Sunday, July 17, 2011

Why Waldorf?

I have been away from the computer because I have been attending Waldof Education Workshops here in San Diego. They have been very intensive, enlightening and educational.

I could sit here and tell you why we chose Waldorf, why we believe it works and what inspired me to take this path to become a Waldorf teacher but instead I am going to tell you a story.

I have been teaching public high school for about fifteen years as a Special Education teacher. In the last eight years I have seen a rise in the number of students who have been placed on the Autism Spectrum. These students range from mild autism (aka Asperger Syndrome) to severe text book autism. To be honest, the public school systems have been ill-equipped to handle these unique students. Unlike other disabilities where there have been text books written on the education of these students; the text book for students on the Autism Spectrum is still being written. I personally believe that the focus has also been researching the cause and the universal "magic bullet" instead of focusing on how to educate these students. I felt as a teacher that I had failed many of these students and the current system seemed to only pass the buck onto the next teacher or educational institution. I searched in vain for a solution to meet the needs of these students. Many of these students are highly intelligent, gifted and focused but needed help understanding the crazy maze of our social structure. What has been available were designed for students with classic mental disabilities and seemed insulting to the autistic student.
This was the case during a parent/teacher meeting called an Individual Education Plan team meeting or classically called IEP team. I had a student arrive into my classroom with all the classic signs of autism. He was withdrawn, non-communicative, sensitive to sound, sudden movements and hated any sudden changes in routine. I don't think he knew my name and refused to leave his corner of the classroom. The Mom was not pleased with what was being offered at our school and was requesting more appropriate social structure education. She liked what I was offering in my classroom but wanted more, which I agreed with her. I later found that the school district agreed to let her send her son to a non-public school. Life went on and I took as many workshops, classes and read books on autism I could find. I was blessed with a forward thinking Speech Therapist who had the forward thinking of creating a social structure class that combined social skills and speech skills. These classes worked, but only if everyone bought into the program. Everyone means, other teachers, instructional assistants, psychologists, school staff and the students. We had some success and at least it was something more then what had been previously available.
Then the student returned. I didn't recognize him. He stood tall, his eyes were bright, and best of all he was talking. He even spoke my name. I know that sounds weird but for many students with autism personal relations is a difficult skill to master. He was able to attend outside classes with great success. He still maintained many of the quirky autistic qualities that make these students unique but he was finally out of his shell. In a meeting with his Mother I asked her what she did and what school did he attend. She cryptically said that he had been attending eurythmy therapy and eurythmy speech therapy while she home schooled him in the Waldorf method. What a dramatic and profound change! I had to learn more. What little I could glean off the internet and in books about eurythmy and holistic education I introduced into the classroom and incorporated them into the social skills class. I saw and witnessed huge improvements. It encouraged me to find and learn more about Waldorf and holistic education.
In a moment of pure frustration and needing a mental time out from the chaotic craziness of the classroom I happened to Google "Waldorf education." About this time I had become a Mother myself and was inspired to find a better form of education for my own children. I am blessed with a very patient and supportive husband. It was in this moment where I discovered the philosophies and biographies of Rudolf Steiner and his development of the Waldorf schools in Europe. Rudolf Steiner happened to have also educated a student with disabilities and had a special place in his heart for students with special needs. This student of his eventually went to college and became a doctor. Rudolf Steiner's approach to a more natural and holistic life and education really resonated with me and my husband. A time came spiritually, emotionally and professionally I took the leap of faith. I started my teacher training this last January here in San Diego.
To be honest I do still have my WTF moments. But, then I have moments, like recently, where I had the opportunity to watch from start to beginning an Eruythmy routine.The whole concept of Eurythmy finally made sense and I can see why it worked so well with that student.

Waldorf education is a life long learning experience and because it is life long there is no rush or time line to learn.

For more information check out:
Why Waldorf Works
Waldorf Education

Bless Bless

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