First impressions of a Waldorf School

School blackboard - ©iStockphoto.com/kyoshinoLast week our local Waldorf school held an open day – an “open classroom day” to be precise.  The Waldorf education method differs from the normal state education in Germany, even though it was developed here in the first half of the 20th Century.

Now admittedly this was not my first contact the method, having previously had conversations with teachers at both this and other Waldorf schools and learnt, for example, that the teachers are expected to prepare the lessons themselves – in most cases without the use of text books.  But it was a chance to experience the lessons first hand, as the classroom was opened up for parents of the children and anyone else interested to sit in on them and watch.

I spent the morning observing year 5, and the day started off with Greek!  Considering my recent concerns about language learning in German schools, this was an amazing experience to watch. The teacher read small parts of a text and had the children repeat it, either in unison or individually.  Then the children had to find certain types of words in the text, and one after another they marked those words together, so that by the time they reached the end, each child had the same markings on their text in front of them.  During all of this, the teacher passed through the rows of the classroom making sure that everyone’s marking really were identical.  Finally, he explained the background to the text in German, and had prepared a drawing of the article being talked about on the blackboard for the children to copy.  The text was just a few lines long, but it filled a whole lesson.

Moving out of the classroom and into a different room, we were presented with something called “Eurythmy”, a combination of music, dance, rhythm and words, not unlike something I remember from my own primary school that was a combination of P.E. accompanied by the BBC Schools Radio service.

After a break we returned to classroom for maths.  Here I was pleased to see that there was not a single handout in sight!  The lesson, on prime numbers, involved the children reciting the prime number sequence, explaining the methods that they use to work out if a number is divisible by another number, and was followed up by the teacher explaining prime decomposition on the blackboard.  The children then practised this in their exercise books, before going through the solution on the blackboard together.

I was not only impressed by what I saw, but I rather felt that this was the way I expected teaching in schools to be.  But this quality comes at a price, as unlike the state schools the Waldorf counterpart is not free to attend.

Of course, for a fair comparison, I’d have to observe the lessons at my daughter’s school in a similar manner, but as yet they have not had open days like this.  Perhaps I should suggest it at the next Elternabend?

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About Graham

Graham Tappenden is a British ex-pat who first came to Germany as a placement student in 1993, returning in 1995 to live there permanently. He has been writing for AllThingsGerman.net since 2006. When not writing blog posts or freelancing for the Oberurseler Woche and other publications he works as a self-employed IT consultant solving computer problems and designing websites. In 2016 he gained German citizenship.

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