Monday, January 22, 2007

School Starts Tomorrow

My daughter has her first day at big school tomorrow – starting Class 1 and emerging from kindergarten into the big wide world of her brother’s school. She is chuffed to be going to the same school as him and hopes to be able to play with him at break time. I hope he’ll be a tolerant big brother for long enough for her to settle in. There will be five children from her kindergarten in her class, so it is not the big unknown for her and she has been there every day to collect him for the last two years, but it still feels like a big step to me.

I just heard today that her teacher will be the lovely teacher that my son had in Class 1 and that she has adored from afar ever since. She said back then that she wanted to have her as her teacher when she came to Class 1. At the time it seemed unlikely as Waldorf primary class teachers usually move up the school with the same group of children. However I think my daughter must have a powerful connection with the universe, as her wish has come true.

This is an article I wrote for the school newsletter at the end of my son’s first year there. I wish for the same happy glow and sense of purpose and achievement for my daughter in her school career.

First impressions

My son’s first day at ‘big school’, a big day for him but also a big day for me as a parent. The step up from kindergarten to Class 1 is huge, from a small cosy environment of only twelve children to a busy, bustling school.

So it was very reassuring to attend the first day’s school assembly, where the new Class 1 was welcomed by the whole school, each child presented by the older classes with some useful or intriguing piece of equipment or materials for their classroom. Long pieces of dowling from which they were later to fashion their own knitting needles, a basket of beanbags for dexterity and coordination, right down to a brush for sweeping their classroom.

It felt like they were immediately given a sense of purpose, a curiosity to go and see what they would learn with all these things. There was also a sense of the older children passing on the baton, of the things they had already learnt and become familiar with, and of them including and welcoming the new children into their school.

The new Class 1 then returned heavily laden to their classroom with the raw ingredients of their year’s journey of growth and learning. As I watched my son walk off without a backward glance, bearing a basket of pebbles, I felt happy to have chosen such a warm, caring environment for him.

Since then I have watched the burgeoning and blossoming of a whole new set of skills. The learning of letters and numbers of course, but also the coordination of ball skills, the intricacies of finger knitting, songs in Xhosa and Afrikaans as well as English, the beautiful and ever more detailed pictures telling stories and also the growing independence and confidence that comes with finding ones own place in life.

Observing the older children it seems that self-confidence is one of the great gifts of Waldorf education: they know who they are, are able to talk confidently with adults, to put on a play involving the whole of the class and speak out their lines. At the Spring fair open day, I saw the exhibition of children’s work and admired the beautifully put together work books, with intricate drawings, diagrams, handwriting and poems. I look forward to all this for my son too, as he progresses through the school and becomes in his turn one of the older children welcoming the new ones to his school.

Dec 2005

P.S. My youngest has informed me that she doesn't intend to go to school until she is old enough for Class 1 and maybe not even then, so my plan for gentling her back into kindergarten, after her bout of separation anxiety last year, seems thwarted from the start.. I'll have to give it more time and see - stubborness is one of her great skills in life.

6 comments:

  1. Good luck to your daughter - I hope school and her wonderful teacher live up to her expectations. (We're one term into Big School here and it's going well.) Oh and good luck with getting your little limpet off to kindergarten.

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  2. I enjoy reading about the Waldorf schools. I wish there was one around here.

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  3. You might be interested in a conference that discusses the transition to school:

    Transforming Transitions
    International Transitions Research Conference
    University of Strathclyde
    11th - 14th April 2007
    www.transitions2007.com

    The aim of this international conference is to promote a new interdisciplinary field of research, where instead of treating any one aspect of transition in isolation we seek to create an environment where the significances of transition may be debated across disciplines and life-stages. By conceptualising transition in this way, it is proposed that transitions are not only transforming but need to be transformed. This conference invites researchers, policy makers and practitioners to come together to explore the significant life transitions, to debate theoretical models, to contest and stimulate policy development and research as well as to influence the practical day-to-day experience of individuals, groups and systems in transition, so embarking on a new process of Transforming Transitions.

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  4. Gosh! Can it be instant please.

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  5. This was so interesting to read about!
    I hope your daughter is having a good first week of "big school"! :)

    Blessings!

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  6. I really enjoy reading about Waldorf education also...the learning is so natural and gentle...this appeals so much to me. The No Child Left Behind Act in our educational system put into place by Bush is a joke! There are so many better ways for children to learn than by taking achievement tests every 2 months. I hope all goes well for your kids and the school year. It sounds like your school staff and the parents i.e. YOU Kit, are involved and very engaged in the process.

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Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!