Hands-On Experience Is Not Just for Students
A cornerstone of Waldorf education is the belief that students learn well by doing — not just by listening to an expert lecturer or reading a textbook. The benefits of this style of learning aren’t limited to school-age children, though, and indeed extend to include those with an inclination to become Waldorf classroom teachers. High Mowing School’s Teacher Apprentice Program does just this.
"Sometimes people who are interested in becoming a Waldorf teacher go through extensive training only to find themselves in a classroom a few years later and discover it’s not what they thought," says HMS Teacher Apprentice Program Director Robert Sim.
To offer more experience earlier in the teacher accreditation process or for people who don’t have teaching experience, High Mowing launched the Teacher Apprentice Program in 2018. Participants can spend up to a school year with Sim and his colleagues at High Mowing. "Teacher apprentices experience all aspects of teaching: being in a classroom with students, meetings with colleagues, working with parents. They get to see all the joys and frustrations and how teaching is so much more than just preparing and delivering a lesson," Sim says.
Teacher apprentices are matched with an experienced teacher, and the program includes weekly mentoring meetings, classroom observation, journaling to reflect on lessons learned, participation in faculty meetings, and of course, leading in-classroom activities: teaching sections of a "block" or "morning lesson" class, leading discussions, reading and grading student work, and contributing to the teaching plan.
Joseph Modugno participated in the program during the 2021-22 school year. Since completing the program, he has gone on to teach English and humanities on High Mowing's high school campus. "Teaching is both an art and a craft. In the same way that a carpenter or an artisan would once apprentice with an experienced master and gain skills and insights into their craft, I feel I am a stronger and more confident teacher through my experience of working with Robert, a Waldorf master, and participating in High Mowing’s apprenticeship program," Modugno continues. "The program gave me direct, real-life experience into the art and craft of Waldorf teaching which I could not have gained otherwise. For this experience and this opportunity, I am deeply grateful to both Robert Sim and High Mowing School."
Tor Petrov is currently enrolled in the apprenticeship program. He appreciates how the program allows him to foster his goal of teaching, and as a High Mowing alum, he sees the added benefit is giving back to the community that helped raise him. "The value of both the experience of teaching and the support of experienced faculty have facilitated my growth as an educator," Petrov says.
Throughout the program’s existence, Sim has worked with a number of apprentices. Some completing the year and going on to teach either at High Mowing or elsewhere; others ultimately choosing another professional journey. While of course, the program aims to send more Waldorf teachers into the field where they are so needed, it's just as successful when apprentices discover a different path is better suited for them. "It's a much more low-risk way for people to find out if Waldorf teaching is right for them," Sim says.
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