Students in Waldorf schools will ideally have the same main lesson teacher for first through eighth grade. If you didn’t grow up in a Waldorf school, you might remember waiting anxiously for the teacher list to come out in August. Who would you get? The “good” teacher? The nice one? Will that teacher even like you, because they hated your sister? Will you be in class with your best friend this year or that kid you don’t like?
Sometimes these questions might seem trivial, but they are very important to students. Waldorf students don’t experience any of the anxiety brought forth by these questions. They will simply move to a new room and be presented new material by the teacher they know. Their best friend will still be in class and so will the child they find difficult to handle.
In addition to bringing the focus back on learning, the one teacher approach to elementary, intermediate and middle school has other purposes. Young children learn by respecting and modeling authority figures. Keeping the class teacher (by no means the child’s only teacher) as a steady authority in a child’s life is beneficial to social and intellectual learning.
Class teachers also have time to learn children’s gifts and challenges and are able to serve as the child’s true learning advocate by consulting with subject teachers and parents about learning styles and techniques that suit individual children and/or work well for the class as a whole.
This leads to another key benefit — the class as a whole. Children who learn together for eight years also learn to work together just as they will be required to as adults in their families and the workplace. Social problems, value differences, varied work styles or pace must be met head on as the whole class collaborates. Difficulties must be resolved. No child is passed over or passed on. Each child is essential in class.
Many ask: What if my child does not get along with the teacher?
The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America answers this question thoroughly. They say, in brief:
“This question often arises because of a parent’s experience of public school education. In most public schools, a teacher works with a class for one, maybe two years. It is difficult for teacher and child to develop the deep human relationship that is the basis for healthy learning if change is frequent.
. . . A Waldorf class is something like a family. If a mother in a family does not get along with her son during a certain time, she does not consider resigning or replacing him with another child. Rather, she looks at the situation and sees what can be done to improve the relationship. In other words, the adult assumes responsibility and tries to change. This same approach is expected of the Waldorf teacher in a difficult situation. In almost every case he/she must ask herself: “How can I change so that the relationship becomes more positive?” One cannot expect this of the child.”