The Waldorf Way

By David Ruenzel — October 01, 1995 27 min read
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In American education, the notion of developing the “whole person’’ has been around forever. This is why our schools have long encouraged students to do everything from excel in math and play in the band to climb ropes and sing in musicals. At the Pine Hill Waldorf School in Wilton, N.H., however, the idea of educating the whole person hasn’t led to an exhaustive string of extracurricular activities but is instead seamlessly integrated into every aspect of daily practice. Everyone at Pine Hill does most everything well--from playing the recorder to freehand drawing of geometric patterns--and all with a sort of contemplative reserve that seems, in its absence of competitive striving, almost un-American.

“A Waldorf education is like a toolbox for life,’' one Pine Hill teacher told me. Another Waldorf teacher who is also a Pine Hill alumnus said, “Confidence is the greatest gift my schooling gave me. Once you find your way into something, be it pottery or auto mechanics, you feel like you can find your way into anything else because you’ve learned that everything is interrelated, even if it appears otherwise.’'

Watching the students at Pine Hill work, I found myself envious for what I’d never had. Although I was a child of the suburbs, complacently middle-class, my own schooling left me with a sense of inadequacy that still nags after all these years. The notion of “giftedness’’ reigned then as it does now, and hence those of us who were not gifted--the great majority--came to define ourselves as much by what we could not do as by what we could. I, for instance, learned that I could not “do’’ music, art, or higher math. It seemed clear to me that these things were the province of budding experts and that the rest of us best not enter. Why attempt that at which we were destined to fail?

My teachers were not bad people; it was just that they believed talent was something you either had or did not have, such as red hair or perfect pitch. And if it was something you lacked, then it was best that you moved on to some other area at which you might have some recognizable skill. This was called “finding your niche,’' and once you found it (of course, some never did) that niche became the permanent abode from which you viewed the world. The athletes saw eggheads, the eggheads saw jocks; later in life, adults encased in one career would see adults encased in others over the vast vocational expanse. For all of the talk we heard about the “well-rounded person,’' we were bred into the age of specialization. The well-educated person was the divided person.

Pine Hill opened in 1972 with 19 children and is now a thriving K-8 school of 225 students. Tuition is $5,400 a year, less than many other New England private schools but far from inconsequential. The majority of the students, then, come from middle-class families, yet many of their parents possess rather unmiddle-class inclinations. They are very likely, for example, to disdain television and mega-shopping malls and to favor such avocations as gardening and cabinetmaking. Some have moved their families to the rather remote Wilton area at substantial financial sacrifice for the expressed purpose of enrolling their children in Pine Hill.

Among Waldorf schools, Pine Hill is known for its excellent and stable teaching staff. Many of the teachers have been with the school for two decades, seeing it through two major fires that ravaged the campus in the 1980s. Pine Hill teacher Arthur Auer now refers to the 1982 fire as “a blessing in disguise,’' as it induced faculty and parents alike to recommit themselves to the Waldorf philosophy and to raise funds for a new school. Made from indigenous materials, the building is a unique combination of contemporary and rustic that blends into the wooded surroundings.

When asked what they like most about a Waldorf education, Pine Hill parents offered a list of intriguing particulars: “Children are greeted in the morning with a handshake’'; “They absorb wonderful stories they repeat in their own words’'; “They teach us things we never learned in school’'; “Only Waldorf kids would say, as ours did, that Much Ado About Nothing is the best movie ever.’'

One father, Mike Anderson, summed up: “From the first time I visited the school in 1972, I could see that there were all kinds of little things that made perfect sense: the way children learned to write before reading, the handwork they did, the way art and music were taught not as specialties but as important daily activities.’' Anderson writes computer software for a Boston corporation but has no problem with the very intentional absence of computers at Pine Hill. He said he understands that at Waldorf schools the emphasis, particularly in the early years, is always upon “the human.’' “It’s very easy for kids to get hooked on computers, and that’s not healthy,’' he explained. “It can wait for later years.’'

For all of this enthusiasm, a Waldorf education in this country pretty much remains, as Pine Hill teacher and development officer Sue Demanett put it, a “well-kept secret,’' with only 125 Waldorf schools, nearly all of them private, in the United States and Canada. (Worldwide, there are approximately 650 Waldorf schools.) The overwhelming majority are elementary schools, but a handful of secondary schools also carry the Waldorf label. The oldest of these, High Mowing High School, is right across the road from Pine Hill.

According to Demanett, the biggest obstacle to growth has to do with a shortage of trained Waldorf teachers. “We recognize that this is not recipe education,’' she said. “You can’t just pick up the manual and plug something in. You have to create all of the material for the children in front of you, and it takes a lot of flexibility to do that day after day.’'

Flexibility is also demanded by the fact that Waldorf teachers remain, at least ideally, with the same group of students from 1st through 8th grade. The teacher is to be a guide and mentor, what Pine Hill teachers called “a loving authority,’' gradually taking students from a necessary dependence in the early grades into the light of reason and increasing independence later on. The teacher, then, embarks with the students on a journey that takes years. Over the course of that journey, the teacher must change along with the youngsters. As 7th grade teacher Hugh Renwick said, “Children on the verge of adolescence don’t want the same teacher they had back in the 2nd grade.’'

I first heard of a Waldorf education in the late 1970s but dismissed it without bothering to investigate. It sounded, on the surface, too esoteric and quasi-mystical, originating as it did in the work of late 19th- and early 20th-century Austrian “visionary’’ Rudolf Steiner. Steiner himself founded the first Waldorf school in 1919 for the workers of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette company in Stuttgart, Germany. The school program was driven by Steiner’s own philosophy, anthroposophy, which had much to say about what he called the “Threefold Man.’' As Steiner saw it, healthy, well-educated adults are those who have learned to equally integrate their capacities for thinking, feeling, and willing. Later, after I visited Waldorf classrooms and saw how this philosophy was put into practice, it made perfect sense, but at the time, it sounded a bit too much like far-out “guru-speak.’'

The Waldorf approach does have a strong spiritual component, though it is most emphatically nonsectarian. The key, as expressed in a Pine Hill brochure, is “to foster in all children a sense of reverence as well as respect for all religions.’' Reverence is a word one hears repeatedly at Pine Hill. As teachers there explain it, reverence entails an attitude of awe, gratitude, and respect for the world--a sentient world animated with the presence of the divine. Waldorfians sometimes speak of children as New England transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote of nature: “The presence of a spiritual element is essential to its perfection.’'

But it was the practical aspects of the philosophy that first intrigued me when, not too long ago, I read a brief description of a Waldorf lesson in which the teacher called on students to recite their multiplication tables by tossing them a ball. Unusual as this was, it made sense in light of experiences I’d had with my own children; they liked to prance about or bounce a ball as they recounted a song or verse, the rhythm an obvious mnemonic device.

In search of more information, I found a 1954 book by A.C. Harwood titled The Recovery of Man in Childhood: A Study in the Educational Work of Rudolf Steiner. Extremely accessible, the book provided a theoretical framework for what made intuitive sense. “Rudolf Steiner has fully recognized,’' Harwood writes, “that the whole human body, and not the brain alone, is a vehicle of consciousness.’' This insight, Harwood adds, leads to the following principle: “The golden rule of education is to go from movement to rest, from the active to the passive, from will to intellect. . . . Movement comes first.’'

This principle is deeply embedded in classroom practice at Pine Hill. Movement plays a central role in a wide range of academic activities, though the movement is never, as one may expect from small children, the least bit chaotic or sporadic. In fact, it is usually carefully controlled, the teachers correcting careless positioning and posture. In a 1st grade classroom, teacher Arthur Auer gently reminded children as they worked on their letters or played the recorder--all students learn to play the recorder--to “keep your feet together’’ or to “stop squirming.’'

The movement, then, is highly purposeful and characterized by a sort of choreographed fastidiousness. Auer’s 1st graders stood rhythmically clapping their hands and stomping their feet as they chanted their multiplication tables: 9 is 3 x 3, 12 is 4 x 3, 15 is 5 x 3. Auer, who was just beginning his third “cycle,’' having twice taken classes from 1st through 8th grade, approached the alphabet in much the same way. He would point to a letter with a crooked stick--Waldorf educators disdain artificial materials in favor of natural objects--while the children sang something like, “W is for water, waves, waiting for ships to sail.’' With their hands, they would “roll out’’ the waves.

The emphasis on rhythmic movement is not reserved for the younger children; it is explicit in the conduct of all classes at all grade levels. On the simplest level, this movement appears to be a way of “limbering up’’ in preparation for the academic work ahead; on a more profound level, it has to do with the Waldorf principle that one learns through the body as well as in the mind, that once a poem, song, word, or mathematical concept is in the body, it can be analyzed in an intellectual sense at a later time. Before undertaking a formal study of geometry, for example, students may “walk out’’ everything from triangles to octagons, the idea being that the body will “perceive’’ patterns that are yet only ghostly abstractions to the mind.

The “movement first’’ principle is also evident in the visceral approach teachers and students take to memorization: Students snap fingers, clap hands, and chant as they recite what they have committed to memory. In a 6th grade class I sat in on, this included everything from Marc Antony’s famous speech in Julius Caesar to geological terms. “Metamorphic. Igneous. Sedimentary,’' the students chanted, the stresses all in place.

As a teacher in the 1980s, I had shared my generation’s general disdain for rote memorization. We believed that making students memorize something was punitive, almost a way of ensuring that they would loathe what they may otherwise come to appreciate. It went against the prevalent concern with critical thinking expressed in the title of a recent book Meaning Over Memory.

But at Waldorf schools such as Pine Hill, students recite from memory everything from fables and fairy tales in the early grades to Old Testament passages and Shakespearean soliloquies later. There is nothing punitive about this: It is learning by heart, with the emphasis upon heart. Teachers want their students to get what the Germans call sprach melodie--that is, to get the music of whatever it is they’re reciting into the blood, so to speak.

There is always an attempt in Waldorf classrooms to direct students toward the ideal. The concluding lines of a tale 1st grade teachers tell students urge them to “love the beautiful, seek out the truth, wish for the good and best.’' The literature students commit to memory has about it a transcendent quality. I listened to 6th grade students recite the Robert Frost poem “Take Something Like a Star,’' which ends with the lines, “So when at the times the mob is swayed / To carry praise or blame too far, / We may take something like a star / To stay our minds on and be staid.’' The recitation was with a feeling that was completely convincing. I could imagine these students in later years calling the verse to mind during times of uncertainty.

One afternoon, I mentioned to teacher Sumitra Haynes that I admired the ability of Pine Hill students to recite such impressive amounts of material, noting that as a student I had found memorizing extremely difficult. She said that Pine Hill students had no special ability in this regard, that everyone had a “good’’ memory, though not everyone knew how to exercise it. “We know that if you’re working with memory, you also have to work with rhythm,’' she said. “Everything rhythmical strengthens the memory. People in older, less literate societies knew this intuitively. As long as you swayed and chanted, as long as you kept the rhythm, it would stay with you.’'

Implicit in the Waldorf philosophy is the belief that everyone--assuming no obvious handicap--has the ability to do everything well, though that ability often has to be discovered, or rediscovered. We all can do music, do art, do mathematics.

Most of us conceive of learning how to do something as acquiring a new set of skills. But for Waldorfians, the emphasis is quite different. They see learning as a kind of massive reclamation project: You reclaim what has always been in you--the ability, for example, to paint or do mathematics--but was never brought out, in part because schooling steered you away from things in which you could not score a quick success. Harwood underlines this very point in The Recovery of Man in Childhood. “Even with quite ordinary children,’' he writes, “being ‘bad at a subject’ is very frequently an induced rather than a natural state. The average man, no less than the genius, could often be more of an all-around fellow than he imagines.’'

A basic optimism infuses this message and permeates Pine Hill’s classrooms and corridors. For if acquiring ability in some specific area is less a matter of learning something from scratch than of reclaiming some dormant capability, then it is never too late for any of us. It is just a matter of giving something a shot and then persevering. This is at least as true for adults as it is for students, Harwood points out. If a teacher cannot paint, he writes, “then he must endeavor to recapture the ability which his own education destroyed.’'

Many Pine Hill teachers, particularly those who did not themselves attend a Waldorf school, told me how they had been compelled to re-explore educational terrain they had flown over at great speed during their own formal schooling. They learned or relearned, often in middle age, subjects as diverse as art, geology, and chemistry. The point was not to attain a semiprofessional status but rather to acquire a basic competence and, even more important, a genuine enthusiasm for the subject.

“The key is to be the best role model you can be,’' Auer told me after his 1st grade class. “And that means having a connection with what you’re teaching. If students sense that it’s dead stuff for you, it will be dead for them. Now that doesn’t mean you have to be, say, an artist to teach art. If you direct the activity with real feeling, the children will pick it up. They all love to draw and have a lot of budding talent, and so it’s your obligation to draw that talent out.’'

Auer talked of Albert Einstein playing the violin “with reverence and wonder’’ in his old age. The reference seemed oblique, but as he talked I saw what he was getting at: If you teach with reverence and wonder, the children will learn with reverence and wonder.

This, I was told, was why Steiner had, for the first Waldorf school, handpicked people to teach outside of their specialties: a physicist to teach history; a language instructor to teach mathematics. In the teaching of children, exuberance counts for more than knowledge. Teachers experiencing something miraculously new for themselves will inspire their students with that very emotion.

The school day started for a 7th grade class I was visiting--as it does each day for all but the smallest children--with a formal greeting. Normally, students stand and shake the hand of their teacher. Today, the 25 7th graders lined up to introduce themselves and shake hands with me, the visitor. The students then stood next to their wooden desks, aligned in traditional rows, and participated in what looked like a hybrid of calisthenics and tai chi. Their teacher, Hugh Renwick, scripted the movements, speaking in little more than a whisper of “rain coming down over your head’’ and of “walking down the mountain.’' This completed, Renwick almost slid into, “Good morning 7th grade,’' and then he and his students eased into a verse composed by Steiner that they (and students at most Waldorf schools) have recited since the 5th grade. In part, it reads: “I look into the world, / in which the sun is shining, / in which the stars are sparkling / . . . I look into the soul / that lives within my being. / The World Creator weaves / in sunlight and in soul light. . . .’'

After this came another poem, Theodore Roethke’s “The Heron,’' which students recited individually. Renwick directed, urging them to “concentrate on the rhythm of words’’ and to “get the consonants right.’'

The literature here, as in other Pine Hill classrooms, was selected, as Renwick later told me, to keep students “oriented outward, to connect them to the natural world around them.’' An intense focus upon the self, to which students are prone in early adolescence, could easily become an unhealthy fixation.

The physical design of Renwick’s classroom, like the lesson itself, was neither what I would consider traditional nor progressive. Unlike most traditional classrooms, there were no posted rules, no mass-produced posters or visual aids provided by textbook companies, and no bells. Yet unlike most progressive classrooms, there were no work stations, no wandering about by students, and absolutely no clutter on the desks, the walls, or around the room. This classroom, like the others at Pine Hill, had about it an engaging simplicity. It was all white walls and sunlight, making the few artful objects present, such as a Japanese kimono on loan from a parent, appear dazzlingly fresh. This spare setting seemed ideally suited for concentration.

And indeed, sustained concentration more than anything else defines the “main lesson,’' the two-hour morning study block during which most of the day’s academic work is done. The tenor and substance of a Waldorf main lesson may shift from moment to moment, requiring great attentiveness on the part of the students.

On this particular day, for example, after an interlude of recorder playing, the 7th graders quickly shifted their attention to Asia. Renwick, who looks a bit like a surfer who tumbled through graduate school and emerged a scholar, became a taskmaster, albeit a remarkably subdued one. Almost solicitously, he began asking students factual questions about Japan, which the class was studying as a “main block.’' A year is made up of eight main blocks, including for 7th graders chemistry, perspective drawing, and history of the Renaissance. The questions Renwick asked all had a geographic focus: Why can’t Japan be considered a peninsula? Where is the population concentrated? How many of the country’s volcanoes are active? Students were called upon randomly, and each answered his or her question correctly. (When I later told Renwick that I found this surprising, he said, “A novel idea, expecting students to know what they’ve been asked to learn.’')

Storytelling occupies a central place in the Waldorf curriculum--"there is no time when children will grow well when starved of stories,’' Harwood writes--and Renwick now began to spin a tale that utterly drew the students in. Like other Pine Hill teachers, he used no text or notes. The teachers try to make a story their own, and they best accomplish this by summoning it forth from memory.

Renwick’s fictional account was about the 7th grade students themselves--their flight over the Pacific and the diurnal leap across the International Date Line; their arrival in the crammed yet absolutely orderly Tokyo airport where they’re greeted by a bowing Hashimi Moto and his Bennetton-clad daughter, strangely carrying schoolbooks even though it’s Saturday; their journey to host Moto’s house, virtually hidden by a drifting line of shrubbery, behind which there’s bonsai and a pond of lily pads; their small dinner of sushi and Japanese tea, leaving them yet hungry; their curiosity about the shrine in the alcove in honor of ancestors; their uneasy sleep on the chairless floor. Renwick finished by saying, “Tomorrow, I’ll tell you what happens in the Buddhist temple.’'

Following the story, two students presented statistically laden reports, one on Malaysia, the other on Afghanistan. All the students then worked in their lesson books, which every member of the class creates for each main study block. They are impressive, well-crafted records of the students’ experiences with the various subjects that include writing, drawings, maps, etc. (An alumnus living in town brought me a stack he’d saved in an old trunk. He described the books and the work students put into them as “real quality, not the usual stuff,’' and he was right.) Toward the front of the 7th graders’ lesson books were maps of Japan, each rendered with great fastidiousness by colored pencil. On this particular day, students were writing, in a calligraphic style, “A Letter Home From Japan.’'

After class, Renwick told me he had spent an hour the night before preparing his story. The point of constructing such a vivid narrative, he said, was to convey on a concrete level just what Japan was like. Students benefited by getting a mental picture of what they were studying. This, he noted, was why students began by studying a country’s geography and by creating maps.

I asked Renwick if he planned to have his students discuss social issues, such as Japan’s emphasis upon conformity. “Yes, but only later,’' he said. “It’s important that they grasp things on a phenomenological level first. Then we can move on to analysis.’'

Renwick said he tried to address the “hands, heart, and head’’ in each lesson, bringing into play the physical, emotional, and thinking dimensions of the human experience. For Waldorf educators, these are not separate processes but connected. The student reciting a poem is both exercising memory and, the teachers hope, expressing a feeling for what he or she recites. The student sculpting with beeswax or clay is learning something about form. The student reading a biography of Winston Churchill or Helen Keller--at Waldorf schools, biography is central to students’ study of history--learns not only something about the times in which these people lived but also much about the doubts and defeats through which all men and women must struggle.

Although Waldorf educators argue that a full education must engage the hands, heart, and head, they also believe that the last should be de-emphasized in a child’s early years. This has to do with Steiner’s “threefold’’ view of human beings--a view that drives the entire Waldorf curriculum. Essentially, Steiner conceived of human development as unfolding in three stages: The first (through about age 6) is identified with the will, the second (from approximately ages 7 through 14) with the feelings, and the third (ages 15 and up) with thinking. Each stage encompasses the previous one: The healthy, well-educated adult, then, is not so much characterized by the intellect but rather is someone who comes to place the intellect alongside human will and feeling as essential aspects of the “whole’’ human being.

For Steiner and Waldorf teachers, education is about respecting the absolute integrity of each stage. Kindergartners, for instance, ruled as they are by an indefatigable desire to do and possess, should not grapple with abstract ideas, even if some have the ability to do so. Likewise 3rd graders, who have moved from the willful stage into the feeling epoch, require fairy tales and the like that speak to their burgeoning emotional lives.

Over-emphasizing “the head,’' encouraging children to embark upon the life of reason before they are ready, is akin to continually over-revving an engine, eventually causing a cylinder to crack. This is why, one teacher told me, so many college students suffer from academic burnout; they’ve been over-exercising their reasoning faculties while ignoring the emotional, spiritual, and artistic aspects of their being. In many students, this induces exhaustion; in others, it breeds a kind of clever amoralism, turning them into sophists void of empathy and moral vision.

In a world in which increasing numbers of educators are clamoring for more computers and academic acceleration, Waldorf educators remain unapologetically contrarian, playing the tortoise to the hare. They insist that children pushed into adulthood are, figuratively speaking, likely to injure themselves in a serious fall. “It’s important not to awaken children before their time, to resist the temptation to have them thinking too much,’' kindergarten teacher Linda Fasciani told me as her students danced around a brightly festooned Maypole. “Trying to get them to do things before they’re ready is self-defeating. It makes them feel that they can’t do things for which, in truth, they’re simply not ready.’'

To a large extent, a Waldorf education is about having students, especially very young ones, imitate actions that have practical, aesthetic, and spiritual worth. Consequently, kindergartners at Pine Hill and other Waldorf schools spend a lot of time with the domestic arts--cooking, baking, and cleaning alongside their teachers.

The belief that children need to be protected from adult concerns, that they must not be asked to dwell upon that for which they cannot be ready, was expressed by all Pine Hill teachers I spoke with. Barbara Thorngren, a Pine Hill alumnus and 5th grade teacher, said she was appalled by the “terrible materials’’ children at other schools brought home--weekly readers that convey news of AIDS, natural disasters, climbing divorce rates, and the like. “There’s enough doom and gloom in today’s world as it is,’' Thorngren said, “and to give them more of it, to expose them to terrible things they can as yet do nothing about, is to instill in them a feeling of ‘what’s the use.’ Instead of doom and gloom, we instill a reverence for the world and the human being. We believe in a Higher Being, and so we sing songs about God and the earth.’'

Thorngren offered as an example a field trip they had taken to Cape Cod as part of a botany lesson. “We looked at the lichen, plankton, and ferns, talked about what you could eat and not eat, about how you could take a seed and make it grow. It wasn’t just about scientific knowledge but about awareness, opening up the senses. There has to be a sense of magic, of mystery, no matter how scientific you get.’'

Thorngren made it clear that shielding children from painful realities did not mean promoting blissful ignorance. Children are, in fact, confronted with human dilemmas and the nature of suffering. But this, she said, should not be done with apocalyptic news reports that engender only a sense of futility but rather with literature--with fables, myths, poems, histories, biographies, and the like--that present the difficulties of human life in terms of an inspiring challenge as opposed to an inevitable disaster. “Students can worry about changing the world later, when they’re in high school and college,’' Thorngren said. “And many of ours do just that because they feel a reverence and connectedness with the world that makes them want to take responsibility for it.’'

Thorngren used herself as an example, telling me how she had once, while working for a community health organization, gone before a powerful Washington committee to lobby on behalf of AIDS patients, even though a lot of colleagues said, “You can’t do that.’' Her intent was not to boast but to make a point: “As a Waldorf graduate, you’re not devastated, mortified by problems,’' she said. “You’re not immobilized by despair, and that empowers you to take almost anything on.’'

Halfway across the country in Wisconsin, where I was working on an unrelated story, I had breakfast with Mark and Laura Birdsall, longtime Pine Hill teachers who had come to the Midwest two years earlier to teach at the Milwaukee Urban Waldorf School--one of only a handful of Waldorf public schools. Inner-city Milwaukee is a long way from rural New Hampshire, but the Birdsalls insisted that the Waldorf philosophy works with urban students just as it does with rural New Englanders.

The main difference between the Pine Hill students and those in Milwaukee, they said, has to do with the issue of exposure to life’s harsh realities. Some of the Milwaukee children have witnessed and endured so much suffering and violence that they have been compelled to grow up far too quickly; it is necessary to help them reclaim their childhood. This can be done, the Birdsalls said, only if the teacher fully earns the student’s trust. Only children who feel protected can reclaim for themselves the open-hearted exuberance that rightfully defines the child’s nature.

The issue of exposure and overexposure comes up time and again in conversation with Waldorf teachers. And now, as we found ourselves talking about our own children, the Birdsalls offered me advice: Get rid of your television, they said. It could do no one any good, and as long as it’s around, children would put interminable pressure on their parents for the right to watch it. Television exposed children to all kinds of ugly banalities when they needed instead room to explore and create. If parents turn it off, turn it off for good, they said, children would quickly find a way through boredom. You as a parent don’t have to entertain them, they said. All you have to do is point them in the right direction, and they’ll undertake all kinds of amazing projects and activities.

As if to exemplify this point, Laura Birdsall walked over to the bookcase, and then returned, placing before me a beautifully formed pot. Her daughter had made it while attending High Mowing, the Waldorf high school across the street from Pine Hill. “Of my three daughters, Rachel is the most intellectual, but her education kept her from being extreme in that direction so that she could create things like this--things that bring into play willing, feeling, and thinking. Now everywhere my daughter goes, people tell her how brilliant she is, that they’re amazed by all the creative talents she has. And my daughter just shrugs her shoulders and laughs because she doesn’t think she’s brilliant at all. It’s just that her education has given her a broad background and certain inclinations that other people were not so fortunate to get.’'

This talk about the creative capabilities of Waldorf students reminded me of a conversation I’d had with Andrew Tempelman, a New Hampshire innkeeper who had sent his son to Pine Hill before transferring him, in the middle school years, to a public school with a specialty science program. It was a decision he regretted, at least in one respect.

“The music the children played at Pine Hill just took your breath away--it was so beautiful, so moving,’' Tempelman said. “But everything was different at the other school. Once we went to a band concert there at which they performed a popular Edvard Grieg piece, a piece we had once heard performed at a Pine Hill concert. But the Pine Hill kids had played it with real vitality; when these other kids played it, the music sounded like that TV commercial--that Sudafed commercial!’'

With these last words, Tempelman struck his fist on the counter top, and when I looked up I was surprised to see that there were tears in his eyes.

A version of this article appeared in the October 01, 1995 edition of Teacher Magazine as The Waldorf Way


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