldorf parents to stay involved in their child's academic progress.These include:
- attending the continuing education meetings at your school
- utilizing phone hours with her teacher
- COMMUNICATION: Talk often with your teacher
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It has no official affiliation with Waldorf education.
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