Waldorf education embraces cohort teaching, in which the primary grade school teacher stays with the same group of students as they transition through multiple grades. In 1st grade, the teacher meets each student in a formal welcoming assembly called the Rose Ceremony. This initiates a personal commitment to study the development and mentor the skills and personal growth of each child and forms a strong bond that will last for many years. This long-term relationship supports a rich social dynamic in the class. It gives the teacher a deep understanding of each student’s strengths, challenges and developmental milestones and it creates a mutual connection between student and teacher.
Most school days begin at the entrance to the classroom where the teacher meets the student with an individual greeting and handshake; this moment of connection and focused attention reinforces their personal relationship and individual awareness. The teacher begins every class by leading the students in moving their bodies and “waking up” their psyches with active music, singing and verse before moving into a two-hour morning lesson. The morning’s lesson immerses students in a particular academic subject such as Language Arts, Math, or grade specific subjects such as Botany or Geography. Every course of study, or “block,” lasts 3-4 weeks and covers a focused subject matter that is approached from multiple access points including story-telling, observation & participation, physical exercises, music, poetry, painting, drawing, movement, and dramatic activities. Engaging students in immersive, multidimensional explorations of block subjects is a proven effective learning method.
In the Grade School, students create their own Main Lesson books filled with formal dictation, careful note-taking and personal observations, compositions, diagrams and drawings that illustrate, archive and interpret their studies. The students’ responsibility for and authorship of their Main Lesson establishes an independent, self-reliant and interpretive method of student learning. It fosters the student’s academic skills in organizing, absorbing and reflecting on content, building knowledge and it facilitates an active method of inquiry. In third grade, and every year thereafter, students take their first trip to the School’s Glen Brook farm, the 250-acre campus located in southwest New Hampshire.
After the Main Lesson, the students transition to an outdoor recess for physical exercise and social interaction. Upon their return, special subjects teachers provide instruction in various topics such as foreign languages (French and German), fiber arts, music, woodwork, sustainability, physical education, and eurythmy (a form of body movement that incorporates elements of dance, balance, poise and athleticism). In this integrated fashion, the Grade School provides a comprehensive foundation for a child’s development that inspires a love of learning, expects academic excellence and supports creative exploration.
Waldorf teachers attend professional development workshops, conferences and teacher trainings over summer breaks in preparation for each year’s new curriculum. The teachers customize their lesson plans from archetypal Waldorf curriculum modules and they are mentored and given ongoing support and supervision from master teachers with depth of experience in specific subject matters, who have previously taught the course materials. This system pairs younger teachers with experienced mentors and it invigorates master teachers with new colleagues’ ideas and enthusiasm for innovative thinking. This collegial process supports an active, engaged faculty who bring expertise and a field-tested strength in instructional methodology to the students in the classroom.