Published On: Thu, Jun 25th, 2020

“Reflections on Teaching When the World Shut Down, A Pandemic of the Times”

By Mindy Wecker

One day we were at school, and the next day we were not. Who could have imagined the whole world coming to a stop. Schools closed across the country. Everything left in the classroom was suspended in time, similar to an archeological site. Time passed, coming back to the classroom seeing the projects on the shelf undone, the puppet show on the table, the wilted plants and dried flowers left quietly to die. Wham, everything, everyone is online, zoom, google classroom up and running, teachers figuring it out with no time to lose. 

Now, I am a Waldorf teacher of nursery/kindergarten age children. To give you some background, Waldorf Education is a private school education based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner which began one hundred years ago in Europe, just after World War One. It was new and progressive. The seeds were planted in nineteen hundred and seven when Steiner gave a lecture in Berlin titled “The Education of the Child in the Light of Spiritual Science.” Twelve years later Emil Molt, the director of the Waldorf Astoria Cigarette Factory in Germany asked Steiner to help begin a school based on his concept of human development and education which he called anthroposophy.

 This brings me back to a Waldorf early childhood education. Looking through the eyes of Waldorf pedagogy for the young child under the age of seven, you would see a beautiful, simple artistic home like classroom, filled with handmade objects, furniture and toys. Calm and inviting upon arrival you would experience a rhythmic day where the children are engaged in imaginative play, cooking healthy organic snacks, caring for the domestic chores of the classroom, singing and moving to the rhythm of the seasons, crafting and painting guided by a warm and loving teacher. You did not hear me mention, computer stations or any type of technology in this classroom and that is because it is not part of the pedagogy or curriculum. 

According to Steiner the young child learns through imitation. The young child is a sponge soaking up impressions, there is no filter, and therefore, we as adults must be the best we can be to be worthy of imitation. The world has changed. Everyone has a cell phone, a computer, a television. Everyone is hooked up to some technology but not in a Waldorf kindergarten. Back to the present where the world is experiencing a pandemic and children are home with their parents. 

What do we do as early childhood educators of Waldorf education? 

Well, quickly each school must grabble with this dilemma. How can we educate the young child from a distance? We realized we cannot recreate a play based education online, but we could work with the parents, meeting with them on Zoom, giving them support and parent education to meet the current challenges. 

I could use google classroom where parents could find audio stories and songs that I recorded. I did create beautiful artistic projects with all the materials labeled for the children to create with their families help. It was all good. It did not replace school, but I felt technology provided a tool for communication. Reflecting on all of this, I realize we must be imaginative, intuitive and open to what we have before us, and use these tools we have wisely, always thinking how to meet the needs of the young child as we move forward.

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