Social Curriculum

In a Waldorf school, there is a rich, pedagogical curriculum from which to draw as teachers.  At Hartsbrook, the relationships we build and develop are as important as the academic learning we offer.  We strive to build an inclusive and positive school culture, while giving our students the skills they need to take care of themselves, as well as others.  We want our students to be socially aware and emotionally intelligent.

But, how do we teach the children in our care to be kind, safe, and helpful citizens, as our Code of Conduct conveys?

Our task, in our work together as teachers, is to be united in how we work with students to create a positive and inclusive community.  We have followed the outline of goals provided by the Responsive Classroom in The First Six Weeks of School to establish how we work together in our classrooms and common spaces.  Each class created a class version of rules for their work together – e.g. take turns, raise your hand, speak kindly, stay in your place, etc.  In many classrooms, you can see this list displayed on the wall.  We also practice how we move together in the hallways and coming in from recess; we have a school wide signal for attention – a single hand in the air with each digit reminding to check that body is still, hands are free, words are quiet, listening is happening, and eyes are watching.

As teachers, we are aware that words and tone are powerful tools for promoting children’s active learning, sense of community and self-discipline.  We strive to model positive behavior in our interactions with students and other adults.  Our physical spaces are set up in ways that encourage students’ independence, cooperation, and productivity, and we introduce classroom materials using a format that also builds independence, creativity, and responsibility.

Of course, no matter how carefully we teach positive behavior, children will forget rules, their impulses will overcome their self-control, or they’ll just test where the limits are. These are all opportunities for learning.  Our approach to discipline is to help each child regain their self-control.  We agreed to a system of verbal or nonverbal reminders, warnings, and consequences to support appropriate behavior that is consistent across the elementary school.

We know that physical contact is important for the healthy development of children, and most children love the rough and tumble of physical interaction.  We are attentive to when these physical interactions do not lead to positive social behavior, especially in settings like recess.  In the classroom, we offer guided forms of physical contact or wrestling, appropriate for the age and for the curriculum of that class, that may be undertaken under direct teacher supervision.  We are in agreement that roughhousing is not permitted at school,  including overly rough play, and the violation of the personal space of individuals, such as unwanted touching, pulling on clothing, or “stealing” hats.  We are also not tolerant of words or actions intended to cause emotional or social harm, including disrespectful, rude, or obscene language, or verbal or nonverbal put-down’s.  To curb these impulses during recesses, students need constructive opportunities for play.

We continue in our department work, to develop clear expectations for various areas of school life.  We will continue over the course of this school year and into next summer to establish a social curriculum, akin to the curriculum we have for Math or English, that meets the child developmentally.  It is an exciting task to join in this work with our colleagues, to be united in how we build our community from within.  We look forward to sharing more with you as the year progresses.

Thank you, parents, for your support and constructive feedback as we continue the good work of bettering our community.

With warm regards,

Heather Damon
Elementary Department Chair