Ideally a teacher stays with a class for 8 years
A Waldorf class teacher ideally stays with a group of children through the eight elementary school years. What if my child does not get along with the teacher?
This question often arises because of a parent’s experience of public school education. In most public schools, a teacher works with a class for one, maybe two years. It is difficult for teacher and child to develop the deep human relationship that is the basis for healthy learning if change is frequent.
If a teacher has a class for several years, the teacher and the children come to know and understand each other in a deep way. The children, feeling secure in a long-term relationship, are better able to learn. The interaction of teacher and parents also can become more deep and meaningful over time, and they can cooperate in helping the child.
Serious problems between teachers and children, and between teachers and parents, do arise. When this happens, the college of teachers studies the situation, involves the teacher and parents—and, if appropriate, the child—and tries to resolve the conflict. If the differences are irreconcilable, the parents might be asked to withdraw the child, or the teacher might be replaced.
In reality, these measures very rarely need to be taken. A Waldorf class is something like a family. If a mother in a family does not get along with her son during a certain time, she does not consider resigning or replacing him with another child. Rather, she looks at the situation and sees what can be done to improve the relationship. In other words, the adult assumes responsibility and tries to change. This same approach is expected of the Waldorf teacher in a difficult situation. In almost every case she must ask herself: “How can I change so that the relationship becomes more positive?” One cannot expect this of the child. My experience is that with the goodwill and active support of the parents, the teacher concerned can make the necessary changes and restore the relationship to a healthy and productive state.
From Five Frequently Asked Questions by Colin Price
from Renewal Magazine, Spring/Summer 2003
Why do elementary teachers stay with a class for 8 years?
Rudolf Steiner believed that in order for children to grow into self-confident, authoritative adults, they must be exposed in childhood to the loving guidance of a respected authority, in this case the class teacher. “Nothing is worse than for a child to get accustomed to making his so-called own judgments too early, prior to puberty,” he said at a lecture in Dornach,Switzerland in 1919. “All education in this period of life [between the ages of seven and fourteen] will have to be consciously directed toward awaking in a child a pure, beautiful feeling for authority; for what is implanted in him during these years forms the foundation for what the adult experiences as the equal rights of man.”
Waldorf first graders typically view their teacher as an all-knowing presence. Eighth graders view that same teacher as a mentor. In all cases, students believe that their class teacher will stick with them through thick and thin. While the class teacher is not present with the children all day every day, he or she does greet the students in the morning, teach the first two-hour lesson block of the day, supervise the children during free periods and lunch periods, and take charge of their academic, moral, and social development.
Waldorf teachers are not merely facilitators of a child’s education; they are expected to be authorities on their subject matter, as well as storytellers, musicians, artists, and actors. Most of them take summer courses that prepare them to teach the next grade’s curriculum in September.
Another benefit of Waldorf’s extended looping system is that it eliminates the “ramp-up” time at the start of each school year, during which students and teachers at other schools spend weeks getting to know each other. Waldorf teachers know their students well enough to keep them academically challenged at a level that is appropriate to each child, from the first week in September through the final week in June.