Waldorf Education

The Enduring Relevance of Waldorf by Zach Menzer, Lower School Administrator

There are countless types of schools and programs throughout the world: Public. Private. Charter. Religious. Traditional. Waldorf. Waldorf-Inspired. Progressive. IB. Boarding. Single Gender. Language Immersion.

Some types of education have gained popularity over time while others have dwindled away. Education is funny that way. There is a pendulum that often shifts from one side to the other, and trends that come and go. The Common Core is a good example of this. Will it be around in 10 years? Many think not.

What about the Next Generation Science standards? Based on research and experiences, it’s likely something new and different will come along and be all the rage.

While there may be no one best system of education, no one-size-fits-all approach proven to raise test scores or ensure that we produce good human beings, the Waldorf approach has certainly endured for 100 years and it is growing. Perhaps we can find wisdom in this longevity.

Regardless of the various types of schools and programs, I believe there are a few trends that stand the test of time and which many educators agree are best practices.

Perhaps the most important to me is the research-backed fact that students are more likely to retain information (skills, content, and experiences) if at least two conditions can be met. First, students must feel safe (physically and emotionally) to take academic risks.

Second, students must have an opportunity to do something with what they learn.

In his book, The Global Achievement Gap, Tony Wagner, makes a powerful argument: “in today’s society, it isn’t what you know that matters anymore; it is what you can do with what you know that is most important.”

I am a big believer in this sentiment and find these two conditions at the core of what we do at Sacramento Waldorf School.

As Waldorf Education approaches its 100-year anniversary in 2019, we see some of the latest “trends” in education are often affirmations of what we find here on the SWS campus, and in Waldorf education around the world.

At Sacramento Waldorf School, we prepare students to realize their highest potential as free human beings. By focusing on the whole child, without distraction from the Common Core, funding linked to test scores, or salaries linked to teacher performance, we are able to raise well-rounded, free-thinking human beings.

We see this in the way art is woven into the fabric of everyday classroom life. Often, arts programs are the first to get cut when schools and districts are looking to save money. Another example: in the last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics shared new research highlighting the importance of free play in the developing child. That has been a core component of Waldorf education since its inception.

Here at Sacramento Waldorf School, we carry forward best practices that many schools find difficult to achieve.  We have a daily schedule that fosters different experiences and outlets for our children, structuring the day with intentional in breaths and out breaths to facilitate individual growth.  Teachers have the opportunity to focus on story telling, creativity, and imagination rather than rote memorization. And, our program is fundamentally developmental, allowing students to learn not just based on academic achievement but based on their own developmental needs.

I’m proud to be part of a school that honors its history and carries such wisdom forward.