Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Your Class Teacher and You
One of the distinguishing elements of a Waldorf class is the continuity of the teacher. During the nursery-kindergarten years, a child may have the same teacher for three or four years. Once the child enters the grades, the child stays in a class with the same teacher for as many as eight years. Since school occupies nearly half of the child's waking life for most of the year, the relationship between the child and teacher, and subsequently between teacher and parents is profound. As with all important relationships, the sailing is not always smooth. The connection between the class teacher and the family requires careful nurturing on the part of all the participating adults.
Children begin life as a kind of sense organ. They take in everything in their environment including the moods, attitudes, emotions, and so forth of the living beings around them, particularly the people that are closest to them, their parents. This quality stays with children for a long time, growing milder as their own being becomes stronger, but still present, sometimes even into adulthood. Seeing their parents and teachers strengthening and nourishing their relationship helps the children love and trust their teacher, setting the stage for effective learning in the grade school years.
What can you do to help this process? An invaluable aid is the home visit. Teachers usually visit each child's home when they first take the class, usually in first grade. This doesn't need to be the only visit the teacher makes to your home. It can be very supportive to the relationships between teacher and child as well as teacher and parents if the home visit can become a yearly event. I have often experienced a strengthening in my relationship with one or another child following a home visit. The visit shows that the parents value the teacher, and that the teacher values and takes interest in the family.
The parent-teacher relationship is also strengthened through regular, direct communication with one another. The more parents can share their family values and child raising experiences and challenges with the teacher, and the more the teacher can share the events, activities, challenges and successes of the individual child as well as of the class with the parents, the stronger the bond becomes. It is especially when the parents and teacher can discuss the personal, developmental and social challenges faced in the classroom and home with sympathy, honesty and trust, that the greatest advancements are made by the child. Achieving a relationship that allows this level of communication requires dedication and work, but is rewarded by setting a social example for the children, as well as by the emergence of a friendship that can last well beyond the child's years in the teacher's class.