Thursday, April 1, 2010
Understanding Waldorf School Structure: Part I
What Does "A Faculty Run School" Mean?
There is often a lot of confusion surrounding the structure of Waldorf schools, and first among the many items creating this confusion is the term "faculty run". In simplified form, this refers to the idea of the faculty being involved in all aspects of the school. It is an important concept. Rudolf Steiner wanted the teachers to involve themselves in the administration of the school as well as in the classroom work. He hoped in this way to keep the teachers grounded in the life of the world outside the sphere of pedagogy and philosophy. He wanted the teachers to work together to create the policies as well as the curriculum of the school. Because of this, it is unusual to find a classic pyramidal structure with a superintendent, principal, etc. managing a faculty that in turn manages the children. How, then, is the structure of Waldorf schools to be understood?
There are a number of visual diagrams representing a typical Waldorf school structure, ranging from a sort of venn diagram of interlocking circles to a three-pillared temple. In general, though, they show the same basic thing: three "governing" bodies working cooperatively and helped by professional administrative staff. Today I want to talk about the faculty's role as governing body of the school.
The faculty's primary role is, of course, pedagogical. The teachers meet regularly to discuss the curriculum, the classes and the children. Theirs is the oversight over the learning as well as the social life of the children. They therefore also set the policies for discipline, dress code and the like for the children, as well as for themselves. They agree to the calendar, the rhythms of the day, week and year, and the festivals to be celebrated. They are responsible for the beauty and cleanliness of the classrooms and other school spaces, and for the presence of appropriate equipment and supplies, both indoors and out. Parent education and communication are also the responsibility of the faculty. Working with administrators and communicating with, and participating in the other committees of the school, including the two other "governing bodies" (board and parent group) is essential to the work of a Waldorf faculty. In designating a Waldorf school as "faculty run", the faculty's role as the body having oversight over the affairs of the school is affirmed.
It is understood, however, that the faculty is not able to do all things and have all the skills essential to the successful operation of the school. They need - and seek - help from the school parents and the community at large. The primary source of help comes from the other two "governing bodies", the advisory board and the parent group. I will talk more about the role of the board in the next post, and about the parent group in the third section. I invite you to help flesh out this overview on school structure in the comments. Waldorf schools can be as varying as the people that inhabit them, and the towns in which they are located. It is precisely this variation that keeps the structure living, growing and changing.