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how does temperament shape classroom decisions?

post #1 of 55
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone,
I've just enrolled my nearly-5-year-old son in our Waldorf kindergarden program for next fall. The school sent us a copy of Waldorf Education: A Family Guide, which includes an essay by a teacher about temperaments. I've also read a little bit about temperaments on various websites.
I'd really like to know how teachers' determinations of a child's temperament have been put into practice in your experiences. Do teachers tend to vary their teaching style/disciplinary techniques from child to child, based on their understanding of a child's temperament? Do any of you have examples from your own experiences like, "Well, my child is sanguine, so her teacher did x, y and z..."?
I understand that there is probably a lot of variation from school to school, and from teacher to teacher. I'd just be really interested in knowing more about how the temperament concept translates into real-life decisions.
post #2 of 55
as a teacher, i definitely adjust my style based on the temperaments of different students. i have one student who is VERY active and will disrupt class a lot if we are just sitting and discussing or reading. i often have him get up and act out scenes (with a group) that reinforce the concept we are discussing.

i let shy students kind of sit in the background and make sure that i wander by their desks to discuss things with them one on one rather than making them answer questions in front of everyone.

i don't know if i'm typical or not but i definitely adjust what i require in class from each student based on their personalities.

i teach in a public school fyi.
post #3 of 55
There is a great essay by Rene Querido where he relays an anecdote about the temperment make up of his classroom, I think it is the one you mention.
There is a spill of the water bucket during painting time, and he can predict which students will stay seated and lift their feet, those that jump up saying that the water has been spilled, those that will happily go find the mop and bucket, and those that went and stood in the water. (I can't find the actual essay right now, so forgive me if I've gotten it incorrect).
But I think this points the awareness of the teachers--they know which children they can count on to be energetic, which one will remind others of the rules, which need to help pass out the papers, etc.

Remember that all children --under 7s are considered primarily sanguine, so when they are talking about using temperments in this way it is mainly with older children.

Also in regard to discipline, they are aware which children need only a quiet reminder and which children need the teacher to move and stand next to them or include them in a more active way.
This has been our experience that my dd's class teacher works to harmonize the temperments for the good of the whole class, and for each individual child.
post #4 of 55
My son's teacher uses the kid's temperments to guide her in the classroom. I know in the beginning of the year she had children with the same primary temperments sitting together. She later rearranged the children by their secondary temperments. She did this to both help with classroom management, and to help the students become more well rounded individuals. I think she also had placement in the room by temperment. I'm pretty sure the cholerics were in the front.

I have to admit, I don't understand peoples' unease with the temperments. While it is different from modern personality typing systems, like the Myer's Brigg's, it is the same type of classification/labeling going on. I don't see one as being better or even more scientific than the other. I personally know public school teachers who use Myer's Briggs personality typing in their classrooms to help them understand and better accomodate their students, and help with classroom management. Waldorf teachers do the same thing but use an older system.

Edited to add, What PlayaMama described is what all good teachers do to meet the needs of their students, and manage their classroom. Waldorf teachers just use different words than shy and active.
post #5 of 55
I agree with PP. When I first read about temperaments and using them for a harmonious classroom, it sounded pretty brilliant to me. It isn't like the teacher is going around labeling the kids aloud and giving them some sort of complex. They just use it as a tool to run the classroom and keep everyone as peacefully content as possible from what I understand.

In kindergarten all of this is pretty irrelevant because they don't use temperaments at all.
post #6 of 55
I always felt uncomfortable with the labelling.
When the children are older, and compete in the Olympics, they are divided into "cities" by their temperament, and wear the clour that represents that.
I think it's quite cruel, when you see the definitions:

Sanguine: Spring, Yellow, Superficial, Nerves, Air, Socially Aware, Caring.

Choleric: Summer, Red, Destructive, Dictator, Blood, Fire, Selfless Leader.

Melancholic: Fall, Mauve, Self-pitying, Bones, Earth, Considerate, Understanding.

Phlegmatic: Winter, Blue, Lazy, Glands, Water, Reliable, Faithful.

Each child, in the teacher's minds, fits one of these four categories.

Who would fell happy with their child labelld as phlegmatic for instance?

Just my opinion though.
post #7 of 55
Any study of personality types will contain the poles of behaviors associated with the type. Even Myers-Briggs talks about positive and negative aspects.

So what if my child (or eek myself) is labeled Phlegmatic? What is wrong with being reliable and faithful? This also means that the teacher is aware of a tendency to laziness and would be aware to lessen that possibility.

We then are aware of the "negatives" and seek to encourage the higher qualities associated with the types.

It is only one tool, hardly a "cruel" one.
post #8 of 55
Well, it's a tool comprehensively endoresed and used in steiner.
And I still believ it's cruel,outdated and unsound.
And I used to say so at Steiner school, in meetings, and parents evenings.
People , particularly children, grow, change, are influenced by many many factors in their ever changing lives, which shape various charateristics.
Confidence, for one, can change a myriad of outward behaviours, and esteem.
Shyness is often a sign of many othe rthings, as is agression etc etc.
Children's pesonalities aren't stuck in some rigid medieval pattern, they're quite fluid.
But steiner's systems are rigid all over imo.
post #9 of 55
Originally Posted by bluetrain View Post
Children's pesonalities aren't stuck in some rigid medieval pattern, they're quite fluid.
I'm not sure what medieval has to do with it.

But I find it helpful as a parent to know more about things that are harmonious with my child's personality and my own. I think it is helpful to consider how our personality type interacts positively and negatively with our child's. Children are fluid and energetic, but there are also some constants.

If one spends any amount of time with children, especially in a classroom or teaching situation one will find that there are certain commonalities and knowing more about what works with general types can only help one in connecting with and teaching those children.
post #10 of 55
Boy, getting in toch with my little sanguine guy, which I guess is pretty standard for his age, has helped me so much. And it helps me tolerate his little buddy to know he's just going with his choleric personality, not just being annoying.
Plus, I feel that we can help them find balance in their lives by seeing things this way. Look, nothing is hard and fast. Bach flower remedies, astrology, Freud, Jung, many, many things use types for people. But these things are fluid, and not only that, we don't have to use or agree with them. If I don't like something, i don't do it.

I guess I would be more worried if this were a mandatory public school, you know?
post #11 of 55
I'm just noting the OPs son's age as this issue came up at the kinde parents meeting that I was at tonight. We were talking about temperaments and how they are used in the classroom and everyone agreed that they were a useful tool but one of many. In addition to that, it was made clear that they do not classify kids as one temperament alone at such an early age. As was discussed, young children will have aspects of all the temperaments and that it will also be very fluid and it isn't until the 9 year change that they have a tendency to focus on one.
But, that's just our school and I have no idea how it would relate to others.
post #12 of 55
IME with two different Waldorf schools, the temperaments are just one of the tools used to understand individual children and create an environment where all the kids are seen, understood and valued.
post #13 of 55


I've always understood the temperaments as a framework for understanding and communicating human tendencies within the Waldorf setting. I don't think Steiner or anyone else intended them to become overly rigid in nature. However, culturally, we tend to label our kids way to much and way to early, often in a stigmatizing fashion so it is natural to be suspicious of such a system.

When my 4 year old was having some issues at school recently, we were able to talk about the choleric tendencies that certain playmates tended to bring out in him. No one would say he's choleric at this age, but it did help communicate the kind of behavior he displayed. Very helpful I thought in resolving the issues easily.
post #14 of 55
The temperaments go back to Hippocrates as a dignostic medical tool.
Tim Lahaye has brought it in modern times to Steiner Waldorf popularity and with a Christian angle in books like The Spirit Controlled Temperament. 1966

Evangelical Christians find the use of the four temperaments compatable with the bible's teachings, and I suppose this links tenuously to Steiner's spiritual views too.

This book is interesting on the subject
"The four temperaments, which had largely gone out of vogue since medieval times, have become popular among evangelical Christians in the same way that astrology has risen in popularity among nonChristians.
Perhaps because of life’s ever-increasing complexities and numerous complex psychological systems, people are looking for simple ways to understand themselves and others.
And that’s why the four temperaments have made a comeback. They are easy to understand and use. They offer simple explanations for the complexity of individual differences and propose simple solutions to complex
problems of living. Furthermore, many Christians have confidence in the four temperaments theory because they believe it is reliable, helpful, and compatible with the Bible.

...In spite of the lack of scientific evidence or biblical scholarship, books about identifying and transforming temperaments often sound authoritative. They include both plausible information and wild speculation presented
as proven fact. Once a person is hooked into such a system of understanding self and others, he will see everything from that perspective.
..Peter Glick, in his article “Stars In Our Eyes,” says the tendency to look for and notice confirming evidence
explains why, “despite the lack of any evidence of their validity . . . millions of people turn daily to horoscopes for clues to leading their lives.” The same is true of the four temperaments. They appear to be true because
people want them to be true. They appear to work because people want them to work....
..The assumption is that once they have placed someone in a category, they can understand and know that person better. However, the whole process of putting a person into a category leads to no substantial additional understanding of anyone."

In the Guardian this week (UK broadsheet)
"Are you feeling sanguine, phlegmatic or melancholic?. Such was the significance people attached to past attempts to understand disease that the history of these efforts is imprinted on the English language. Humorism was a theory that attempted to explain the workings of the human body. It was adopted by the ancient Greeks and Romans but also dominated Western medecime until the midle of the last century. If one of the body's fout "humours"-blood, phlegm,yellow blie, black bile- were out of balance you got ill, the practictioners believed. An excess of blood made you sanguine, too much phlegm and you were phlegmatic and a large dose of black bile made you melancholic.
Fortunately, scientists now have a more sophisticated understanding of disease than the bogus humorism theory."
post #15 of 55
Well, isn't it good that the temperaments aren't really based on bogus humorism, then?

And anthroposophical physicians don't use the humors, either. Although they will consider temperament in figuring out apropriate treatments.
post #16 of 55
My understanding is that everyone isn't just one temperment but is a mixture of the temperments. Ideally, they should be balanced. They definitely change over time, and can be influenced by people, the environment, etc.

Learning about the temperments greatly helped my marriage. I am a choleric married to a phlegmatic. Knowing this helps explain the differences between us. It really helps me be less judgemental with my husband's different work style, and even helps me communicate better with him. My husband easily identifies with being phlegmatic, but not everyone does.

When I was doing my Waldorf teacher training they had us group ourselves according to what temperment we considered ourselves. We then got to work with that group for the day, do a project together, etc. It was really, really fun for all of us to work with people who have the same "style of being." The only person who had problems was an overtly phlegmatic woman who placed herself with the sanguins. She didn't feel like she really fit in with her group, and later realized she should have worked with the phlegmatics. She said she didn't want to be "associated with phlegm," and that's why she stayed away from the phlegmatics.
post #17 of 55
Originally Posted by DashsMama View Post
She said she didn't want to be "associated with phlegm," and that's why she stayed away from the phlegmatics.
post #18 of 55
Originally Posted by bluetrain View Post

Who would fell happy with their child labelld as phlegmatic for instance?
That child's phlegmatic parents, who might recognize their own traits in their child, perhaps...

Heck, reliable and faithful aren't exactly the worst traits to have!
post #19 of 55
"Well, isn't it good that the temperaments aren't really based on bogus humorism, then?"
(The temperaments and humours go back to the Greeks, they are interchangeable, one stemming from the other.)
Good joke though

"Heck, reliable and faithful aren't exactly the worst traits to have"

When they do the Olympics, the children are divided into "cities" based on their temperaments, they all know who is who, (10, !! yrs old) They wear the colours of their temperaments.
Many of the fat kids are together.
I think that's quite cruel, but some people may not.
post #20 of 55
Hi blue train. I don't fool myself that all my children's traits are only good. I agree that some children (and adults, too) can be lazy, some overly aggressive, some flightly, some whiny, and I've seen (watching my own three daughters grow up) that looking at temperaments provides me good insight into understanding people who might not think like me.

This has been invaluable as my young children grew into teenagers.

The story you relate about "grouping by temperament" at the grade five olympics I have not observed. Our school attends the games at a place where the students are put in five groups, not four.

Take care, David
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