Edited by misconscrewed - 5/9/13 at 12:15pm
My suggestion is to use your school's formal dispute resolution process if there is one. If there isn't a clear process, create your own by considering the following options:
Good luck, -jax
Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say waldorf=chaos with bullies in charge.
Don't be so defeatest about this! You're letting the little first graders bully you! It is always legitimate for parents to raise concerns about the safety of their child and the teacher's classroom management practices. If a group meeting would be too confrontational with the other parents, why not itemize your concerns as clearly as you can and then ask for a meeting with the teacher and their mentor or the grades chair? Work through the issues one by one to make sure everyone is on the same page. If there is some disagreement as to what daily life in the classroom is like, ask if another teacher would be willing to observe and provide their perspective. It is no one's interest (yours, the schools, the teachers, the kids) to have chaos. It's unsustainable. Try to find where everyone's interests and concerns align and work from there. But if you don't feel that working with this teacher and this specific set of parents is possible, I would just leave now because you're going to be stuck with each other for a while. If it is a situation where rich parents are able to push everyone around and you are doing all of the accommodating, this won't easily transform itself soon. Just because a public school has a police car in front of it doesn't mean that excellent work is happening inside.
Again, you're the grownup and you are paying the tuition. Don't be afraid to ask for what you feel you need. Best, J.
I can relate to the awful feeling, especially when the school is presenting itself as addressing the situation, whilst also projecting it onto your daughter. Jacquelin's suggestions are really good, and assertive, especially the one that says that if you're not getting a response that creates a safe space for your child to learn and play in, then she needs one that is.
I don't often write on these type of threads because the politics in this area are fraught, and some of the anti-Steiner camp can be extremely hostile to parents that have stood up to this kind of behaviour in schools, which is devastating when you might expect something else, but I can share that my daughter is still suffering the effects of exactly what you describe at the Steiner school she only briefly attended in New Zealand. Their response to my continued efforts to jump through the hoops they kept presenting in order to fulfil their promise of a "safe, natural peaceful learning haven" was to expel, not only that child, but my other two as well.
Things I was asked to do to fit in with their demands to deal with the situation:
- Organise a Community meeting myself to sort of ask the other parents if they wouldn't mind the school having a more rigorous attitude to separating bullyers. (My daughter's class had 17 boys and 5 girls, many of whom were two years younger than most boys).
- Follow a totally different path than the one stated in the Parent Handbook, i.e. bring all concerns to the Manager, who was only there half the week, so that ended up being an email exchange which formed the basis for what happened later.
- Attend parents meeting at which staff and parents minimised bullying generally, totally dismissed relational bullying as existing at all, and re-enforced gender stereotypes. The mothers of the "rowdy" boys were all there and the girls' mothers were full of agreement that their daughters needed to "toughen up".
My daughter was 8 at the time, and had the disgusting experience of going to a school that promised to be safe for her, getting horribly bullied and then being expelled because she followed the school rules to tell about it, and we supported her. Our support was framed as "intrusion" (in spite of other parents concerns also), and used as the excuse to kick our kids out because this is a rare private Steiner school in New Zealand and private schools don't have to frame expulsion as such, but can just cherry pick their families.
We, me and my husband, followed this situation up through a gruelling three years of no-accountability until we finally got help from the Human Rights Commission who supported what turns out to have been the first time anyone has ever persuaded a Steiner School to attend an independent mediation anywhere in the world, and in New Zealand, incredibly, the first time anyone has brought a school to account. (That's how come it got picked up last week by the press and even the TV who said they were hoping to embolden other parents.)
While we were doing all this, we never suspected that nobody had trod the path before, it seemed so obvious, and one of the reasons is that when our daughters were at the school, there was another mother trying hard to address the bullying in the same class. She left two weeks before our kids were expelled and that was the first time we had any idea that someone else was dealing with these issues - the school certainly didn't tell us.
This path we took may seem extreme, but the culture of allowing bullying, and inverting objections to it onto the child and the parents, is one that needs exposing, as it's extremely damaging to children - our daughter suffered a tremendous loss of self-esteem, sleep-loss and other worrying symptoms.
If you think about it, a school which doesn't stop bullying between kids, is quite likely to be one that accepts it towards parents as well, and we've received so many emails and letters from families in the surrounding community who've been treated exactly the same over the years - spanning four decades in fact.
Our story is here: http://is.gd/Steinermess
Like I say, the level of attack we've sustained for insisting on dealing with this through process, even from supposed 'critics' of Steiner is severe, and I've just learned that the school has published an open letter which contradicts several of the statements they've signed off on through Human Rights, which will probably be picked up by those supposed critics and used to bash me with (they do attack me as the mother more than my husband, I guess women displaying resolute strength are very hard to accept, even for some other women).
What it shows to me is that the school will continue to twist anything and everything, even a settlement arrived at through process, to try and hide the truth, but really it's just a more extreme version of what's already happening in the situation you describe here.
Isn't the writing on the wall?
I am a real fan of Waldorf but...I would pull my child if I was experiencing what you seem to be and the school was unresponsive. I know of a number of situations where parents did this for a time until the situation had calmed down. Are other parents concerned? Can you go as a group, which would be even better, and tell the school you are all prepared to pull your children unless something is done?
Our school now has a policy that any physical attack leads to the child immediately being sent home and the parents being called in for a conference. Children should be safe at school. We also have a social inclusion team that immediately descends upon a class when there are problems, and leads a process (sometimes including older children coming in to talk to the younger ones) to overcome the problem.
Jacquelin's suggestions are also great. Good luck!
Find out why. Our public school does, too, but it's to catch cars that are speeding in the school zone because a little girl was hit last year.
Misconscrewed, I am so very sorry your daughter and you are going through this. When a Waldorf class isn't working, people who know Waldorf know to just pull their kids. The teacher's authority is paramount and will be treated as such until he or she leaves the school or is fired. This is the sort of class that hobbles along, gets worse and worse, parents pull their kids and eventually (but too late for so many) the teacher is replaced. If there is out of control bullying in first grade, it will be much worse in 4th grade. You know your current situation is bad. It will probably get worse. I think it would be worth enrolling in the public school just to see. Maybe they have an amazing, talented first grade teacher! And do call the private schools. One may have an opening right now because a kid moved away or they weren't full in the first place.
Oh, and the kids who get pulled out over the years because their parents find the situation unacceptable? Guess which five it *won't* be!
Just start making phone calls, you will find a better situation! (Montessori?)
So sorry you are dealing with this misconscrewed. It sounds truly awful. I hope you can find an alternative that works well for your family. We're here to help. Feel free to reach out in this forum (waldorf) if you need to process, or the other Learning at School forums to think about alternatives.
Sounds like there are some big problems and it is right to find another school. Is this a new school? I know you probably don't want to say too much but if the grades chair is leaving and the administrator's kid was expelled, there seems to be a deeper problem. They may need to get some external guidance (from AWSNA, a mentoring school, and/or their regional independent school accrediting body). Or is this a charter school? Since these issues touch on liability concerns, the matter should be brought to the board of trustees' attention as well. I know the tendency is to wash ones hands of difficult situations but if I were a parent in another class, I would appreciate it if the underlying problem got dealt with rather than dissipating by having kids leave. The leaders at the school need to take a hard look at what is happening and why. Hopefully with some external guidance they can get to the bottom of it for the sake of the remaining students! Good luck with other private schools and with the public schools. IMHO, there are amazing people attracted to the teaching profession and I am sure you will find some excellent work being done at your local public school. I'm not a fan of the new "zero tolerance" approach to student conflict but in your case it may be a welcome relief!