Creating Connections: Building Authentic Academic Relationships
A cornerstone of a Waldorf education is developing relationships — relationships as a community, between families and a school, and between teachers and students. Because Waldorf elementary school teachers advance through the grades with their students, these relationships have up to eight years to grow and strengthen.
"We have this idea of there being more than one year with these children," says Emma Hamlin, a former High Mowing class teacher who now works in admissions. "And more than that, they are children who belong to all of us. And in a school where every child knows every teacher and every teacher knows every child's name, there’s a sense of connection or relationship that extends beyond just one year in a classroom."
The academic benefits children find when they work with the same teacher for more than just one year were recently reported on in The New York Times:
"In North Carolina, economists examined data on several million elementary school students. They discovered a common pattern across about 7,000 classrooms that achieved significant gains in math and reading performance.
Those students didn't have better teachers. They just happened to have the same teacher at least twice in different grades. A separate team of economists replicated the study with nearly a million elementary and middle schoolers in Indiana — and found the same results.
Every child has hidden potential. It's easy to spot the ones who are already sparkling, but many students are uncut gems. When teachers stay with their students longer, they can see beyond the surface and recognize the brilliance beneath."
The NYT reporting comes as no surprise to Waldorf teachers and families. Students thrive in environments where they feel cared for and understood. Teachers can help students learn better by teaching in ways that students are most capable and open to receiving. Waldorf teachers design their curriculums to address the needs of the specific students in their class — understanding what these same children learned last year, how to build on that, and how to deliver the information in a way that they will most comprehend. "You're looking at the children thinking about what their potential is," says former High Mowing class teacher Darcy Drayton, who brought two classes through grades 1 through 8 and took a third class from grades 3 through 8. "So you design your whole curriculum around what's going to meet those particular children."
"We want to raise these people who really love living, learning, and life," says High Mowing's current 6th grade class teacher Jen Kershaw, who previously brought another class from grades 1 through 8. "We want to encourage these children to make a difference in the world, to spread goodness in humanity, and bring their gifts to fruition. I love seeing them grow and change and develop through the years. It’s been really inspiring for me as a teacher and as an individual."
And, it's a practice that students appreciate too. Jen remembers a student who told her about their time at High Mowing: "They see me. They see me for who I am. Not that I have to be perfect, not that I have to get straight As. They see me for my gifts. They see me for my challenges. They see me."
As you carefully consider the learning environment you want for your child, you probably have a lot of questions.
Gain insight into specific aspects of the High Mowing School Waldorf curriculum and pedagogy from our experienced authors.
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