Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why We Left Public School-Understanding a Child's Temperament

"Viking Mom. I really need to stay on Viking Monkey Boy to keep him focused."
"Viking Mom, if only Viking Monkey Boy would focus."
"Viking Mom, I am going to suggest that Viking Monkey Boy start with Title I Corrective Reading because he struggles with fluency and attention."
"Viking Mom, could you please have your seven year old son evaluated for attention deficient."

Raise your hand if you have heard this before with your own child? Or heard other parents complain of the same conversation. Why do teachers immediately jump on the "Lack of Attention Bandwagon?" We all know they are alluding to the dreaded "ADD or ADHD" road.

Viking Dad and I have made the difficult decision to take the Viking Children out of Public School and send them to a Waldorf School. We did not make this decision lightly.
On May 10th I wrote about the Common Core Curriculum which you can read about it here.
On May 29th I started this series to explain why we decided to leave Public School. I wrote about the need for children to breath and sleep. You can read it here.

One of the most important elements in Waldorf Education is the teacher's understanding of the students individual temperaments. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Education, wanted the first Waldorf teachers to understand the temperaments and how to apply this understanding for the benefits of their students. In his lecture that can be found his book Discussions with Teachers Steiner wanted the teachers to really understand this concept and lectured extensively on the subject.

The idea behind understanding the temperaments is not new to Waldorf Education or to Rudolf Steiner. References to the temperaments can be dates as far back to the Greek physician Hippocrates. Hippocrates wrote about the Four Humors which were yellow bile, black bile, blood and phlegm which now are connected to the four temperaments.

In the Waldorf classroom the teacher discovers through intuition, perception and teacher observations a child's temperament and then uses this information to work with this child. Instead of forcing the child to conform to some social norm it is the teacher who recognizes and teaches to the individuality and soul of the child. WOW!!  They recognize that the child is a spiritual being and not an automaton.

In a Waldorf School, the role of the temperaments applies most appropriately to the grade school child. High school teachers have a different paradigm for understanding their students, as do the preschool teachers. But in the second phase of childhood, from grade one until the end of middle school, a student’s temperament becomes apparent and important. Steiner hoped that the temperaments would help teachers better understand their students by providing a window into the hidden inner world of the child.

So, what are the Four Temperaments?

CHOLERIC: (colors:  black, reds).  Cholerics are associated with fire, summer and a predominance of “I” for an adult… (in a child, the astral body is said to predominate in this temperament). They are strong people who “DO” – the leaders of our times.  Choleric do not lack confidence and are often fearless and ready to lead.  They are great supporters of fairness, yet they can be hard on things—particularly shoes and clothing—and yes, on people. They tend to walk with a heavy foot and seem to take up more personal space than some of the other children, which can quickly make a room feel small. The cholerics have an intensity similar to the color red and they can burn with the heat of high summer. Some Waldorf teachers feel less of these cholerics are coming to us as we see less leaders and people wanting to step forth and lead during our times, as opposed to times such as World War II. 

Choleric are  fast, fiery, strong-willed and quick-tempered individuals are also very fair and associated with the mathematical process of division.  They can have great warmth and can be exceptional leaders.  They are also very hard workers and are very goal-oriented.
From a physical standpoint, cholerics can be short-statured, with shorter necks. They also  can be associated with  having health problems involving the heart.
"those with a short stout build so that the head almost sinks down into the body are choleric"
The challenges of an individual with a choleric temperament includes being bossy or stubborn, quick-tempered and then regretful afterwards, not listening to others well.
“I tell thee, Kate…
I expressly am forbid to touch it;
For it engenders choler, planteth anger,
And ‘twere better that both of us did fast,
Since of ourselves, ourselves are choleric.”— The Taming of the Shrew

SANGUINE:  (colors: yellows, the rainbow!)  Sanguines are associated with spring, air, sweetness, and a predominance of the astral body for the adult (for children, the etheric body predominates). These are your social butterflies that drive a classroom teacher bonkers. They are also the ones that are often accused of having Attention Deficit Disorder.  They are full of life, they have lots of ideas, they are the social glue of a classroom,  the social  movers and the shakers  of society. The sanguine child is interested in their classmates.  They notice everything, they respond to everything and move quickly from one thing to another, however having them remember their homework or their jacket becomes challenging.  They are personable, light-hearted, spring, breezy and carefree people. They are that ray of sunshine or fluttering butterfly. Sanguines are often associated with the mathematical process of addition. Viking Lady Bug and surprisingly Viking Dad are Sanguines. Yes, the universe is laughing at me. 
Physically, they are often have balanced, graceful body types and are beautiful or handsome.   They can be drawn to smoking, and have health problems associated with the lungs.
"the sanguine are the most normal"
The challenges of an individual with a sanguine temperament includes starting many projects but not finishing, being prone to social pressures, possibly one could see a teenager with this temperament being predominate that they would seek out inappropriate things in adolescence in order to ground them.  They can also be seen as shallow, superficial and fickle.
PHLEGMATIC:  (colors: greens and blues) Phlegmatics are associated with winter and water and a predominance of the etheric body (in children, the physical body predominates).  Phlegmatics are slow, steady people who love their physical comforts, order, repetition.  They have a hard time starting things, but once they get started, they become engaged and will stick with a project until it is completed.  They tend to be loyal, patient, dependable.  They can be deep thinkers that come up with great ideas. These are those quiet students in the back of the room that become every teacher's favorite because they "good" and "easy' children. Phlegmatic children are the most consistent and help keep a balance in the classroom. The Phlegmatic child likes their world predictable and they do not like to be pressured or rushed. Viking Monkey Boy is my phlegmatic child. I have yet to find any confirmation but I strongly believe they have their own concept of time. 
 Physically, there is often a softness to how a person with a predominantly phlegmatic temperament looks.  They tend toward obesity.  They can be prone to such health problems as gout and problems associated with the lymphatic system. 
"those with more protruding shoulders are the phlegmatic children"
The challenge of this temperament is to interest them in something besides comfort and food.   They can be rather lazy – or are they just taking it all in and thinking deeply?  Transitions can be a problem, for once they are started and caught up in something, they do not want to stop.  But most of all, the  phlegmatic individual can have a temper!  A temper that makes a choleric look like a kitten.  People who have a predominantly phlegmatic temperament are very patient indeed, but once they are angry – look out, because it all explodes.
MELANCHOLIC: (colors:  indigo, purples, violets)  Melancholics are associated with the fall and earth, along with the mathematical process of subtraction.  They have a predominant physical body, although in children one sees a predominance of the “I”.  A melancholic person is introspective, thoughtful.  They tend to be insightful people and take everything to heart and are often sad or despondent.  They can have a great capacity for sympathy and tend to be perceptive about other people’s pain.  They typically can articulate their thoughts and feelings well and learn quickly. The Melancholic child has a great memory for facts and details, particularly in stories, and often write long, informative compositions. The Melancholic child will also hold onto any infractions that were put against them, almost at grudge level. The Melancholic child is very observant and reflective. Blisters, cuts, colds, bruises and sore throats will burden them deeply and can become distractions. 
Physically, a melancholic is often tall and thin and can be prone to rheumatism and arthritis.  Due to their sensitivity, they often make good workers in the health care field.
The melancholic children are as a rule tall and slender"

The challenge of the melancholic is that they can become self-absorbed and feel their problems are like those that no one else in the world  has ever experienced.  They also can get lost in details and lose the big picture.  They can be prone to perfectionism.

The four temperaments provide teachers an insight about a student's behavior that is normally overlooked in the public schools. In the public schools all the children are expected to conform to a strict set of guidelines and as we all know if a child doesn't conform then corrective measures are started.

Over the years, as Special Education teacher, I have had students enter my program that intellectually are very smart and cognitively on par with their peers, but were placed in my classroom because they couldn't "keep up." I discovered that many of these students had temperaments that conflicted with the flow of the teachers classroom or the teacher's own personality. A Waldorf teacher has many years of experiences working with students and their temperaments. It is part of their approach to teaching in the Waldorf classroom. 

Understanding the temperaments of the Viking Children and respecting them as a spiritual being are very important to us and this is one of the reasons we decided to leave Public School.

Bless Bless
Viking Mom

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