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Distance Learning Gifts & Challenges

Where is the book in which the teacher can read about what teaching is? The children themselves are this book. We should not learn to teach out of any book other than the one lying open before us and consisting of the children themselves.”

Rudolf Steiner

As teachers getting to know our students, their interests, their strengths, and areas for growth, can be one of the most effective tools we have for education. It can be a wondrous gift and a great challenge all at the same time.

I began my career as a public school teacher. I taught 1st grade and 3rd grade for many years. During those years it was my highest goal to truly know each one of my dear unique students. I had about 28 children per year and I took the time to get to know each of them. What are their interests, their temperament, their likes and dislikes, their home life? How do they learn? What are their strengths? Where do they need to stretch and grow?

Then I “discovered” Waldorf education. I was immediately drawn to the handwork program and I knew this was the next step in my path as an educator. I suddenly went from having 28 students to upwards of 200 students. At first this was a daunting task. But my goal remained the same. I wanted to truly know each of my students as individual children on their own unique journey. For special subject teachers this is both a challenge and one of the greatest joys of teaching through all the grades. It took time, but it is such a treasured gift to be able to watch these beautiful children grow from 1st grade to 8th grade and beyond.

Now here we are in Covid times, the plot thickens and the twists multiply. Distance learning has become the norm for many of us this year. I now find myself teaching online. We have many new students in every grade who are new to our school and new to Waldorf education. But my goal remains the same. How do we really establish a relationship with our new students in this online format? My instincts tell me it is more important than ever to slow down our projects, take the time to check in and create space for casual conversation between students who need time to socialize and share.

Yes, it has been difficult. And our handwork projects are moving at a slower pace than we normally would. But on the bright side, there are some hidden blessings. Being online allows us as teachers to have a rare window into the home life of the children. Is it calm and quiet or sibling chaos? Is there support nearby or is the child working independently? Do they arrive for class alert and ready to work, or soft and cozy with blankets, pillows, and snacks? The temperament of the child and the inner life of the home shine through. This window offers many opportunities to see the child’s true interests and opens the door for great conversations. Handwork can be a welcome respite from the business of family life or the stacks of homework in main lesson. It’s a time to slow down, breathe deep, and be together.

In our February handwork conference we have amazing guest teachers who will be sharing new ways to see and understand our students on a deeper level. How do we recognize their needs? How do we meet them? As teachers we know that we must first truly know our students so we can discover what unique needs they hold and how we can best help them. For this true interest in the child is the best way to show our love.

Join us for our online February handwork conference to learn more!

“Receive the children in reverence, educate them in love, and send them forth in freedom”.

Rudolf Steiner

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