Public Waldorf Schools Foster A Culture Of Healthy Relationship
By Hellene Brodsky-Blake, MA
Healthy human relationships are the foundation of Public Waldorf schools. Early childhood programs, including parent-tot, nursery and kindergarten programs, establish a foundation for long-lasting relationships between students, parents and faculty members. Early childhood teachers are often the individuals who first introduce Waldorf education to the parents and students. From the very first intake interview, the early childhood teacher invites, encourages, and supports the family to learn about Public Waldorf education. Parents seek out this education not only for their children but for themselves as well; how often has a parent arrived in your room, only to say, “Can I be your student too?”
Relationships between teachers and students have both depth and longevity. As an early childhood educator, I view myself as a touchstone, a taliswoman, and a “transitional object” for the children moving on to the grades. I offer a spiritual, soul and physical stability and consistency that support the child’s growth and development and sense of self and other. One example occurred when a group of my former kindergarteners formed a Thursday Lunch Bunch and spent their first-to-fifth-grade lunchtimes in my classroom eating, reminiscing and sharing experiences with me.
The sacred bond that is birthed in early childhood between the teacher and student grows and transforms when the child enters the grades. Public Waldorf schools establish looping policies that vary across schools, but nearly all teachers have the opportunity to advance and move with the same group of students through a number of the grades, developing a real depth of meaningful relationship.
The faculty is the heart and core of the school. This radiates into the classroom and beyond into the greater community. Public Waldorf faculty members share morning verse, meditations, child study, artistic expression, biography work, social activities, celebrations and reflections of life and death. There is a kinship, an affinity, and an interconnection woven as individual teachers share a need, a student, a hope, a struggle, an appreciation and more. Public Waldorf faculties model conscious, intentional community.
Healthy human relationships within a school extend to include the parents, the staff and broader community. The rhythms of festival life, parent education, book study, crafting days, school stores, work days, potlucks, BBQ’s, fundraisers, park or beach days all contribute to growing and strengthening healthy human and fulfilling relationships.
This is further exemplified on our Journey School campus, with our commitment to the Compassionate Campus, Eco-literacy and Cyber Civics programs. These programs are offered to the students and parents to support and instill long-lasting and steadfast ties to each other and the greater world, extending well beyond the K-8 grades. Each fall, Journey alumni return to our school and celebrate the Harvest Festival by running a food booth and sharing experiences as graduates.
A healthy Public Waldorf school community realizes that it is not alone in its mission. Teachers are encouraged to visit other Public Waldorf schools and observe best practices, share resources, explore common challenges and provide mutual support. There is an interdependency that grows within and between Public Waldorf schools that deepens the development of human relationships.
Healthy human relationships take time, work and a great amount of energy. As an Alliance board member, I serve in gratitude to all in the Public Waldorf movement. At a recent parent meeting I asked my class parents what they wished for their child and for themselves. I was not surprised that most parents responded: “I wish for my child to be happy and I want for myself to be more present with my child.” Although this sounds simplistic, it is a daunting and often exhausting task. Public Waldorf schools provide a network of support, resources and a solid foundation for building healthy human relationships that can last a lifetime.
■ Resources: A Second Classroom: Parent Teacher Relationships in a Waldorf School by Torin M. Finser; Creative Discipline, Connected Family by Lou Harvey-Zahra Hellene Brodsky-Blake, MA has been a Waldorf educator for 22 years, serving in parent-tot, nursery, kindergarten and grades one through three. She is currently a faculty member at Journey School serving Morning Glory Kindergarten children and families. Hellene is a mentor teacher and has taught adult education at Chapman University, Rudolf Steiner College, and provides numerous workshops across California. She is currently a lead Early Childhood Instructor with Gradalis Teacher Training Program.