Published January 14, 2008 by Rick Biche
When my wife and I first looked into a Waldorf school for our son I came home thinking, “ah, no.” Everything seemed fine really. The staff were very caring, the facility adequate, the other children, some of whom we knew were happy and prospering. So what was the turn off? Well, there were some pedagogical things that didn’t seat quite right, but when they said, no technology, not until high school, well that was that.
So why is it that now, just over four months after my son starting pre-school am I so happy with the decision to go to Waldorf at this time? Surprisingly my approval of the methods I have learned about stems directly from my observations of technology in the classroom, and the changes in society brought about by the read/write web. This isn’t a negative rant against the social networking youth but a realization that the skills built by a Waldorf education are among those that are fueling the changing nature of society.
As the web expands to house a greater and greater market share of the worlds media, the importance of visual representation in ballooning. I don’t know that the days of the logical/sequential learner are over, but certainly the future will value these visual thinkers to a high degree. And I don’t think it will be just the marketing world that will be after these visual thinkers, the fields of science, engineering and medicine will create many opportunities to put visual skills to use. Waldorf spends a great deal of time cultivating the visual artist, interweaving visual thought into all subjects. Impressive is the degree of mathematical reasoning demonstrated by these visual thinkers.
Networks of people are forming at unprecedented rates. In fact, I just joined another new one today. Social networks, blogging, forums, live streaming, video sharing, podcasts, all of these are social tools currently being leveraged or at least explored by educators. There is a call for collaborative skills to be developed in today’s students, for a global perspective to be developed in students. While there are definitely skills that apply to interacting effectively with others online, the root skills are the skills we learn as children, interacting with others at school, the playground, home and in other social arenas. School is largely an asocial atmosphere where students are often working in isolation. Teachers too work isolated, so clearly there is little modeling going on. There is a focus on the development of the inter and intra-personal skills necessary to develop true collaborative skills in Waldorf. Waldorf strips the environment of much of the trappings of our modern society. In so doing much of the play that is the work of a Waldorf student must come from the individual kid. This brings the focus to the interaction between kids, without it they would just be sitting there.
The combination of the approach to socialization and artistic expression really drives a great deal of creativity, a resource often undeveloped in many public schools. The ability to be able to create will be a significant skill for todays young students.
I read somewhere recently a prediction that the current generation going through school now will be the one to change the way everything is done, through the connections of technology and that the next generation will then seek the balance of life that will often be lost on their predecessors. Through the close attention to development of children Waldorf seems to have this covered as well. Balance is always emphasized, balance in the day, in activities and in life. And aside from the benefits to ones health as a result of being happy, well balanced individuals just seem more interesting. This can only help them in a networked world where rapid change is the only constant.
So for now, for preschool, I am enjoying the ideas I am hearing from the Waldorf teachers. I don’t buy everything, at least not in the way I hear it explained, but there is definitely something to much of what they are doing. To my eyes, they already have in place many of the prerequisites batted about amongst many in the edublogosphere.
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