Summer Blog Series: Highlights from The Bulletin (#4)

This Summer, we are sharing some of our favorite articles published this past year in The Bulletin. Enjoy! 

Faculty Spotlight – Educational Support at GMWS, Kindergarten through grade 8

By Suzanne Lynn, Educational Support Coordinator

Educational Support at GMWS spans kindergarten through grade twelve.  The work of the Educational Support Coordinator primarily focuses on grades K-8, spanning all three sections of the school, helping to bridge both rising first graders and their parents from the kindergarten into the lower school and the rising ninth graders and their parents from the middle school into the high school.  Joanne Monteleone, HS guidance counselor, coordinates support in grades 9-12.

Educational Support works with students, teachers, and parents to support each student’s academic success by understanding and supporting unique learning styles, strengths, and challenges. This is accomplished through bi-weekly meetings with each grades teacher, managing the in-house educational support team and outside tutors, overseeing or administering assessments, coordinating outside testing, helping develop and implement educational support plans for students, and meeting with parents.  Parents are always welcome to reach out with questions or for guidance. 

Over the last seven years our educational support program has evolved and continues to progress to meet the ever-changing needs of our students. Our school mindfully blends the core principles of Waldorf education, advances in assessment and support for cognitive and learning differences.  Our work remains rooted in Rudolf Steiner’s model of the developing human being, placing assessments at key times in child development such as rising grade one, second grade, cognitive learning assessments of reading and math in grades three, four, and seven.

This is ongoing collaborative work with very dedicated colleagues in the early childhood, lower school, middle school and high school, including those on the Care Group committee who are dedicated to child study – all of whom work together to fully support each student.  Class teachers and subject teachers bring this support to their students through their daily lessons and nightly preparation.  Their consistent striving and keen observations are an essential part of our educational support program, surfacing questions about underlying learning differences that might require testing, adaptation of teaching methods, or specific support plans.  In addition to these colleagues, we have a growing educational support team that works together to offer additional support that may be needed at varying times in a student’s schooling.  We currently offer:

·         Eurythmy therapy, to harmonize the whole child through orchestrated movement.  This works constitutionally from the inside out;

·         Occupational therapy, to harmonize the whole child through specific movements engaging students in earlier developmental stages to free hindrances and organize movement and sensory integration.  This works physically from the outside in;

·         The Extra Lesson, to harmonize and integrate the whole child through varied activities that bring about balanced breathing and support cognitive learning. Created by Audrey McAllen who took up Rudolf Steiner’s many lectures about the developing child and developed a curriculum of movement, speech, drawing and painting exercises;

·         Homogeneous reading groups that meet students where they are in their reading acquisition, furthering their skills at a pace that meets them;

·         Screenings and assessments to help uncover learning differences that may require further testing, and;

·         When necessary, more direct intervention which is either brought in or referred out, such as reading, writing and math tutors.

The Educational Support Coordinator orchestrates the moving parts, bringing all the players together in ways that meet the needs of our students, allowing them to more freely develop to their fullest capacity.  We are working in the present to meet the needs of our students while simultaneously building for the future—5, 10 years from now.  We are working to create an educational support program that is woven into the fabric of the school that meets the diverse learning needs of all our students.