Child study is a form of assessment unique to Steiner schools – because it is anthroposophical. No other schools think it is important to use Rudolf Steiner’s “indications” on the best way to assess how a child is doing and make decisions about their future education.
Parents must accept child study as part and parcel of Steiner education. The SWSF are strict about their involvement in the way schools are run, it is all detailed in the membership criteria documents.
The SWSF are prescriptive about “how the school carries out child studies, in-service, staff development, research & study (please refer to SWSF Code of Practice).” (Page 9 of the accreditation document), and recommend meditation as an aid to teaching and learning.; “methodology & curriculum is determined & developed through a process of individual action & deep reflection (including meditation)…”. (page 17)
So exactly what takes place in Child Study? It is an element of staff meetings which according to Kevin Avison who compiled the Handbook for Waldorf Class Teachers, “draw upon the intentions of the future”. When he says the future, he is talking about the Sixth post Atlantean Epoch (page 48 of the handbook)– don’t forget, we are only in the fifth at the moment. He says that the fulfilment of Steiner schools’ educational work is “not to be expected in the earthly present.” I hope all Steiner parents understand this when they sign their child up – it would be disappointing if they were expecting results in their present incarnation, and have to wait until a future one.
It has three stages, as detailed in the Handbook for Waldorf class teachers, and takes place among staff, without the presence of the child or their parents. The handbook says parents *may* be invited to stage 2 if it is deemed appropriate.
Stages 1 and 2 begin with the soul calendar which has no explanation in the handbook – clearly Steiner teachers are all au fait with this already, having been indoctrinated – sorry, trained – at anthroposophy college.
It is to do with astrology and the time of year the child was born, and involves a special Rudolf Steiner verse being recited by the staff. Also a candle is lit.
Here is a sample verse from the RS archive;
Natur, dein mütterliches Sein,
Ich trage es in meinem Willenswesen;
Und meines Willens Feuermacht,
Sie stählet meines Geistes Triebe,
Dass sie gebären Selbstgefühl,
Zu tragen mich in mir.
Stage one is largely a description of the child based on observation by the class teacher. These observations are on
Sound reasonable? No, not at all; not like any staff meeting should sound. What business is it of teachers to discuss a child in this way?
Next, the staff discuss how the child sits, stands, walks, and runs – and staff may attempt to imitate these. (yes, really – It’s all there on Page 47.)
Next comes the child’s facial expression and “gaze”. Then “other features” – specifically eyes, nose, ears and hands, followed by laterality. (This last point was written about in a post here.)
This really does happen – I have witnessed it over coffee in the staff room.
Next the staff discuss the child in relation to the three Steiner “qualities” of thinking, feeling and will.
“If there is time … some of the above may be dramatized or drawing might be used to indicate certain qualities”.
So the staff act out how they think the child behaves.
Stage two ; after considering the child’s so-called temperament (sanguine, choleric, melancholy or phlegmatic), constitution and character type, the staff consider “if the child were a landscape, a plant, or an animal, which and why?”
Then; “imagine the child in a particular cultural epoch…”.
Anyone want to explain that to us?
Finally the teacher reads out the birthday verse he/she has written himself with some indication of the “intentions within it”. I have heard Steiner followers try to pass all this off as showing how much they care for the children, but I am afraid this doesn’t wash. It is absolutely no business of theirs to assess children in this way, apart from being a complete waste of tax-payers’ money, and a betrayal of trust on the part of the teachers. Parents do not want their child judged according to her appearance or the way she walks. It is all nonsense, and it is being done without the knowledge or permission of parents.
Stage three asks “What is this child asking me as a teacher and all of us as colleagues in the school?”
The children and their parents are asking for a good standard of education, not for guidance into the sixth epoch, which is what Steiner teachers want to give.