Parent and Teacher
November 27, 2005
I was reading this recently [a previous message] and feel that I would like to respond as I am also in the UK [United Kingdom] and have had quite a number of years connected to Waldorf. Originally I trained as a KG [kindergarten] teacher and also placed both my children in [a Waldorf] KG, truly believing it would be such a gift to them. I won't go into the details of our "fall from grace" as it were but it was extremely painful. I learned a salutary lesson particularly regarding believing people because they were nice!
The main reason I have chipped in though is to point out that Steiner Waldorf Schools in the UK do operate under the umbrella of and (used to) pay a subscription to The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, they are independent of government funding for the moment.
Teachers receive specific Steiner training (sometimes to degree level) but are not qualified to practice in mainstream education. My own KG training was completely inadequate as regards understanding and managing children in anything other than the Waldorf Way. I was separately qualified to work with children in another setting and when directly working in KG that is what I relied on.
It was the reality of the schools themselves (we tried two) that led to us leaving and our continuing disappointment in the way teachers taught and handled the children. Both schools continued to employ teachers who had been directly observed to physically assault children and yet parents would not complain to outside agencies. The families either just left or attempted to achieve resolution within the school. There was a real culture of avoiding anything negative getting outside the school and becoming known. We were even told in writing to be careful of what we said about the school! I believe the big fear was in becoming ostracised by the school community which many parents relied on for employment.
Anyway, as I don't know if this post will even work yet I will stop there. Maybe it seems odd but I still feel uncomfortable about "speaking out"!
Thanks for listening.
November 28, 2005
During my training it seemed to me that Waldorf was one big worldwide community. That was one of the things that I liked; this sense that right around the world there were people who cared so much about children that they were prepared to stand out from the crowd.
Because I was so passionately interested in a concept of a natural and unpressured childhood with myself as an Earth Mother growing our food, baking and crafting homemade toys and creating beauty all around for our children that I confess I took less notice of the Anthroposophy and more of the practicalities of creating a beautiful environment for children. Although in truth the course did focus more on that too.
It is still the biggest betrayal for me that I witnessed the children's protection being placed a poor second to the Anthroposophical ethos of the schools we attended. Even though neither of my children could even remotely read at 9 years old and still had not had any formal instruction in reading it is the disregard for their safety that most affects me. I had no guarantees that the Waldorf method of education would work but I had believed that the children would be safer in Waldorf than anywhere else. Sorting out the reading took just a few months of effective teaching but the emotional effects of the Waldorf years for all of us seem to linger on.
Only after leaving the second Steiner school did I turn back to my books to try to see where things went wrong. I thought at first that the teachers were not following Steiner and wanted to identify just what he had said. However, when I read his words I began to see how the teachers were able to justify themselves and their behaviour and how the schools themselves were rather closed off from the outside community. I am certainly not claiming that Steiner condoned child abuse but I could see how the teachers view of the karmic relationship with a child could lead to a struggle taking place and that struggle being viewed as okay .
A friend also reported a conversation she had had with a trainer of Waldorf teachers who stated that whatever the problems it was very important that the teacher and the child remained in that relationship. Seeing in my reading that the child had chosen their relationships and their experiences [i.e., these are the children's self-chosen karma] means that from the way I see it perhaps the school has little incentive to correct unhealthy relationships. Perhaps even believing that this could be harmful to their soul development. However, this does not really alter the fact that they do have a legal responsibility to protect children and here in the UK teachers are not allowed to shove, slap or kick children or have sexual relations with students. To my mind dealing with these things within the [Waldorf] school, if they are dealt with at all, is just not good enough.
Anyway, I am sorry for rambling on, as you can see the child safety aspects still bother me! The Labour government is going to pilot a state-funded SteinerWaldorf school here so I really hope that there will be the kind of supervision from outside that could prevent quite so much being "swept under the carpet". Better still, not taking place at all!