Social Skills Series – Part 1: The Classroom as Community

» Posted by on Jan 25, 2013 in Curriculum, Research | 0 comments

By Stephanie Sesic Greer

As part of the Waldorf model of educating the whole child, the teachers at Spring Garden make great efforts to nurture and develop our children’s sense of themselves as social beings.

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A feeling of social inclusion is key to a child’s happiness and success in school, and the conscious development of social skills from an early age may be one of the most lasting benefits of a Waldorf education.

The Waldorf model takes the long-term view that, as with academic learning, healthy social interaction must be self-motivated. Our teachers seek to provide students with important social skills that will enable to them interact compassionately with others, to create a sense of community, and to confront and resolve conflicts within their community.

This is the first in a series of posts that will detail how these long term goals of social inclusion are achieved through the daily practices of Waldorf teachers and students from first through eighth grade.

The first and most important goal is to help students learn how to work together as a group and to view their class as a community that each student plays a vital role in nurturing and maintaining. Instruction in academic subjects cannot effectively progress until some social cohesion within the classroom is achieved, allowing the teacher to focus on letters and numbers rather than on policing students’ behavior.

Students learn to work together by first learning to play together. When conflicts occur among students, on the playground or in the classroom, the teacher acts primarily as a mediator, expressing sympathy for children who are upset, calming the children so that they are able to constructively discuss the conflict, making sure that all of the children involved in the situation are allowed to speak about what happened and how they feel, helping each student to think about what they can do to resolve the conflict, and finally, discussing how a similar conflict might be avoided in the future. Thus, children learn self-control, empathy, responsibility, and conflict resolution.

In the early grades, teachers may focus at least as much on developing students’ social skills as on academic instruction, thereby establishing a community of students that is able and eager to work together to learn.

In the next post in this series, I will discuss what happens in acute or ongoing situations that call for the teacher to be more than a mediator.

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