The Waldorf Experience Through a Visiting Student

Derek Wacks, a student visiting The Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs last month, wrote down his experience from his day spent at the school:

Classes may begin with a greeting from the teacher and a warm good-morning smile. Everyone settles in as a question is raised and the teacher responds with a follow-up question. Fellow classmates chime in as the conversation flows between topics, floating over anecdotes relevant to the course material. I forget we are in a classroom, as the lesson progresses as a conversation.

While the teacher may guide the discussion in a particular direction, it is up to the students to choose the path they take. The students meander along at a steady rate as they discover breakthroughs in their understandings of the topic at hand. Discussions intensify into heated debates, then digress into jokes one might make at the family dinner table. A mere hour into the day and I feel as if I am joining a tightly knit group of peers, faculty and student alike.

Architecture with the senior class, taught by Mr. Fron and Mr. Whitney, comes to a close and the worn wooden floors of the small homely building creak as students bustle to their next destination within the hallowed walls. I migrate with the small senior class of eight kids through the school. We pass students and teachers, everyone catching up, talking of school work and weekend plans, all absorbed in conversation.

We arrive in Ms. Lovenduski’s calculus class and a test is handed out. It reads like a story, requiring the use of calculus along the way. After giving an answer, an explanation is required. Woven into Waldorf’s teaching style is the idea that students should have a genuine understanding of the topic at hand. There is familiarization with learned material so that it may find a niche in the student’s mind and evolve into knowledge. Rather than memorize a list of important facts, dates, or equations, students have a sincere intimacy with the information. This enables them to give the information context and meaning.

Later in the day I arrive at Eurythmy. An enjoyable experience in and of itself, it is the integration of self-expression and inner peacefulness that explores the magnetism of the being. I left Mrs. Brashares’ class feeling oddly relaxed and fulfilled.

The nature of learning at Waldorf is built upon deep rooted understanding. Children adventuring from a thick, sturdy trunk of confidence and curiosity reach the tips of branches where flowers are budding. These flowers blossom into beautiful epiphanies and Ahhh’s, as class material clicks into place.

A visit to Waldorf feels more meaningful than simply attending classes. The visit entails being a part of a bigger family. Each member of this family cares immensely for one another. That is the most significant aspect of the school I found myself moved by.