prepared for life

Alumni Voices: Matt Olson '17

Matt is currently at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada.

"All the best experiences I've had at school so far have been in my involvement outside of class. From competing in inner tube water polo to joining a club for impact investing, I've realized how important it is to take initiative and put yourself out there.

During my first week at Queen's, all the freshmen in my program (or frosh as they say up here) were interviewing for positions on the Queen's Commerce Society. I had never done a real interview before, however, decided I had nothing to lose, suited up, and took my shot. I ended up being offered a position on Queen's Social Investment Initiative which has undoubtedly been one of the highlights of my year. Being part of the club has exposed me to an industry I had no idea existed and aligns very closely with my personal values.

My transition to University was much smoother than I expected due to the vast differentiation of environments compared to Green Meadow. Tons of people go to Queen's knowing people beforehand and I was skeptical I would find a good group of friends. After being here for about an hour, however, all those worries vanished. Everyone is just here to get a good education and have 'the best 4 years of their life,' and I now find myself living on a floor with 30 people I can't imagine living without.

One thing Green Meadow helped me with greatly, which has benefitted me countless times already, is the school's emphasis on public speaking. Doing a 15-minute presentation in Rose Hall gave me confidence in my speaking abilities, which I have utilized competing in case competitions and presenting in front of my current class.

After leaving Green Meadow I felt more than ready to see what the world had in store for me and on what path my independence would lead me. Green Meadow prepared me incredibly well for the mental side of the transition, and I gained the skills necessary at Green Meadow to push through and teach myself in the areas where my background is lacking. All things considered, no high school has the ability to fully prepare students for the next chapter in their life, however, Green Meadow did exceptionally well preparing me for the mental transition." 

Capacities: a series

Week 1 : What are capacities?

Over the next few weeks, we will be writing about one of the key differences between Waldorf Education and mainstream educational approaches: a focus on the development of capacities. The Waldorf curriculum and pedagogy (what we teach and how we teach) build capacities, first and foremost. We do this alongside skill-building, which we will also talk more about in upcoming blog posts.

What are capacities? How are they different from skills? One way to think about it is that capacities are related to character, while skills are tools. Capacities are part of who we are, how we approach the world; skills help us navigate specific tasks and solve specific problems.

In his book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, well-known author Daniel Pink talks about capacities. He outlines the "six fundamentally human abilities that are absolute essentials for professional success and personal fulfillment" (according to the book description): in his words, these six abilities are design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. These are capacities: everyone, in any industry or walk of life, benefits from having developed these characteristics (or approaches, or ways of thinking) and from applying them in any situation they encounter.

Whether there are six fundamentally human abilities or more is another question, but the important alignment between Waldorf Education and Pink's premise lies in the identification of broad capacities rather than specific skills at the core of success and happiness. 

Pink says, "I think Waldorf schools are very much in synch with the notion of Conceptual Age and the ideas of A Whole New Mind. They foster internal motivation in students, as well as mastery and persistence. They teach the habits of the heart that children need to do well in life after school."

An example: if we have the capacities of curiosity and tenacity, we are likely to succeed in solving problems, since we will have developed a habit of approaching difficult situations or questions with interest and a willingness to learn their contours, and we will persevere as we develop whatever skills we need in order to arrive at a solution. 

The cultivation of capacities takes many forms in Waldorf Education.

  • Our students build intellectual capacities (academic approaches and habits of mind) by participating in a developmentally appropriate, interdisciplinary, rigorous curriculum that is nearly 100 years old, always evolving, and absolutely unique in the world.
  • They build social and emotional capacities like patience, empathy, courage, and kindness by moving through their school life (and through their childhood and adolescence) in tightly knit class communities, forming strong bonds with the community of teachers and staff, and challenging themselves by taking advantage of curricular opportunities like performing a class play every year in the Lower School and going on an international exchange of three or more months in High School.
  • They build physical capacities through experiences inside and outside the classroom that push them beyond their comfort zone: walks in the forest from the age of three, wilderness trips, games and sports, knitting and sewing, weekly instrument lessons and regular recitals starting in Fourth Grade, and the movement art of Eurythmy, unique to Waldorf schools.
  • Finally, they build spiritual capacities like wonder, awe, and humility through a experiential education that prioritizes hands-on learning and a phenomenological approach, allowing students to come to their own conclusions through observation and identification with a subject. 

    In our upcoming posts, we'll look at the development of capacities in each section of the school: preschool (Nursery and Kindergarten), Lower School, and High School, and we'll talk more about the skills we help our students build, alongside the capacities described above. 

Meet our Alumni: Alex Chin, Class of 2012

Over the next few months, we'll be introducing you to many of our recent alumni, who are scattered across the globe doing amazing work and engaging in study.

Today we are sharing a bit about Alex Chin '12, who will also be featured in an interview in the September/October 2017 issue of The Bulletin. Alex is currently traveling in Ghana; we look forward to talking with him when he returns. 

Green Meadow: Congratulations! We understand that you were accepted recently to MIT and the University of Rochester for graduate school. Which school will you be attending and in what field of study?

Alex Chin: I will be attending the University of Rochester to pursue a PhD. in Physics. I will focus primarily on High Energy Density Physics.

GM: Can you say a little bit about where you went to college, what you studied, and the path that led you to graduate school?

AC: I went to SUNY Geneseo for my undergraduate degrees in Physics and Math. I decided to go to graduate school so I can keep studying and doing research in Physics. I still have so many things to learn.

GM: How did Green Meadow prepare you for college and beyond? What were the best aspects of your time at Green Meadow? 

AC: I started at Green Meadow in Kindergarten, and being at the school gave me the opportunity to have experiences that I never would have had elsewhere. I have no idea how many times I tried to explain what eurythmy was my freshman year of undergrad.

Look for the full interview with Alex in an upcoming issue of The Bulletin.

 

Alex receives his diploma in June 2012 from then-Administrator Tari Steinrueck.

Why Waldorf? (Part 8 in a series)

In this series, we have been introducing you every week to a teacher, parent, or student who shares something about why they love Green Meadow and Waldorf Education. Today we hear from Maria Fitzgerald, who grew up in Honduras, came to the US for college, and joined Green Meadow in 2014 as our Lower School Spanish Teacher.

Click on the title of this post to see a photo of the Fitzgerald family.

When we chose Green Meadow in 2014, we knew we were joining a well established Waldorf school that would provide our two daughters with the educational setting we were looking for. What we did not know was that we would become a part of something much bigger than a school. 

In three years, we have become part of a community that gives our children a sense of belonging, of safety and trust, of love, beauty, friendship and generosity. Just last week, after both of our girls spent the morning up at the farm watching sheep get sheared, we spent the afternoon in the music room at a benefit for Syrian refugees, which was organized by the High School Student Council and Student Activism Club. We were inspired by musicians, artists, poets, and activists, and it was wonderful to watch our daughters waving enthusiastically at the 8th graders and the high school students, calling them out by name to get their attention (you see, to them these upper grades students are akin to pop stars).

Last week, our daughters spent a late evening (in their pajamas) at Rose Hall while watching the 7th and 8th grades perform Fiddler on the Roof, which blew us all away. The week before that they had the pleasure of sharing their school with their grandmother at Grandparents' and Special Friends' Day. 

Our daughters are getting a beautifully rich and developmentally appropriate curriculum, taught by dedicated teachers whom we love and respect. We do not take this for granted, and we are grateful every day for this place we call "school." We took a leap of faith moving to New Jersey from North Carolina, in large part because of Green Meadow.  Now, when we see the human beings both of our daughters are becoming, we can say with confidence that we are exactly where we need to be.  

Why Waldorf? (Part 5 in a series)

In this series, we have been introducing you every week to a teacher, parent, or student who shares something about why they love Green Meadow and Waldorf Education. Today we hear from Emily Lauer, a twelfth grader who has been at Green Meadow since Kindergarten. She is currently on her senior internship (as is the entire Class of 2017).

Click on the title of this post to see a photo of Emily Lauer's morning view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

I am lucky enough to have two internships in NYC! One is working at Walter Pictures, a video production company. The other at the Allouche Art Gallery. So far I have had a wonderful time at both. Walter Pictures is mostly responsible for making music videos and I was lucky enough to be able to shoot with them in the first week of my internship. At the art gallery, I have been able to take part in many different aspects of the business, including helping put together a gallery opening.

I could go on and on about what I've been up to but I’ll save that for another time. The real question is how on earth has my Waldorf Education prepared me to go out into the world, start working, and have some clue about what I'm doing?

Two things come to mind:

Waldorf teaching really develops a well-rounded person, someone who is ready for anything and has both the skills and the brains to do it all. That is part of it.

I also believe that the social interactions that we practice in school, such as the way that we treat each other and how much importance we place on respect for our teachers, emanates through our work and is cherished in any work space.

I think anyone who has been through a Waldorf Education will have no trouble finding and fitting into any career or job that they choose.