Social Culture at the Hartsbrook SchoolSpring 2017

“The healthy social life is found
When in the mirror of each human soul
The whole community finds its reflection
And when in the community
The virtue of each one is living.”

Rudolf Steiner

This year in the Elementary School Department, we are undergoing a study of our social culture.  Our playful students are, more often than not, happy and successful learners and workers.  Our classrooms and play areas are often abuzz.  Students are welcoming, good humored, and willing to work hard.  As teachers, we are privileged to teach your children each day, to be with the exceptional people they are.  We take our work seriously; we strive to give our students the opportunity to be all they are meant to be; and we expect our students to take their work seriously, too.

With the all the wonder that comes with being with young people, as teachers, we are faced with the challenges that also come with teaching such a diversity of learners, too.  In reflecting on our work as teachers, we have observed that our toolboxes are full of effective ways to bring positive social culture and discipline into our classrooms and common spaces.  However, we have also noticed that we are not as consistent with our use of them as we’d like.  Each of us brings our own innate skills to our profession; each brings natural tendencies toward some element of teaching – social, academic, or organization; math, science, history, or literature.  Thus, as the Elementary Department, we have tasked ourselves with strengthening the healthy social culture we wish for our community by using the tools we collectively have and possible new ones we are exploring.

We began the year by looking at what we have in writing already, to guide our social culture.  In our handbook, we write,

“Working and learning together requires discipline and form from students and teachers.  The foundation of a healthy learning environment is safety, mutual respect and cooperation among students and between students and teachers, along with the willingness to strive to do one’s best.  To promote these values, teachers and parents work together to establish clear expectations for student behavior.  The art of teaching asks, to begin with, that educators work on self-discipline.  Under the guiding authority of adults, children gradually develop the self-discipline necessary to assume responsibility for their own actions.  Students are also expected to gradually develop the inner discipline they need in order to take responsibility for their own learning.” 

We have recognized that while we adults all strive to meet our own goals of upholding our Hartsbrook Citizenship Principle (Be kind, safe, and helpful in word and deed.) we each, in our own kingdoms of our classrooms, go about attaining this in different ways.  We recognize that this undermines the good work we are trying to achieve.  As part of our work together this year, we are looking carefully at what works, what doesn’t and what we can do to be united in implementing our Code of Conduct.

One of the things that Waldorf education upholds is the freedom for teachers to meet the students who are before them, and to model being a striving human being as we engage with the adults in our community.   To this end, while we continue to deepen our work together, we have committed ourselves to three very simple things, which we hope you will join us in doing:  (1) when you pass someone, greet them with eye contact and a smile; (2) when passing through a doorway, hold the door for the person behind you; and (3) say, “thank you.”  We wish you to join us in this simple exercise, and we will surely keep you informed of our research!

Heather Damon,
Elementary School Department Chair