teachers

What to look for in a school: a series

In this short blog series, we'll be helping prospective parents navigate the process of choosing an independent/private school. This week, we'll talk about some general characteristics of a good independent school, and in the coming weeks, we'll focus specifically on how to choose a preschool, lower school, middle school, and high school.  

What are some general characteristics of a good independent school?

  • Accreditation
    Look for a school that is accredited by a regional, national, or international body aligned with the school's philosophy. This guarantees that a school goes through a rigorous self-study and outside evaluations on a regular cycle, ensuring best practices and ongoing growth. Green Meadow is accredited by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA), the NY State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS), and the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN).
     
  • Curriculum
    Is the school aligned with an particular educational philosophy? A guiding philosophy helps the school stay focused and true to its mission in a world where the educational landscape shifts constantly. Green Meadow is a Waldorf school, founded on a tried-and-true, developmentally appropriate, interdisciplinary philosophy developed in 1919 by Rudolf Steiner and constantly evolving to meet the needs of today's students. Read about Waldorf graduates here to see the outcomes of a Waldorf Education, and stay tuned: a new survey of Waldorf graduates from 1990-2017 was just completed and results will be published in the coming months.
     
  • Facilities
    Does the school have ample space for students in classrooms and outdoors? Is there good natural light, and beautiful spaces that inspire contemplation and learning? A gym and field for games, sports, creative play, and other movement? Practice rooms for private instrument lessons? An auditorium for concerts and plays? Lab facilities for science classes? A quiet, inviting, well-ordered library? Spaces for students to gather informally? Take a look at Green Meadow's facilities here. You can also see a gallery of classroom photos on each of these pages: preschool, lower school, and high school.
     
  • History, traditions, and unique programs
    How old is the school? How many teachers and staff have worked there for 10 years or more? Do students stay at the school from preschool through 12th grade? Are there traditions that build a sense of community life and belonging? At Green Meadow, the Rose Ceremony that opens and closes each year, curricular trips including the Third Grade Farm Trip, community events such as the Eighth Grade Talent Show, and unique opportunities including senior projects, senior internships, and our international exchange program are just a few aspects of campus life that excite and engage our students. 
     
  • Spirit of inquiry
    Do you feel a buzz on campus, an excitement about learning? Are there campus lectures and other cultural events for students and parents? Is there a school newsletter or newspaper that showcases current events, discusses the school's philosophy, and alerts the community to what's happening on campus? Green Meadow has a full annual calendar of community education events, brings speakers to campus frequently for conversations with students, and publishes The Bulletin bimonthly and the Alumni Magazine twice a year, along with an annual yearbook and an annual student-produced literary magazine, The Burning Bush.  
     
  • Teacher qualifications and engagement
    Are teachers at the school required to be certified beyond state teaching certification? What percentage of teachers are actively engaged in their field outside of school? Do the teachers lead clubs, coach sports, offer office hours for students, or engage in other after-school activities? How accessible are they to parents? At Green Meadow, several of our faculty have advanced degrees, all have received training and/or a degree in Waldorf Education, and they are actively engaged with students and parents through community activities like service learning, outside the school day. 

Summer Blog Series: Principles of Waldorf Education

Last week, we talked Waldorf teachers having freedom in the way they bring the Waldorf curriculum to their student. In this fifth installment in our Summer blog series, we want to tell you about the core principle that outlines the methodology of teaching in a Waldorf school.

There are a few key methodological guidelines for Lower School and High School teachers. Early Childhood teachers work with these principles appropriate to the way in which the child before the age of seven learns, out of imitation rather than direct instruction:

~Artistic metamorphosis: the teacher should understand, internalize, and then present the topic in an artistic form.

~From experience to concept: the direction of the learning process should proceed from the students’ soul activities of willing, through feeling, to thinking. In the high school, the context of the experience is provided at the outset. (This is also sometimes referred to as phenomenological learning or experiential learning.)

~Holistic process: proceeding from the whole to the parts and back again, and addressing the whole human being.

~Use of rhythm and repetition.

Teaching in this way has several benefits:

  • Students develop a strong aesthetic sense and a deep appreciation for beauty and artistry. 
  • Students are engaged and connected to their learning.
  • Students learn to see complex situations and problems as a whole (systems thinking) and become expert and creative problem-solvers.
  • Students feel secure, use their bodies and brains in coordination, and are able to achieve mastery in many subjects.

Summer Blog Series: Principles of Waldorf Education

Last week, we talked about the way the Waldorf curriculum meets children where they are in their development. In this fourth post in our Summer blog series, we want to tell you about the core principle that calls for freedom in teaching.

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Education, said, "Out of the understanding of child development and Waldorf pedagogy, the Waldorf teacher is expected to meet the needs of the children in the class out of his/her insights and the circumstances of the school."

While the curriculum is mapped out across all three of the child's three developmental stages and schools have administrative oversight to ensure consistency in teaching, there is flexibility about how the curriculum is delivered by each individual teacher in any given year, based on where s/he is located in the world, who the students are, and other variables.  

At Green Meadow, teachers bring the curriculum to students creatively, with their own insights and experiences guiding them, while the school ensures the delivery of a high-quality Waldorf education in the following ways:

  • supporting professional development through courses and conferences;
  • offering support, evaluation, and mentoring by a Teacher Development Committee;
  • using performance-based student assessment; and
  • measuring scope (what is taught) and sequence (when it is taught) on an ongoing basis.

Why Waldorf? (Part 6 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 Marieke Duijneveld, a Kindergarten teacher who has three children in the school and is herself a Waldorf graduate from the Netherlands.

Click on the title of this post to see a photo of Marieke with her family.

I love teaching in the Early Childhood Section of Green Meadow Waldorf School because working out of anthroposophy brings out the best in children and in me!  I love to constantly reflect and ask myself the question: "Why I am doing what I am doing?" It's inspiring for me to be thoughtful regarding every moment I create in my class: how can I best offer a program that serves the individual child in their development?  What craft, movement, story, song, snack, and ritual will help them become who they truly are?  

That’s what I try to give the children: a foundation for the future, growing the roots to be strong, interested, brave human beings that will meet the world with love, joy, and resilience. It’s a real honor for me to provide that gift of a Waldorf environment; I’m convinced it’s the best way to start the "career" of becoming a healthy adult!

An Interview with Anna Silber

We are looking forward to The Essentials of Waldorf Education with Anna Silber on Tuesday, December 6 at 7:30pm in the Arts Building Music Room. Anna is a GMWS parent, a former Class Teacher at Green Meadow, and now serves as Director of Education at Sunbridge Institute. We caught up with her this week and asked her to share a few things with us prior to the talk.

In a few sentences, what makes Waldorf Education unique?

There are many things Waldorf is known for that are viewed broadly as excellent educational practices, but are not necessarily what make it unique, like teacher looping, experiential learning, and artistic expression, to name a few. To discover why it is unique, though, we need to strip away what we take for granted as the "tangibles" of Waldorf Education and look at the "intangibles:" the view of child development out of anthroposophy, for one. We also need to shift the conversation from what we teach to why, how, and when we teach it.

How did you decide to become a Waldorf teacher?

I was enjoying a career as an analyst in an investment firm in Manhattan and had been studying anthroposophy as a spiritual path for several years. Out of personal interest, I took a tour through the Rudolf Steiner School on the Upper East Side and was deeply moved; I simply knew it was something with which I had to be involved. As cliche as it may sound, it had to do with a wish to contribute in a potent way to changing the world, and I had never seen anything so potent as the work being done in a Waldorf school! 

I quit my job two months later and enrolled as a teacher training student at Sunbridge, then took a class teaching position at Green Meadow, bringing my class from fourth through eighth grade. After that I became a mother, and I'm now a GMWS parent.

As a trained Class Teacher, how do you answer a parent who wonders about teacher looping? How do teachers manage the challenges and personality conflicts that may arise between teacher and student when accompanying a class for 4-8 years? 

The short answer is that we believe a team of teachers accompanying a group of students for a number of years offers many important benefits to a class community and to individual students. The challenges of human relationships are inevitable in life, and certainly school life is no exception. A commitment to looping is successful when it is coupled with an equal commitment to the hard work of tending to relationships with students, parents, and colleagues.

One of our main concerns in educating Waldorf teachers is equipping them with tools to navigate these very human challenges out of love, not power, not fear. We need to approach our students a bit like parents think of their own children in this particular sense: parents don't ask whether they like their children or not; they love them. Teachers in a looping situation can embody the same disposition; our job is to educate through love. That in itself is a whole separate topic which I will take up more fully in the upcoming talk. 


As Director of Education at Sunbridge Institute, what do you feel are the most important things a Waldorf teacher needs to learn in preparation for taking a class?

Part of the preparation is what teachers need to learn, and the other part is who they are or are becoming. I'll take as a given the obvious list of grade level skills and competencies that are required, and go right to the ideas about child development out of anthroposophy. It is the ongoing interest in and digestion of this paradigm that will guide and illuminate a teacher's work with her or his students.

In our teacher education program, we spend a lot of time exploring this theme, along with curriculum work, the arts, and anthroposophical studies. There is of course a long list of human qualities that makes for good teachers, as well as good human beings, like humor, imagination, flexibility, and interest in the world. However, these are qualities you can't teach someone; they are developed, and freely developed at that, if they are to be authentic. As Steiner said to the early Waldorf teachers, it's not just what you know, it's who you are that matters.