Waldorf Doubter's Thread - Page 3 - Mothering Forums
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Waldorf > Waldorf Doubter's Thread
happygardener's Avatar happygardener 08:18 PM 08-19-2002
[QUOTE]Originally posted by momofgurlz
Your question about left-brain, right-brain development and neurology are not of interest to Waldorf teachers, who are looking at where the child is *spiritually*. A good example of this is evident in the way Waldorf teachers handle/react to children who are left handed. Left handedness is considered, in Waldorf, to be a sign that the child had a very tough past life ... that he or she may have been a manual laborer. Left handedness is viewed as something that MUST be changed, in order to alter the negative karma that the child carries with him or her. That is why Waldorf schools are probably the only schools in the developed world who insist that left handed children write with their right hands! (How that effects the children is an interesting neurological question.)

As a person participating in Waldorf teacher training, I thought I would jump in with another perspective. I am not an expert or guru of any kind, just sharing personal experience.

At a recent summer intensive, many of the experienced classroom and kindergarten teachers who were teaching the intensive (teachers from the US, Europe, and Brazil) reiterated over and over that it was important that we avoid mindlessly devouring all that we were given, especially about anthroposophy. We were encouraged to do our own soul searching, research, and come to our own understanding of things.

As a former staunch and extremely vocal Waldorf critic, I really appreciated this. So far I have not heard anything about the necessity of "changing" left-handed children to become right-handed--and if I do I will re-post about it!

Cheers, Leann

lorrielink's Avatar lorrielink 08:49 PM 08-19-2002
i would just have to comment on bad karma-manual labor. since when is manual labor a "bad" thing. are they saying that all farmers in a previous life where bad people?
happygardener's Avatar happygardener 02:54 AM 08-20-2002
Originally posted by fionnsmom
i would just have to comment on bad karma-manual labor. since when is manual labor a "bad" thing. are they saying that all farmers in a previous life where bad people?
I think this is kind of an unusual interpretation of left-handedness--in part because farmers, carpenters, etc. are spoken of well in Waldorf education, as well as manual arts ranging from handwork to gardening to carpentry being included in the curriculum. Participation in work with the hands is seen as beneficial for a number of reasons, educational, spiritual--as well as learning the value of the things we encounter in life, such as the food on our plate (someone grew it--how much work does it take to grow a vegetable, to dig a plot, plant and tend seeds, weed, harvest?) and the table the plate is sitting on (someone had to cut the wood, saw it into planks, put it together, sand it, finish it).

One thought I have is that perhaps the statement about left-handedness indicating manual labor in a past life might not be accurate. Many people say things they think Steiner said, sometimes they even publish it. Sometimes they just repeat what others have said they have heard or read.

Anyway, just my 2 cents!

Leann, who trained as an auto mechanic and loves digging in the dirt!
lorrielink's Avatar lorrielink 04:16 AM 08-20-2002
i think im just going to put down the whole bad karma connected to manual labor thing down to someones misinformation. im certainly glad thats not a common thing with the waldorf way.

i like all the things you said about appreciating food, where it comes from and the whole process. this is something ive lived by for several years. not because of some spiritual revelation or nething like that. but by living very close to nature and knowing people who think like that as a normal way of life, not something they had to work at in the first place KWIM? it seems very parralell with cultures that have never been industrialized in the first place. very interesting, thank you.
TraceyMc's Avatar TraceyMc 09:23 AM 08-20-2002
I just spoke to dd's waldorf teacher about the the left hand thing, because my dd is left handed. She said no one on our school would try to make her right handed and she had never heard of the manual labor thing either. I hope it is something someone made up because it kind of goes against the whole waldorf theory of working with the hands doesn't it? Wouldn't that be bad karma for the whole thing??:

happygardener's Avatar happygardener 11:29 AM 08-20-2002
Just so folks know, I am still very much a questioning mind about stuff I am receiving in my teacher training. I think it's good that all parents are--and each family in the light of their own circumstances makes the decisions that works best for them.

Glad you all are so open!

I Believe in Fairies's Avatar I Believe in Fairies 03:31 AM 08-24-2002
I was left handed when I entered *public* school in 1977 when I was four. My kindergarden teacher would smack me, belittle me, and even slapped me for using my left hand. She's now the principle of the elementary *public* school in the town I was raised in.

My Great-Grandmother strapped my Mom's left arm to her body to make her use "the correct arm". MInd you, this woman had been a teacher in one room school houses across the midwest at the turn of the last century. She was greatly in favor of birth control, women's liberation, and extended breast feeding. She was one of the founding members of Planned Parenthood in the SF Bay Area.

Left-Handedness was considered a sign of Satan during the Witch Hunts. That stupidity arose because the bible says that when Jesus went to Heaven He sat on the *right* hand side of God. Christian mythology then said that Lucifer has sat on the left hand.

One of the many, many reasons I would not have made it out of the Burning Times alive.
oyemicanto's Avatar oyemicanto 11:51 PM 02-11-2005
Wah! I just don't know what to do. Waldorf really seems like the best option for sending my 3 year old daughter. We attend a playgroup at a Waldorf school now and it seems to really suit her. I am concerned about what happens when she gets to the upper grades, that seems to be where it falls apart for a lot of people.

I would just like to say that I am a former public schools teacher, now a SAHM and some of the things I saw and experienced would stand your hair on end! I'll just comment on some of the highlights:

1. Teachers screaming at students in the hallways - pressing them up against lockers and humiliating them in front of their peers.

2. Students writing "I will not talk in class" 500 times as a punishment.

3. Girls smoking and performing oral sex on boys in the bathroom.

4. Students swearing at teachers.

5. Lack of textbooks and basic supplies such as paper.

6. Students being stuffed into lockers and otherwise physically and emotionally abused by other students - and the teachers and administration doing nothing about it.

7. Students labelled stupid, unmanagable, freaky, lazy, et cetera and talked about in hateful ways by their teachers.

There is no utopia, but believe me, my children will never set foot in a public school classroom.
Deborah's Avatar Deborah 12:23 AM 02-12-2005
Dear CGmom,

There are those who have had terrible waldorf experiences and there are those who have had wonderful waldorf experiences and there is everything in between.

My experiences were pretty good. I had an aunt who was a waldorf handwork teacher and she slipped little bits of waldorf stuff into our lives, like giving us a complete Grimm's fairy tales (I loved them, including the gruesome bits) and teaching two of us how to knit. When I was 14 I started at a waldorf school in 8th grade. Some of it was mediocre and some of it was outstanding. I had been very miserable in public school (even in the 60's it could be quite nasty with bullying and pathetically bad teaching) and the waldorf school was an improvement. The best part, for me, was the interconnectedness. Rather than heaps of isolated facts the teachers built networks of ideas. It wasn't so much the particular sets of ideas as the demonstration of how things interconnect. Too much of education ends up being: memorize and regurgitate. Not actually a set of skills you need in the real world. I can honestly say that I started to understand how real thinking works during my two years in the waldorf school.

Fast forward a few years and I have a daughter in the same school. She started at age 3. She enjoyed her dreamy years in nursery school and kindergarten, she loved her elementary school years and did some beautiful work. She became an enthusiastic reader and laid a good foundation in math, history, etc.

Then we moved way out into the country and she tried public school. It wasn't a particulary awful school, but she hated the style of teaching: the same isolated bits of information approach, plus she was being compared to other students rather than being measured against her own capacities. Homeschooling for 2 years and then 3 years in a waldorf high school. Two and a half years of interesting experiences and then she moved on to college. Completed an engineering degree. Her older daughter is going to a waldorf school and her 18 month old son is in her waldorf style day care.

My daughter and I have a similar sort of intelligence, but my education diminished my capacities and hers developed them. The only area where I can outstrip her is history, where I have a sort of natural ability. She is far ahead of me in art, music, math, science and mothering.

All that said, whatever school you look at needs to be carefully scrutinized. Meet and talk to the teacher, look over the classroom, talk to some parents who have children in the school, look at the school's finances and governance.

Personally, I think that the majority of the big picture criticism I've seen of waldorf education is resting on a weak base of information, but the individual stories of bad experiences are true (I've seen people have bad experiences myself). It is the interpretation and explanation I disagree with, not the anecdotes.

Good waldorf schools can provide a superb education, bad schools or incompetent teachers can do some serious damage.

Good luck figuring it all out.

PS feel free to PM me with particular questions if there is anything you'd like to discuss off the board.
oyemicanto's Avatar oyemicanto 08:43 PM 02-12-2005
THank you Deborah! I agree with you that there is good and bad everywhere. We are not all looking for the same thing for our children - many moms I know think I am bizarre that I don't "allow" my daughter to watch Disney movies and play with Barbies (she has never asked for either), and there are some crunchy moms who think I am too mainstream for vaccinating my children. Informed decisions are key, I think.

Some of the objections raised to Waldorf education by some on this board are to things that I don't personally find objectionable. For example, learning foreign language through songs and poems before learning the grammar (absolutely the BEST way to learn a F.L. imo, in fact many mainstream schools use a method called TPR to teach languages), delaying the teaching of reading, students copying what their teachers have written on the blackboard (common practice in most schools), and desks lined up instead of in groups. Having desks in groups does not automatically mean cooperative learning is taking place, many times it means the opposite.

The things that concern me that I will definitely be looking into include the approach to mediating student relationships (bullying specifically) - a hands off approach is definitely not okay with me, and competency of the teachers. I am puzzled how one person can be adequately trained in all of the subject areas they are required to teach in their 8 year journey with one class. Anyone who can shed light on that for me would be helping me out a great deal.

anyway, just a few random thoughts of mine...
Deborah's Avatar Deborah 12:17 AM 02-13-2005
Originally Posted by cgmom

The things that concern me that I will definitely be looking into include the approach to mediating student relationships (bullying specifically) - a hands off approach is definitely not okay with me, and competency of the teachers. I am puzzled how one person can be adequately trained in all of the subject areas they are required to teach in their 8 year journey with one class. Anyone who can shed light on that for me would be helping me out a great deal.

anyway, just a few random thoughts of mine...
On the mediating student relationships, I'm no expert. So I'll make a wild guess based on things I've heard from teachers and my own observations while working at a waldorf school. I think the idea is that teachers need to try to find a balance between trying to prevent all problems between children by intervening in all instances of conflict and standing back so far that children injure and intimidate each other. Children won't learn how to deal with conflict if they never experience it and they also won't learn to deal with conflict if they are seriously injured, frightened and overwhelmed by it.

Outright bullying is another whole problem. The school I worked at didn't seem to have much in the way of a problem with this: I never heard any complaints from children or parents, nor did I ever see any signs of children hassling each other. I did my playground duty a couple times a week, plus traffic duty in the morning once a week, so I did have a fair number of opportunities to observe. I also attended the large faculty meeting and the elementary level faculty meeting. The chronic behavioral problem in the level meeting was the boys flooding their restroom, something they seemed to find amusing. We finally got it under control by having the women teachers knock, announce that a woman teacher was coming in soon, and then entering (not enough male staff was the real problem ). The random invasions made it too nervewracking for the boys to keep stuffing the toilets.

On the 8 year subject excursion: not all teachers make it through the 8 years, for one thing. For another, most teachers prepare year by year. They will ask other teachers for ideas. They will take summer intensive courses on the upcoming curriculum. They will travel. They will research. The curriculum is challenging, but for the grade school material the teachers don't have to be deep academic experts, they just need to be able to present the material in a lively and fairly real way.

My daughter's teacher did very well until she hit the upper grades and started trying to teach science classes. At this point she asked one of the experienced teachers to go through a couple of the science blocks with her. He acted as lead teacher and she functioned as assistant teacher. By the time they finished she had a pretty good idea of what sort of prep she needed to do, what source materials to draw on, what equipment she needed and so forth.

At the other end: in 9th grade I was fortunate to have Hermann von Barravalle teaching conic sections. He was one of the teachers from the first waldorf school in Stuttgart who had fled from the Nazi takeover of Austria and ended up in the U.S. Although he had taught this subject innumerable times and had literally written the book on how it should be taught in waldorf schools, he still carefully prepared a fresh set of geometric constructions for each morning's class. Then he built the form on the blackboard, step-by-step, with the class following along building their own forms at their desk. It was an experience of the beauty and order and dynamism that exists in geometry that I can still remember with warmth and excitement 40 years later. He adored parabolas! Hyperbolas and ellipses certainly had their delights, but parabolas were something extraordinarily special.

In the second half of tenth grade, back in public school, I encountered a one page description of the conic sections in my geometry textbook. Dead boring. A diagram of a chopped up cone and a few formulas.

I think I've digressed all over the landscape, sorry!
oyemicanto's Avatar oyemicanto 12:28 AM 02-13-2005
Wow! Thank you for such a thoughtful response, Nana. I truly appreciate it. I agree with you that children sometimes need to work some things out for themselves, and sometimes they need adult guidance and/or intervention. What has made me nervous is some of the posts where people said Waldorf teachers believe so much in "karma" that they won't intervene at all to the point where students are emotionally and physically being harmed. I don't know if this is true or not.

And thanks for the info on the teaching thing!
Rhonwyn's Avatar Rhonwyn 01:38 PM 02-13-2005
Bullying is something that many Waldorf schools are working on eliminating or reducing. A man by the name of Kim Payne has had workshops and lectures on bullying or as he calls is, social inclusion. We have had him come to our school and all of the teachers have attended his workshop as have some of the parents.

I think in the past, teachers relied more on the karma thing and kids working it out just as public school teachers used to often say 'Kids will be kids.' or 'Boys will be boys.' and then turn their backs on the bullying going on around them. Waldorf schools, like society at large, has realized that bullying is a problem and not acceptable.

In my children's school, the teachers assist the children in resolving their disagreements. The teachers try to prevent bullying and address it when they see it. The children will be a class together for 8 years so they must work out their differences and respect each other if they can't like each other.

Hope this helps.
canndw's Avatar canndw 06:59 PM 02-13-2005
Originally Posted by cgmom
I am puzzled how one person can be adequately trained in all of the subject areas they are required to teach in their 8 year journey with one class.
Frankly, nobody is adequately trained in advance, and that's by design. The teachers are to re-invent the curriculum for themselves every year.

At one school (in Boulder), incoming first grade teachers are not necessarily expected to carry their classes for eight years; there is a re-assessment in fifth grade.

Our school has, for the first time in six graduating classes, a teacher who carried her class from grades one through eight this year. Before this class, she taught grades seven and eight for another class, and she would be the first to tell you that the hardest grades for this latest class were 7 and 8 -- the ones in which she had had previous experience as a waldorf teacher.
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