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Waldorf > need advice
Binx67's Avatar Binx67 10:36 PM 01-27-2013

i decided to remove my original post.  it is hard not to be misunderstood in this context.


thank you all for your feedback, nonetheless.

Alenushka's Avatar Alenushka 11:39 PM 01-27-2013

"monster?". Really? This is very confusing. If the child is truly abusive, why would your child play with him. My kid runs away form bullies.


Perhaps your child has an amazing heart that allows him to see something good and light in this other kid.


If the class is really so bad , I do not understand why the principal is not doing something about it.

Fortune Teller's Avatar Fortune Teller 10:15 AM 01-28-2013

It sounds to me like this 'monster' really needs Waldorf and the support of the community.  It also sounds like the school has committed themselves to the education and well-being of this child.  I understand setting boundaries, but I do not think ostracizing this child-  And he/she IS a child, and a young one at that-  too young imo to be banished or given up on- is the answer.  


I understand the desire to protect your child from harsh, 'outside' elements, especially when you have worked so hard to cultivate a gentle environment in line with your values.  We all see our Waldorf schools as a sanctuary, a place where our little ones and their childhoods are honored and protected, where we can drop them off and feel at peace.  The parents of this child want the same for their little one.   Obviously you feel this refuge has been 'breached', and you send your child in worry.  Only you can decide if it is truly bad enough to warrant pulling your child.  


I will add that the behaviors you described are going to be found most everywhere.  Would you rather your child encounter them outside in the 'real' world, or in your Waldorf school?

DimitraDaisy's Avatar DimitraDaisy 11:02 AM 01-28-2013

I am a Waldorf teacher, I've had five years of experience with a small mixed-aged class, and I've navigated a number of tricky situations like the one you describe. I am hesitant to share my opinion but since you asked for advice, I'm going to go ahead and do it, in the hope that it might help you somehow.

It is obvious from your post that you are upset. That is natural. The transition from Kindergarten into the classes can be an unsettling one in the best of circumstances, and, from what you describe, what you are experiencing is far from that. What I'd like to tell you is that it can get better -- in fact, that everyone involved in this situation can learn and grow as a result of it, and get to the other side better off than they were before all of this started. That may be hard to believe when you are caught up in the thick of it, but my experience is that that is absolutely possible. Now, if that is something you are interested in -- everyone involved here learning and growing and being better off for having had this experience -- the question is, what can you do to make this happen?

The first thing I would suggest to you is to give up the 'us vs. them' way of thinking that is present in your post. This is a natural reaction for parents when they feel their child is threatened in some way, as you seem to be feeling. It is understandable. In many situations, it can be a useful response, even a critical one. But as a teacher I think that perhaps at the moment it is muddying the waters for you, and making it difficult to see a way out.

As a teacher, it is my job to make sure that all the children in the classroom are safe. It is also my job to be inclusive, to provide opportunities for everyone, and to see the potential in all children, especially in those with difficulties. These two imperatives coexist uneasily. If I take the first one to its extreme, any child with moderate to severe behavioural difficulties, and many children with special needs, would belong in self-contained special schools. If I take the second one to its extreme, many if not all classrooms would be unmanageable. In the middle there is this place of balance -- a dynamic, ever-shifting balance -- where everyone loses some in the short-term and wins some in the long-term. I am going to assume that your child's teacher is caught in this place of trying to get the balance right, as I was.

Two things follow from this. Firstly: you cannot ask the school to expel a child; that is a school decision. And secondly, and most importantly: if your child is unsafe, the problem does not lie with the other child. The other child is only six or seven years old, at worst traumatised by circumstances or challenged in some way in his mind or body, at best simply lacking the good care and training that your child has benefited from. The child deserves your compassion, difficult as it may be. If your child is unsafe, the problem here is the teacher, who is failing in fulfilling one of their basic duties, namely, to keep all of the children in their care.

I would suggest that you have another meeting with the teacher. Discuss your experiences you are having with your child that have prompted your concern. Ask them if they are seeing the same changes in your child, or in other children. Ask them what their feelings are about this sort of behaviour in their class, and what kind of measures they take against it. And ask them what they think could be done to help both children involved in this -- what can you do? What can they do? Can this become a whole-class issue? Can they have a class discussion? Write or find a story that will guide the children through this? There might be a lot that the teacher is willing to do, but hasn't thought of. Create an opportunity for them to explore this.

As I said, I've tackled similar situations a few times. The things that worked were mostly the odd outside the box ideas I had in moments of desperation, when contemplating a difficult situation. One was to have the parents of the 'bullying' child invite the 'bullied' child for a playdate, and make a point about treating the other child with love and respect. Another was to have a meeting with the parents of the three children who where involved in some bizarre friendship triangle. Just having everyone's perspective heard made a tremendous difference, and it deepened my understanding. Of course, all this was happening against a backdrop of not tolerating unkindness in any kind or form under any circumstances and working hard to foster an we're-in-this-together spirit in the classroom.

I'll leave you with this. At the beginning of my second year as a teacher, a new child arrived. Everyone like this child and yet they, without meaning to, always managed to leave someone out, someone who struggled with making friends and had had to work very hard to get the others to include them. I spent weeks of agonising over how one child was 'ruining' my 'nice' class. I felt awful about the child who was being left out, even though they were bringing it on themselves in some ways. I tried and tried to stop it all from happening -- and failed. Then I failed some more.

Eventually I worked out that I could look at this differently: this child wasn't necessarily ruining something good. They were providing an opportunity for the other children to learn to stand up for themselves and for their friends. And my perspective shifted from stopping what was happening, which was quite out of my reach, to supporting the other children in learning the lesson I wanted them to be learning. That wasn't easy, and it took a long time, but at least I wasn't banging my head against a brick wall, or deeming one of the children as less deserving of my love and compassion, any longer. Maybe you can do that too.
aHikaru's Avatar aHikaru 04:50 PM 01-28-2013

this is another reason why I waldorf homeschool... the reality is that situations like this will arise in an social setting for young children and you unfortunately have been put in a position where you have to deal with this without the help of the school. 

Buzzbuzz's Avatar Buzzbuzz 06:56 AM 01-29-2013

I'm going to have to take a slightly different view from the other posters here.


From your post, it does not appear that the teacher has a concrete way forward on addressing the outstanding issues. 


In addition, rather than arranging a situation where you, the other mother and the teacher could address concerns together, she shoved you off to handle raising your concerns with the other parent alone.  Rather than creating a situation where you are all working collaboratively, it sounds as if the teacher is leaving you out to swing alone.


To me, this indicates a clear lack of leadership from the teacher and the principal whose first responsibility it is to ensure the safety and well-being of your child and the other children in the class.  Without that leadership in the classroom, I believe there is no way forward -- nothing that you as a parent can do alone to "solve" the issue.   In light of that lack of leadership, I would be investigating other school options immediately.   While "these sort of things" may happen in other schools as well, there are schools that will actually take action to address and work to correct the issues at hand.


Further, in my experience, the average Waldorf school is NOT well equipped (or really equipped at all) to handle children with special needs.  Depending on your school, it may not have even the most basic toolkit to address these children's needs effectively.  This, together with the school's leadership issues, makes the chance of improvement bleak to my mind.

mama2honu's Avatar mama2honu 08:02 AM 01-29-2013

I really feel for you, mama.  Here are some thoughts . . .


A one-teacher classroom is not really adequate to simultaneously a) artistically and thoroughly deliver a curriculum to a class while b) dividing their attention in dealing with the outbursts from emotionally disturbed children or serving the specific needs of others with special needs who often times interrupt said lesson.  And yet, sadly, I believe those children especially would benefit from a Waldorf education. 


I am also noticing that therapists are recommending Waldorf education specifically to their clients as a sort of "therapy" in and of itself.  So you have parents who are not truly on board with the Waldorf philosophy signing their kiddos up in an effort to help them.  This presents a problem because those children introduce many themes into the classroom that parents who faithfully subscribe to the Waldorf philosophy wanted to protect their children from by sending them to a Waldorf school in the first place. 


All of this is compounded by small class size where often time Waldorf "purists" (for lack of a better term) are in the distinct minority at a Waldorf school.


What to do now?


Conflict-resolution is not a strength of Waldorf schools.  (You can read many a board to find that one out).  The teacher is commander-in-chief and often times there is no principal to resolve issues.  Solutions you might offer include asking the school to provide an aid.  But if money is short, suggest a weekly rotating SAHP volunteer to help out during Main Lesson and recess.  OR I have even heard of schools where kids in similar situations were only admitted if the parents agreed to send an "aid" along to help manage the child's needs, at their own expense.  


If all else fails, search for other schools or homeschool with a Waldorf curriculum.


Ultimately, you have to ask yourself, how much learning is going on, and what kind.  With my own child, First Grade was difficult.  He came home super-stressed and angry.  At first, I thought it was just the adjustment to grades, and I also wanted him to develop resilience, so I supported him the best I could.  Later, the stress of his classroom experience compounded, it didn't get better - it got worse.  He grew paler and weaker and it seemed as if his life-force was fading.  (Sounds dramatic when I write it, but that's the only way to describe it).  Ironically, my Waldorf child's needs were not being met in the Waldorf class.


We decided to pull him from school.  This was heartbreaking as I am such a supporter of the Waldorf curriculum, and there was some amount of grieving involved.  But, since being home, he got his sparkle back.  He is back to the boy I know.  Homeschooling is not easy since both my DH and I work, but it is a lot less stressful than watching your child sink.


Good luck, mama. 

Binx67's Avatar Binx67 01:26 PM 01-29-2013


jmarroq's Avatar jmarroq 09:42 PM 01-29-2013

I was a sensitive, happy, very friendly child. My grandmother lived with us, my aunt and uncle and cousin were a few houses down and my other grandparents were next door. More uncles and aunts and cousins were down the road. I remember going to bed feeling happy. We didn't have a lot of money, but we had lots of love and togetherness. It wasn't Waldorf, but it was a good childhood.


My parents worked a lot, and my sister was much older, so I was pretty much on my own after school. My "best" friend was a very mean little girl who was a bad influence, though I didn't realize it until I was an adult. We stayed together even when she was friends for a good 10 years. She even was physically abusive at times. I still turned out to be OK even with this bad influence being a huge part of my life. 


People are usually loyal to their family and learn right from wrong based on what they learn at home. As long as you give your daughter a solid foundation at home, she will be OK around people who aren't nice. She will not turn into them.


I noticed some things about my friend's family that makes me think perhaps that foundation wasn't there in her home. My friend and her mom would always gang up on one of her sisters. They were mean to her and as a result she would always cry and get angry and lash out at them. The mom would also say mean and inappropriate things about people (even her "best" friend) and my friend would repeat them. 


I understand your concern and I have felt the same exact way as a parent at times over the years. 


I have also been on the other side of the fence. My son had developmental delays. His behavior really deteriorated at one point, and we were actually asked to leave a pre-k...luckily he was accepted into the ESE pre-k program around the same time. He transitioned into a "typical" classroom the year before kindergarten, where his behavior kept improving. He was then accepted to a magnet school in kindergarten. He is now in 4th grade, getting good grades, and is well liked by his teachers and peers.


My sister told me that her girls always had one or two boys in each class that were a major problem. They would get physical at times and didn't play nice...and her girls were afraid of them. Looking back, there was a boy in my elementary school who was like that too. I never thought I would be the parent of "that boy". Those were some tough times for us. It really made me feel like a failure at times, and I worried about him so much.


I am curious as to how they handled the tooth knocking out incident. When my son was in kindergarten, I was called to the school because his friends were rough housing on the playground and he thought one of the boys was being hurt so he punched the "attacker" in the face, knocking out his first baby tooth :(. When the other boys were questioned, they said no one was getting hurt...even the kid who was on the bottom. They made my son out to be the only aggressor. There is a chance that my son misunderstood what was going on and was indeed the only aggressor, but I wonder to this day if he was a little hero instead. He was sent home for a three day suspension. The other parents never brought it up. Interestingly, their son has had another incident with fighting involving suspension. My son has since stayed out of trouble!

TCMoulton's Avatar TCMoulton 10:47 PM 01-29-2013
Originally Posted by Binx67 View Post

 that was until my own little one began to show signs of major stress as a result of what is classic bullying behavior--much of which has gone under the radar as this child is apparently skilled at whispers and being undetected.  i had to get involved and protect my child in spite of the fact that the other child would feel the impact in a negative way.  as i mentioned earlier, my priorities do not lie with that child's needs at this point after witnessing my child's self-flagellation, self-labeling as "stupid", "fat", "ugly" and saying "everyone hates me."  

How is this behavior you describe any different than you calling a young child a monster?
TCMoulton's Avatar TCMoulton 10:47 PM 01-29-2013
Buzzbuzz's Avatar Buzzbuzz 08:54 AM 01-30-2013

TCMoulton -- I feel that you are being unhelpful.  The OP has shown far, far more patience with the situation than I would -- my child would be out of the school at this point.  I experienced a toxic classroom for several years as a child and its effects should not be underestimated.


OP -- has the school provided any information about plans for addressing the issues? Is the teacher being effective about keeping your child and the other one separate?  Is the teacher willing to intervene with the other parent and make clear that she should not be addressing your child without your permission?

Binx67's Avatar Binx67 10:01 AM 01-30-2013


DimitraDaisy's Avatar DimitraDaisy 12:11 PM 01-30-2013
Originally Posted by Binx67 View Post

our teacher has told me that this child shows no empathy after harming my child and the other classmate, will not speak to any adults, does not participate in any of the singing, lessons, eurythmy, etc., but only stands limp and lifeless, staring at the floor.  i do believe that while waldorf can be a healing modality for some troubled children, there are also situations where a child needs professional intervention that simply transcends the toolkit waldorf teacher training provides its instructors.  this is a question for dimitradaisy:  how long does one wait until that is recognized?

That's a good question, and one that doesn't have a simple answer. I mean, I can't tell you "you wait two weeks" or "you wait three months" and be done with it. In my opinion it really depends on the context, and particularly on whether reasonable efforts are being made to help this child make progress. If the efforts are adequate, you could give it some more time, even ask yourself what it is that you could do to contribute to a good solution. If on the other hand you really think the situation is unlikely to change and there's little you can do about it, you may as well leave tomorrow.

What I can tell you with absolute certainty that if I had a child in my class who showed no empathy, did not speak to adults, did not participate in any activity and stood limp and lifeless staring at the floor, I would be very concerned, and looking for ways to make a difference for this child. This doesn't sound like an issue that will go away with the application of bit of love and understanding and the Waldorf curriculum. Indeed Waldorf teachers can be full of ungrounded optimism about what these things can do, which doesn't serve anybody.

Whether the school and this child's parents are doing enough to help this child is not something I can judge, obviously; and it isn't really something you can judge either, although of course you can form an opinion on it. This is precisely where a headteacher would come in handy. I completely agree with whoever said that leadership is a weakness in Waldorf schools. It is. Utterly. But in theory at least there must be somebody, or some group of people, doing the job of the headteacher in your school, and you should talk to them. (The teacher should talk to them too. I imagine he/she is in need of support as well.) You could help your school learn how to deal with this kind of situation -- and make a difference for your child, the other children in the class, and this child who is obviously suffering.

Finally, I think the other child's mother is completely out of line with approaching your child directly -- she should come to you. I suggest talking to her about it.
jazzharmony's Avatar jazzharmony 08:53 PM 01-30-2013
Originally Posted by Binx67 View Post


i understood using the word "monster" would be provocative, and hesitated to use it.  yet, even steiner himself used the word "demon" in describing some children born without an "I", knowing it would be unpopular.  you can read more here.

to answer your question, how is this different than the bullying i described?  as with most things, that depends on whom you ask.

thank you for your observation.

I must say that your link is truly disturbing. I could not stomach reading the entire article.
It explains why many believe anthroposophy is a cult.
It certainly does give a look into where you are coming from - not a place I share. I do, however, share the desire for my children to be in nurturing environments, free from bullying. I would recommend addressing it directly with the teacher and school administrators immediately and insist on bring presented with a clear strategy for protecting your daughter while at school. If they are unable to reassure you, I would leave the school.
Homeschooling should not be ruled out because of your perception that your child would lack socialization. On the contrary. She would have more opportunity for *healthy* socialization.
Good luck to you.
Linda on the move's Avatar Linda on the move 09:54 PM 01-30-2013

We recently pulled our two children out of a small private school (not Waldorf, but a progressive school) because of some similar issues. The school was becoming increasingly concentrated with special needs children and children with behavior disorders, but no one on the school staff had ANY training or expertise in working with children with these issues. Several children at the school have been seriously hurt, and while our kids hadn't been hurt yet, we felt foolish leaving them there.


There was no standard of behavior that was required of ALL students, and no discipline plan. Children who hurt others were seen as needing to be kept at the school so they could be "helped," though no one had a plan for helping them.


We are finding that the behavior required by children at public school is higher. We tired of paying for our children to be in school with the children who couldn't cut it at public school.


Taking special needs children and putting them into private schools with NO support for  them fails those students as well as the other students around them.


Our experience was that advocating for our children and going to the board did no good. Private schools can do whatever they want, and if parents don't like it, they can leave. That's the only real option.

Buzzbuzz's Avatar Buzzbuzz 03:25 PM 01-31-2013

"yet, even steiner himself used the word "demon" in describing some children born without an "I", knowing it would be unpopular."


One of the many reasons that I feel anyone who recommends Waldorf for special needs children has not adequately investigated the philosophy and how Waldorf schools work.

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