On the weekend of November 4th and 5th, many of the HWS faculty attended the Waldorf Conference on "Solving the Riddle of the Child", held online and in person at the Toronto Waldorf School.
Christof Wiechert presented two keynote presentations, one on Friday evening and another on Saturday morning, on aspects of education goals in general, and in particular, of Waldorf education. The main event of the conference on Saturday were two child studies from local Waldorf schools, where Baghael Kaur, HWS Class 2 teacher, presented one of the children in her class. Baghael presented the description of the student from a physical, social, and learning perspective. Christof Wiechert then guided a collaborative discussion, leading the participants on how to work through the details provided to gain insights into how the education and curriculum tools can be put into action to help us with any challenges. This process was repeated with the second child from a different school.
There were so many insights, learnings, and takeaways that all the participants gained from the entire conference, that go beyond the child study. It was an inspirational weekend into reenergizing forces for renewal in ourselves as educators.
We are happy to share some of our Faculty's reflections and takeaways from the conference below.
By Rihana Rutledge, Early Childhood Faculty Chair and Art Therapist
Christof Weichert delivered an intense two-day workshop on Child Study with humour and hearty laughter.
It is an inquiry into how children in a Waldorf classroom, can integrate their learning experience with higher functions of soul and spirit, together with physical and life functions.
These polarities, when they meet harmoniously in the child, can help them achieve a sense of inner balance and develop social capacities. Key steps to understanding ‘why we do what?’ inform us of the neuroscience behind the pedagogy that helps children integrate their learning experiences into their whole being. For example, he asked, “why do we knit in grade one?” for which he answered, “it is good for the children’s brain development, fine motor skills, activating their thinking and mathematical intelligence.”
Christof emphasized the importance of rhythm in the child’s first three years of life that continues in the Early Childhood classrooms. Rhythm supports the child achieving this sense of balance in polarities, later leading to executive functioning in the grades. Should a child be out of balance, using observation skills aligned with the understanding of Waldorf pedagogy, and the teachers working on their own inner development, can be the trajectory to meet each child's growing needs. This process best supports the art of Child Study, gaining insight and understanding into who the child is becoming.
With parents' support in the process, Child Study is presented to the faculty for observation based on the child’s history. Questions arise from the presentation that can bring an understanding and consciousness from the wisdom of the group. This then leads to building an image of the child that lives in the whole group, then illuminating how teachers could best assist the child to find inner harmony and balance.
The relational connection between teachers, children, and parents, supports community in the classroom. So when a child is experiencing discomfort, the nature is not to centre out the behaviour, however, to find ways to support a child through their discomfort.
By Judi Remigio, Parent and Child Teacher
Along with many Waldorf colleagues, we attended a conference this weekend on the topic of The Art of the Child Study, a process that Rudolf Steiner provided for teachers who are working to gain insights into the nature of children in their classes. Among the many anecdotes and insights that Christof Wiechert brought, was this most poignant point that spoke to our role as parents and teachers with children from birth to age three. Christof paraphrased Steiner (from one of Steiner's books, The Study of Man), "education means that we balance the soul-spirit with the physical-etheric (balance the 'higher' with the 'lower' polarities). Integration is the essence of education. When we are integrated, integrity can happen. The better this integration, the better the social. Social incapacities always signal a hidden disturbance."
And here's the most important part: "integration happens in birth to two to three years old, (for a child) living in a strict rhythm."