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New Impulses for Waldorf School Administration, Leadership and Governance

Leading with Spirit

Sensing a new impulse in leadership and governance of Waldorf Schools

We are entering a new phase in the development of Waldorf education in North America: the relationship between the administrative work and the pedagogical work of the school is changing. We can see the signs that the old imagination of what was termed a “teacher- run” school is no longer effective and a new possibility is emerging. Schools are seeking to create a pedagogically and anthroposophically inspired administrative group working in true spiritual collaboration with the teachers, and supported by an anthroposophically inspired, policy-oriented Board.

The social form of the Waldorf School arose, not from Rudolf Steiner’s pedagogical work, but from his lifelong work on the inner aspect of the social question and the true nature of social life - and it came into practice in the Waldorf School through his years of leadership as he worked with the staff of the original school. Both of these culturally transforming streams, the pedagogical and social, have developed and matured over the past 100 years. There is a new possibility and opportunity to weave the streams together in an impulse for spiritual collaboration that could guide the future development of Waldorf schools in our culture. To achieve this ideal, we must overcome several obstacles.

  • One of the factors influencing the development of healthy administration in Waldorf schools is the shortage of trained teachers across the continent. A new generation of teachers is not flowing into the schools that would allow experienced teachers, with social and administrative capacities, to step into administration. The lack of qualified teachers creates a situation where experienced teachers are needed in the classroom longer, to teach, to provide training and support for practicing teachers, and to provide pedagogical leadership in the faculty circle. As a result, experienced teachers remain in the classroom and are not able to bring their practical experience fully into administrative leadership positions without draining the faculty.
  • In addition, administrative staff with an understanding of the social impulses arising out of anthroposophy and Waldorf education are difficult to find. Many administrative positions are filled by good people who do not have an adequate orientation to the overall spiritual, pedagogical and social dynamics of the school or the necessary support to help them be successful. The result has been marked: significant turnover in administrative staff, growing anxiety at the board level in many schools leading boards to institute reforms that appear practical but have no relationship to the social ideals of Steiner (policy governance, hiring heads of school, as examples), and unreasonable administrative burdens continually placed on teachers. Our schools often experience a lack of human and financial resources to provide the training and support needed by administrative leaders to be highly successful.
  • Independent, self- financed schools require significantly more time to manage and operate, and are frequently understaffed, leaving little time or resources for training and professional development. The practical demands and resources required to run a school outweigh the good intentions to provide deepening opportunities for administrative staff and pedagogical leaders. Yet without the inspiration and support provided by an understanding of the guiding principles that inform the pedagogy and our work together, staff often leave in exhaustion or disillusionment.
  • Schools often rely on consultants with backgrounds in organizational development that typically lack knowledge of Waldorf schools and culture and the guiding principles informing our work together. Our Schools require organizational development that is rooted in anthroposophy and an understanding of the social questions of our time. General ideas and approaches from outside the movement can be helpful but are not sufficient for long-term success.
  • Unspoken expectations of administrative and school leaders, power conflicts, patterns of undermining or sabotaging leadership within some schools, lack of clarity and agreement about roles and responsibilities, all contribute to the revolving door that is all too common in the administrative realm of many of our schools.

Here are a few guiding thoughts for how the Waldorf school movement could support schools in taking this transformative step to a stronger and more integrated administrative life.

  • Support everyone working in the schools to understand ans see the connection between both the educational and social impulses that Rudolf Steiner brought forth.
  • Create and support new, widely accessible training for administrative staff equivalent to foundation studies in teacher training, designed specifically to inform their work in the schools out of Anthroposophy.
  • Ensure that existing teacher preparation programs offer a much greater exploration of, and exposure to, the social insights, principles and practices of Rudolf Steiner and their practical applications in a school.
  • Encourage networks for administrative staff to connect around questions of how the practical work of administration and governance can be inspired by, and reflect, the social and pedagogical insights of Anthroposophy.
  • Make a significant investment in board resources and development to provide practical imaginations of how governance can work out of anthroposophy.

The seeds of this work have been planted over the last 10 years by independent initiatives that are growing in the Waldorf School movement across the world evidenced by:

  • Websites and social media groups dedicated to collaboration between administrative leaders in schools such as Waldorf Admin Central, Waldorf Marketing Group, ANA (Admin Network of AWSNA) Basecamp groups and the LeadTogether.org resource collection 
  • Increased activities of ANA, the Administrative Network of AWSNA 
  • Greater focus of activities from AWSNA and other national associations around anthroposophically inspired school administration 
  • Emerging new anthroposophically inspired training programs for administrative staff such as Antioch’s Waldorf Administration and Leadership Development program and the Leading with Spirit Administration and Leadership Program and summer seminars
  • New articles, books and other resources focusing on anthroposophically inspired school organization and dynamics such as Partnerships of Hope by Chris Schaefer 
  • A new widely read Waldorf related newsletter, Waldorf Today 
  • A transformed website and resource site for Waldorf Schools through the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America 
  • A renewal of the shared principles of Waldorf schools based on the anthroposophical Waldorf ideals articulated by the Pedagogical Section Council of North America
  • A new anthroposophical and Waldorf centered administrative training program in China

These are all promising developments. The factors influencing the growth and development of collaborative spiritual leadership in the schools are numerous. Identifying and understanding them is an important step in moving towards a more resilient school movement.

In order to achieve successful collaboration, however, we need to develop new competencies that go beyond knowledge of Steiner’s ideas about education or the social sphere. Intellectual understanding is only valuable when it leads to changes in our thinking, behavior and attitudes – when both teachers and administrators feel that their unique contributions are seen and valued – and when building and maintaining trust are priorities within the organization.

Along with deepening the work of administration comes the additional challenge of bringing the cherished goals of the classroom into the Administrative Group, the Coworker Circle, the College of Teachers and the Board of Trustees. In our leadership roles, do we strive to be worthy of imitation? Do we play fair, refrain from gossip, assume the best, and ask questions rather than jump to conclusions? Are we always helpful and kind? Do we practice observation? Are we awake and able to respond to what is living in the school now - or are we focused on a fixed solution, or caught in repeating the dynamics of the past? In order to be successful at collaborative leadership we need to strive for the freedom that is developed in meditative practices; to prefer listening over our own speech, to sense the work of the unseen world, and to draw on imagination, inspiration and intuition.

We know that anthroposophically aligned boards, Waldorf trained and experienced administrative staff, and administratively capable teachers that understand the social organizational ideals of Waldorf education make all the difference in the health and success of school administrative life. The results of these strengths can be seen in practice in healthy schools across the continent.

The key to success of Waldorf schools in the coming years lies in the in the hands of current school leaders. The economic and social challenges for independent educational institutions like Waldorf schools will continue to become more difficult in the coming years. It is incumbent on us as school leaders to continually strive to find the balance between maintaining the good practices needed to sustain the institution effectively, and heeding the inspirations needed to sustain our mission, which arise out of true collaboration with each other and with our spiritual helpers. Sharing insights and experiences, asking the right questions, and actively supporting one another in a spirit of community, not just within our individual schools but also as a movement, are needed measures for Waldorf Schools to continue to be socially renewing institutions.

“Nothing else will do”, Rudolf Steiner says, “if our courage is not to fail. We must discipline our wills and seek the awakening from within ourselves every morning and every evening.” This inner discipline, self-responsibility and awakening can lead us to re-imagine our work together as a community of servant leaders dedicated to doing our part in the radical, social renewal of our world.

 

Michael Soule

Marti Stewart

Leading with Spirit.org

January 2016

 

 

 

 

Mentoring: Key Aspects for a Successful School Mentoring Program

Mentoring is essential to a school’s success. After leading seminars for 6 years on mentoring, we have identified some key aspects that will help everyone:

1. Assign a person to coordinate the mentoring work in the school.
Like in any activity in the organization, without a person leading and coordinating it, it has a slim chance of being effective or successful. Choose someone who has successful teaching experience, some experience with mentoring, and leadership skills.
2. Get clear about the difference between mentoring, peer support and evaluation.
Mentoring is a professional relationship where an experienced teacher coaches a less experienced teacher to help them improve their teaching, collegial and parent work.
3. Make sure that you give mentors some opportunity to develop their mentoring skills.
Many mentoring situations are complicated and require specific skills in the mentor. And many mentoring relationships cruise or sink based on the skill of the mentor. Find a way to give mentors some professional development.
4. Have the whole faculty set goals for and support the mentoring work for the year.
Goals are important. They allow you to think into the future and they give you a context for reviewing the past.
5. Allocate sufficient resources to make it work.
Creating time for a mentor to visit a mentees classroom is essential to successful mentoring. It may mean flipping a schedule, finding a sub, or combining a class, but it is an investment that is key to success.

There are lots of other questions related to mentoring review and evaluation and good resources to help. The articles in this month’s newsletter are a good place to start.

Defining Terms is a clear and concise paper describing basic differences between Mentoring, Peer Support and Evaluation and is an essential starting place to help schools avoid confusion and create unnecessary problems when building a Mentoring program.

A Mentoring Program Assessment Form was developed through our seminar and is a good checklist for identifying what is needed for a successful mentoring program and areas to improve.

Mentoring vs. Training is a short article about the challenge of helping a new untrained teacher to be successful.

More Mentoring Resources is a collection of the best resources for developing your mentoring program.

Next Month: Mentoring is a big topic. Next month our focus will be on the Art of Being a Mentor – What qualities are needed for a mentor to be successful, How to observe a teacher, The Art of Mentoring Conversations and more.

Michael Soule

Mentoring an Untrained Teacher

In a recent conversation about mentoring with my long-time colleague Nettie Fabrie from Sound Circle Center who is the Pedagogical Dean of the Seattle Waldorf School, I posed a question about mentoring a new and untrained teacher and she shared with me an important thought about mentoring new teachers in general.

She asked me, “Has this teacher gone through a teacher training or preparation course?  If not then one needs to take a different route in mentoring this teacher. One needs to develop a support program for the teacher that looks more like training than mentoring.”

“You see”, she said, “you can certainly help the teacher in their teaching, but without the foundations that are provided in a good Waldorf teacher preparation program most of what an individual will absorb will be just techniques. That will serve them for a little while. But when the children meet difficulties the inexperienced teacher will have a hard time discerning what the proper response would be and that is when we often see crises and conflicts developing between the teacher, students and parents alike.”

There are four important things that one develops in a teacher preparation course that are essential to their success in a school:

  1. A refined inner practice that is active and aligned with the stream of anthroposophy.
  2. A greater capacity for social interaction, group work and community and organizational development.
  3. A deeper understanding of the Waldorf curriculum, human development, teaching and student support.
  4. An active and diverse artistic life.

These are not things that a teacher can or will easily develop through online courses, weekend seminars or one-week summer intensives. These training opportunities often work on one or another of the areas, but not all. To develop these capacities above, it ia most helpful to have a guide and a group to work with over time.

When a school hires an untrained teacher, it is faced with the question of how to provide the needed support to the teacher in their inner, social, artistic and pedagogical work. Some of this can be supported through the ongoing work and study of the faculty. Some of this can be supported by requiring the teacher to enter into a training program. This requirement, however, often creates challenges as the carrying of a class and training at the same time is more than many people can manage. Without proper training the teacher often falls behind to the point of not serving the school well and the school compromises the quality of their educational offering. There are things a school can do to avoid this pitfall.

  • Make a commitment to hiring only trained teachers
  • If an untrained teacher is hired, commit to supporting him or her by providing funding and/or giving them a lighter teaching load so they may enter a training program immediately
  • Set up a collegial support system so that they can have the coaching needed from an experienced teacher as they complete their training. The support framework is best when it involves an overall plan for professional development and collegial support in the areas most needed – parent work, classroom management, lesson planning, artistic development.
  • If you don’t have a mentoring program established, then it may be wise to find a professional mentor outside the school who can help.

For more ideas about how to transition a new teacher into the school, see the Transition Handbook developed by the Teacher Education Network of AWSNA and other resources listed on this site.

Michael Soule 12/2014

Transitions Handbook for New Teachers, short form, Teacher Education Network, AWSNA

Navigating the Transition:
A Guide for Welcoming New Teachers Supporting Your New Teacher
AWSNA

(click here for a pdf version)

Table of Contents

A. Introduction

B. About your new teacher – their background and experience

C. Supporting your new teacher – things beyond mentoring

D. Mentoring your new teacher – ideas and guidelines

Introduction

The Teacher Education Committee of AWSNA has been charged by the delegates to AWSNA to promote and support new teacher development and retention. Experience throughout the movement has shown that teachers need support in the process of developing from newly trained, but inexperienced teachers, into strong and capable classroom teachers. Without support, some excellent candidates are not able to successfully make the transition. This experience is difficult and costly for all involved, from the individual teacher, to the children, to the school, to the Waldorf movement as a whole. As a response to this felt need in the association the Teacher Education Committee has developed this resource book to support you in the healthy and supportive welcoming of newly trained teachers into your school.

We hope that these guidelines and suggestions will promote conversation and eventually policies and procedures in your school around the support of new teachers.

The Teacher Education Committee of AWSNA

John Broussard – Teacher Education Institute of Southern California
Betty Staley – Rudolf Steiner College
Cat Greenstreet – Sunbridge College
Diana Hughes – Teacher Development Institute
Douglas Gerwin – Center for Anthroposophy and Antioch Waldorf Teacher Training
Program

About Your New Teacher

The exact course of study that each newly certified teacher has studied depends on the educational institution that they attended. As you prepare to support your new teacher it is important that you are aware of the various elements of the program in which they participated. Each of the teacher education institutes in the country maintain web sites which are ideal ways to explore the training and preparation that your new teacher has received.

As part of their teacher education program your new teacher completed a teaching practicum. The actual experience differs from one teacher education institute to another, but all include observation, assisting, and independent classroom teaching. Ideally the teaching practicum includes significant actual classroom teaching practice under the supervision of an experienced teacher. However, depending on the hosting teacher and school, individual newly trained teachers will have varying amounts of classroom experience and practice. It is important that you review your new teacher’s experiences with them to prepare them for success in your school.

Supporting Your New Teacher

Orientation to your school:

One of the common difficulties for new teachers is that they find that they are expected to pick up the routines and practices of their new school through experience rather than a formal orientation process. This means that for the first few weeks, and even months, of the school year each day is less predictable and more challenging than necessary. This is especially true for subject or part-time teachers who are often not present at daily morning verses or check-ins.

A thorough orientation to the practices, traditions and expectations of your school will help to make a new teacher feel more at home, more confident, and more a full member of the school’s faculty sooner. The orientation should take place before the August faculty work week or period. Leaving the discussion until later in the fall means that the teacher is working to find his or her way through the confusion of unmentioned routines and school wide expectations. An orientation is best supported by an employee manual, which will allow the new teacher to refer back to topics covered in the orientation.

The orientation can be carried out in a wide variety of ways: if your school has a number of new teachers, dedicating one day to orienting the group can be a good way to quickly move through the necessary material. On the other hand, an orientation of an individual teacher can be done by either a teacher’s mentor or a member of administration, or both. It is a good idea for each school to develop a list of topics for orientation that can be used for each process, as this will help to reduce inconsistency between orientations.

Support in the Summer Before Teaching:

During the summer months your newly hired teacher will be making a number of important personal and professional transitions. The following things should be kept in mind as you support these moves:
a. Practical details related to moving and settling into a new community.
b. Summer professional development expectations and financial support possibilities.
c. Beginning mentoring support around room preparation, curriculum development, introduction to class parents, and home visits.
d. Faculty work week expectations and arrangements
e. Opening day ceremonies and activities

Supporting a New Teacher with His or Her Class Parents

The very nature of a teacher education institution means that the area that it is hardest to prepare teacher education students for, besides classroom discipline, is their work with class parents. At the institutions there are no parents to practice with, and as each class has its own nature and personality, it is hard to provide anything beyond guidelines for parent work. This having been said, much is accomplished in the programs in cultivating right listening and right speech practice, consensus decision-making, and appreciating multiple points of view. Participants are also given an understanding of the parent perspective and point-of-view.

However, the teacher’s relationship with the class parents is a central part of their success or failure as a class teacher. Therefore, it is essential that each new class teacher be consciously mentored and supported in this particular area of responsibility. The following are some suggestions to help with this support:

Collegial Expectations of a New Teacher

It is important that newly hired teachers have a clear sense of the expectations upon them in the following areas: Work on committees and work groups within the faculty; work on community wide committees and work groups; practices for interaction and cooperation with subject teachers; faculty meeting expectations; other faculty commitments.

Continuing Education for a New Teacher

Continued professional development is an essential part of every teacher’s development, whether newly educated and hired, or a long-term successful teacher. Professional development opportunities can be varied and range from curriculum development work to personal refreshment and renewal. The following kinds of professional development opportunities should be offered to all new teachers: Conference attendance and participation; ongoing summer workshops; local, non-Waldorf opportunities

Ideally, through the mentoring process each teacher will have a personal professional development plan. This plan is particularly important for new teachers as it will form the structure for their continued education and growth during the very important first three or four years of their life as Waldorf teachers.

Mentoring Your New Teacher

The mentoring of a new teacher is essential in supporting a newly trained teacher in the process of moving from being a teacher education institute graduate to a successful and happy teacher. Every new teacher needs to receive strong and attentive mentoring. The following guidelines are designed to help each school shape its own individual mentoring program for new teachers.

Goals of Mentoring:
Mentoring is designed to help support the following:

1. Deepening insights into Waldorf pedagogy, festivals, and grade level curriculum.
2. Supporting the development of effective relationships with the children, including order and discipline.
3. Creating healthy social dynamics within the class.
4. Applying age appropriate curriculum methods to support healthy child development.
5. Collegial relationships.
6. Better communication and partnering with parents.
7. Personal well being and balance in relation to teaching.

Choosing a Mentor:
A mentor should have most or all of the following characteristics:

a. Experienced, trained Waldorf Teacher, ideally having completed
an eight-year cycle, but if not well grounded in the year the new teacher will be teaching.
b. Familiar with the school – able to convey all necessary information and
support in school wide areas such as expectations, policies and procedures.
c. Available for meetings and consultations – open and generous with his
or her time and attention. Teachers who are already carrying large parts of school administration or in challenging years and situations themselves do not make good mentors.
d. Strong communicators with a history of good parent and colleague
relationships.
e. Confident about classroom practices and about giving advice and
guidance to the young teacher.
f. Able to work well with the individual teacher being mentored – this is a
matter of temperament and approach and needs to be considered for each pairing.
g. Knows how to ask questions and see that there are many approaches to
teaching, not just his or her own.

Sometimes it is impossible to find all these characteristics in one mentor and
in that situation some schools have two people working with one teacher – an outside person doing classroom observation visits and an in-house teacher doing weekly meetings with the new teacher. In this situation, it is still essential that both mentors make early and frequent visits to the classroom.

A Mentoring Schedule:

Mentoring should include classroom visits and observation and weekly meetings for planning, consulting and addressing issues.

Schedule for classroom visits and observation:

In the first year a new teacher should have at least a three day classroom
visit and observation within the first two weeks of the school year, followed by a two to three day visit around the winter break (December through February) and a final two day visit in the spring. It is essential that each visit be longer than a single day as the teacher’s work with the rhythm of the days is a critical part of the observation. This is the time habits are built for better or worse.

In coming years a two-day visit, once or preferably twice, during the school year is usually sufficient as long as there are no significant concerns about the teacher’s classroom performance.

Scheduling these visits can be challenging. Some schools arrange it so
that on a particular day subject teachers teach the main lesson in the mentor’s class to allow the mentor to observe the new teacher’s main lesson. In other schools the main lesson and the first two subject lessons are exchanged in the day occasionally, so the children start with the subject lessons and the mentor teaches his or her main lesson later in the day, after observing the new teacher. Other schools, especially when the upper-grade teachers have heavy mentoring loads, set a permanent schedule for the upper grades which starts the day with subject lessons, one or more days a week, allowing the main lesson teacher to observe regularly in lower grade classrooms. Finally, some other schools have a ninth main lesson teacher or permanent substitute who regularly steps in to allow the mentor time to observe in the new teacher’s classroom or does much of the mentoring.

Schedule for mentoring meetings:

Each teacher should have a weekly mentoring meeting of at least one
subject class period in length. For new teachers, especially those with lower grades, it is often best to schedule this meeting for the end or after the school day, as they are with their classes for more subject periods than higher grade teachers.

In some situations some of these meetings can be held by telephone, but
ideally the meeting is direct and long enough for issues to surface. It is also important that the mentor ensure that the meeting is directed to mentoring and not to personal conversation, even when supportive.

Resolving Problems with Mentoring:

Each school needs to have a policy and procedure for resolving concerns and
problems with mentoring, making clear who is responsible for overseeing
mentoring throughout the school, and making sure it is happening effectively and
regularly.

Transitions Handbook for New Teachers, Teacher Education Network, AWSNA

Navigating the Transition: A Handbook for Welcoming New Teachers
(click here for a pdf version) A Handbook for Schools Welcoming a New Teacher from A Teacher Education Institute

AWSNA
Table of Contents
A. Introduction

B. The Teacher Education Program – What your new teacher has studied

C. The Teacher Education Program – Teaching Practicum

D. Orienting a new teacher to your school policies and practices

E. Supporting a new teacher in the summer before they take up a class

F. Mentoring a new teacher

G. Supporting a new teacher with his or her class parents

H. Collegial expectations of a new teacher

I. Evaluating a new teacher

J. Continuing Education for a new teacher

K. Individual suggestions for your new teacher

Introduction

The Teacher Education Committee of AWSNA has been charged by the delegates to AWSNA to promote and support new teacher development and retention. Experience throughout the movement has shown that teachers need support in the process of developing from newly trained, but inexperienced teachers, into strong and capable classroom teachers. Without support, some excellent candidates are not able to successfully make the transition. This experience is difficult and costly for all involved, from the individual teacher, to the children, to the school, to the Waldorf movement as a whole. As a response to this felt need in the association the Teacher Education Committee has developed this resource book to support you in the healthy and supportive welcoming of newly trained teachers into your school.

We hope that these guidelines and suggestions will promote conversation and eventually policies and procedures in your school around the support of new teachers.

The Teacher Education Committee of AWSNA

John Broussard – Teacher Education Institute of Southern California
Betty Staley – Rudolf Steiner College
Cat Greenstreet – Sunbridge College
Diana Hughes – Teacher Development Institute
Douglas Gerwin – Center for Anthroposophy and Antioch Waldorf Teacher Training Program

The Teacher Education Program :

What Your New Teacher has Studied in the Classroom

The exact course of study that each newly certified teacher has studied depends on the educational institution that they attended. As you prepare to support your new teacher it is important that you are aware of the various elements of the program in which they participated. We recommend that you talk with your new teacher to understand the elements of his or her program

The Teacher Education Program – Teaching Practicum

As part of their teacher education program your new teacher completed a teaching practicum.

Ideally the teaching practicum includes significant actual classroom teaching practice under the supervision of an experienced teacher. However, depending on the hosting teacher and school, individual newly trained teachers will have varying amounts of classroom experience and practice. It is important that you review the individual information at the end of this document, and, if you haven’t already, discuss the teaching practice experience with your new teacher. This will allow you to more successfully support your new teacher.

Orienting a New Teacher to your School Policies and Practices

One of the common difficulties for new teachers is that they find that they are expected to pick up the routines and practices of their new school through experience rather than a formal orientation process. This means that for the first few weeks, and even months, of the school year each day is less predictable and more challenging than necessary. This is especially true for subject or part-time teachers who are often not present at daily morning verses or check-ins.

A thorough orientation to the practices, traditions and expectations of your school will help to make a new teacher feel more at home, more confident, and more a full member of the school’s faculty sooner. The orientation should take place before the August faculty work week or period. Leaving the discussion until later in the fall means that the teacher is working to find his or her way through the confusion of unmentioned routines and school wide expectations. An orientation is best supported by an employee manual, which will allow the new teacher to refer back to topics covered in the orientation.

The orientation can be carried out in a wide variety of ways: if your school has a number of new teachers, dedicating one day to orienting the group can be a good way to quickly move through the necessary material. On the other hand, an orientation of an individual teacher can be done by either a teacher’s mentor or a member of administration, or both. It is a good idea for each school to develop a list of topics for orientation that can be used for each process, as this will help to reduce inconsistency between orientations.

The following is a suggested listing of necessary topics for a full orientation.

General School Items:

Faculty listing, roles and contact information; school calendar and expectations for faculty; school mission and vision statements; organization and governance of the school; board member listing and roles; school conflict resolution process; emergency procedures: fire, tornado, serious accident; school wide festivals and celebrations.

Class Related Items:

Supply budgets; classroom furnishings and materials; classroom set-up
and preparation –especially for first grade; classroom cleaning and maintenance; parent meetings – form, scheduling and approach; home visits; parent/teacher conferences – scheduling expectations; reports – form, length, dates due; extra lesson and support services for students; discipline policy; classroom centered festivals and celebrations; field-trips and overnight activities

Colleague Related Items:

Committees and faculty responsibilities; playground duty and other coverage expectations; faculty morning gatherings; faculty governance and faculty meetings; college governance, including membership criteria, and college meetings.

Mentoring and Evaluation

Mentoring policies and process; evaluation policies and process.

Personnel Related Items:

School policies for faculty; equal employment policy; sexual harassment policy; complaint procedures; dress code; smoking, alcohol and drug policies; confidentiality procedures and expectations; benefits information - medical, dental, disability; tuition remission; extended care fees/no fees for faculty and staff; schedule of pay-days; reimbursement process; substitution procedures and availability; sick time, personal days, holidays

Practical Information:

Computer use; copiers, phones, fax machines etc.; parking; building access outside of regular hours; office procedures and mail

Administration:

Organizational structure; leadership practices; mentoring and evaluation; administrative staff; job descriptions; Board of Trustees

Supporting a New Teacher in the Summer before They Start Teaching

During the summer months your newly hired teacher will be making a number of important personal and professional transitions. The following things should be kept in mind as you support these moves.

1. Practical details: Any assistance offered by the school related to moving and relocation expenses should be outlined in a clear letter to the teacher. In addition, support with community information and suggestions for affordable housing and other settling in help can be very useful.

2. Summer Professional Development: Despite having just finished a teacher education program, many new teachers would benefit from attending an intensive focus week on the grade that they will be taking up in the fall. Ideally, there will be professional development money available to the teacher to support this continued professional development.

3. Mentoring support: During the summer months a new teacher needs mentoring support – first by phone and then, once he or she arrives in the community, in person. It is essential that the person chosen to mentor the teacher through the summer be highly available, and it can be the case that the summer mentor is not the same person as the first year mentor. Mentoring support must include the following:

i. Room preparation support. New teachers need support in the process of setting up their classroom, especially if your school has certain traditions around preparing the rooms.
ii. Curriculum development support. As the new teacher plans the first few blocks of the year, he or she will need mentoring support and review.
iii. Introduction to class parents. If the newly hired teacher was unable to meet with class parents in the spring, or if that meeting was quick and informal, a summer parent meeting or class picnic can be a great way to start the relationship in a warm and healthy way. An experienced class teacher should invite the parents, acting as host to the whole group and ensuring that the event is well planned and moves smoothly.
iv. Home visits. Many new teachers make home visits to each family with a child in their class during the summer months. This is an important way to build connection but can also be difficult as the newly hired teacher will be unfamiliar with the community and the families. If home visits are expected, the new teacher should be supported in arranging them, and in carrying them out. It is most important that the teacher have a clear idea of how home visits have been done in the school in the past as parents may hold expectations about the visit that the new teacher will be unaware of.

4. Faculty Work Week. Each school has its own expectations and practices around the meetings that the faculty holds in the last few weeks before the children return. Your new teacher needs to be supported in attending these meetings in an appropriate way. It is very important that he or she be prepared for the schedule, expectations in terms of attendance, and their level of involvement. These meetings are usually a newly hired teacher’s first collegial work and can set the tone for the coming relationships.

5. Opening day ceremonies. The first day of school is usually one that includes some traditional ceremonies particular to the individual school. New teachers, especially first grade teachers, often have a significant role to play in these ceremonies. For instance, many schools have a rose ceremony for first graders through which the new first grade teacher guides the children, sometimes even telling a story to the whole school and parents. It is essential that the new teacher have a full understanding of her role in the day’s events as early as possible. Imagine the difficulty created for a nervous new teacher who discovers only a day or two ahead that he is expected to tell a story to the entire community. This type of surprise makes an already difficult first week much harder. The individual responsible for the opening day events, and/or the new teacher’s mentor, should thoroughly brief the new teacher at least two weeks before the first day of school.

Mentoring a New Teacher

The mentoring of a new teacher is essential in supporting a newly trained teacher in the process of moving from being a teacher education institute graduate to a successful and happy teacher. Every new teacher needs to receive strong and attentive mentoring. The following guidelines are designed to help each school shape its own individual mentoring program for new teachers.

Goals of Mentoring:
Mentoring is designed to help support the following:

1. Deepen insights into Waldorf pedagogy, festivals, and grade level curriculum.
2. Support the development of effective relationships with the children, including order and discipline.
3. Create healthy social dynamics within the class.
4. Apply age appropriate curriculum methods to support healthy child development.
5. Foster collegial relationships.
6. Facilitate better communication and partnering with parents.
7. Promote personal well being and balance in relation to teaching.

Choosing a Mentor:
A mentor should have most or all of the following characteristics:

a. Experienced, trained Waldorf Teacher, ideally having completed
an eight-year cycle, but at least well grounded in the year the new teacher will be teaching.
b. Familiar with the school – able to convey all necessary information and
support in school wide areas such as expectations, policies and procedures.
c. Available for meetings and consultations – open and generous with his
or her time and attention. Teachers who are already carrying large parts of school administration or in challenging years and situations themselves do not often make good mentors.
d. Strong communicators with a history of good parent and colleague
relationships.
e. Confident about classroom practices and about giving advice and
guidance to the young teacher.
f. Able to work well with the individual teacher being mentored – this is a
matter of temperament and approach and needs to be considered for each pairing.
g. Knows how to ask questions and see that there are many approaches to
teaching, not just his or her own.

Sometimes it is impossible to find all these characteristics in one mentor and
in that situation some schools have two people working with one teacher – an outside person doing classroom observation visits and an in-house teacher doing weekly meetings with the new teacher. In this situation, it is still essential that both mentors make early and frequent visits to the classroom.

A Mentoring Schedule:

Mentoring should include classroom visits and observation and weekly meetings for planning, consulting and addressing issues.

Schedule for classroom visits and observation:

In the first year a new teacher should have at least a three-day classroom
visit and observation within the first two weeks of the school year, followed by a two-to-three day visit around the winter break (December through February) and a final two-day visit in the spring. It is essential that each visit be longer than a single day since the teacher’s work with the rhythm of the days is a critical part of the observation. This is the time habits are built for better or worse.

In coming years a two-day visit, once or preferably twice, during the school year is usually sufficient as long as there are no significant concerns about the teacher’s classroom performance.

Scheduling these visits can be challenging. Some schools arrange it so
that on a particular day subject teachers teach the main lesson in the mentor’s class to allow the mentor to observe the new teacher’s main lesson. In other schools the main lesson and the first two subject lessons are exchanged in the day occasionally, so the children start with the subject lessons and the mentor teaches his or her main lesson later in the day, after observing the new teacher. Other schools, especially when the upper-grade teachers have heavy mentoring loads, set a permanent schedule for the upper grades which starts the day with subject lessons, one or more days a week, allowing the main lesson teacher to observe regularly in lower grade classrooms. Finally, some other schools have a ninth main lesson teacher or permanent substitute who regularly steps in to allow the mentor time to observe in the new teacher’s classroom or does much of the mentoring.

Schedule for mentoring meetings:

Each teacher should have a weekly mentoring meeting of at least one
subject class period in length. For new teachers, especially those with lower grades, it is often best to schedule this meeting for the end or after the school day, as they are with their classes for more subject periods than higher grade teachers.

In some situations some of these meetings can be held by telephone, but
ideally the meeting is direct and long enough for issues to surface. It is also important that the mentor ensure that the meeting is directed to mentoring and not to personal conversation, even when supportive.

Topics for Mentoring:

The following are suggestions for what mentoring conversations should include:

1. Focus on a small number of central areas that the new teacher has identified as needing improvement and/or development.
2. Overview of the year’s curriculum, including goal-setting as well as the why for each subject. Review available resource materials. Discuss general organization of the year.
3. Review block schedule for the year.
4. Review the block plan a good two weeks before each block begins, including resources for songs, flute or recorder pieces, poems and verses, and movement.
5. Regularly review circle or opening exercises, rhythm of the main lesson, transitions, and discipline.
6. Advise on report writing; share copies of other reports for that grade in our school; preview and review reports.
7. Discuss and advise on particular children. This would include observing that child during recess, etc. Review assessments, past reports, etc.
8. Preview parent/teacher conferences, format, children with difficulties, etc. Review after conferences.
9. Review content of parent evenings. Plan to visit a parent evening in the fall and follow up in the spring if necessary.
10. Be available to review correspondence that goes out to parents.
11. Review the yearly festivals and events; help to gather resources. Inform the teacher of how things have been done at this school. Discuss any changes before they are implemented.

Resolving Problems with Mentoring:

Each school needs to have a policy and procedure for resolving concerns and
problems with mentoring, making clear who is responsible for overseeing
mentoring throughout the school, and ensuring it is happening regularly.

Supporting a New Teacher with His or Her Class Parents

The very nature of a teacher education institution means that the area that it is hardest to prepare teacher education students for, besides classroom discipline, is his or her work with class parents. At the institutions there are no parents to practice with, and as each class has its own nature and personality, it is hard to provide anything beyond guidelines for parent work. This having been said, much is accomplished in the programs in cultivating right listening and right speech practice, consensus decision-making, and appreciating multiple points of view. Participants are also given an understanding of the parent perspective and point-of-view.

However, the teacher’s relationship with the class parents is a central part of their success or failure as a class teacher. Therefore, it is essential that each new class teacher be consciously mentored and supported in this particular area of responsibility. The following are some suggestions to help with this support:

1. Support with introductions and first meetings. The more formed and warm the first meeting is the more the relationship can get off to a good start. Schools should arrange for class picnics, teas or other gatherings to introduce the new teacher and allow parents to begin to work together.

2. Support with home visits if expected. Summer or fall home visits are the standard practice in some schools and not part of the expectations in others. New teachers should be mentored and supported through the home visiting process with an opportunity to discuss appropriate topics and behavior with an experienced school teacher.

3. Class meetings. New teachers should not be left to plan and carry out their first few class meetings alone. Mentors should provide a good sense of how often meetings are expected, and the general structure and format they should follow. Mentors or college members should also be at the first few meetings to help provide guidance, feedback to the new teacher after the meeting, and support in the meeting. All class meetings in the first year should have an agenda and a planned series of events, which avoids meetings taking turns that the teacher had not anticipated. The mentor should work to ensure that parents with particular concerns and questions that are not related to the class as a whole do not use full parent meeting time to pursue their personal needs, but instead schedule appropriate individual meeting.

4. Class communication. Letters to parents updating them on classroom events are essential to building strong trust and confidence in parents about the classroom and the teacher. Although many new teachers find writing parent letters to be an additional burden, the lack of communication can lead to parents feeling that they don’t know what is happening in the classroom. Mentors should work with all new teachers to ensure that a letter with regular classroom updates and news is being sent home and that all class parents are kept fully informed about upcoming events and responsibilities.

5. Conversation with, or questions from, parents. The new teacher should clearly communicate when she can be reached. The mentor should help the new teacher establish healthy boundaries.

6. Parent/teacher conferences. All new teachers need support around the planning and carrying out of their fall and/or spring parent/teacher conferences. This is especially important around the conferences for students who have specific challenges or classroom issues. Mentors should help new teachers think through and practice their approaches to parents on particularly sensitive issues, such as learning problems and behavioral concerns. There may be cases where the mentor or another colleague should be present at the conference.

7. Parent complaints and concerns. It is normal and to be expected that during each school year parents will raise concerns, and new teachers need to be prepared for it, ready to respond calmly and productively. A conversation about the inevitable and often healthy process of resolving concerns and issues with parents needs to be part of the ongoing mentoring and support. New teachers should also be fully aware of all school policies and practices for complaint and dispute resolution and mediation.

Collegial Expectations of a New Teacher

It is important that newly hired teachers have a clear sense of the expectations upon them in the following areas:

1. Work on committees and work groups within the faculty. Number of committees they should be part of and involvement in curriculum groups or planning groups.
2. Work on community wide committees and work groups. Whether they are expected to take on a community role, beyond their own classrooms, in their first years.
3. Practices for interaction and cooperation with subject teachers. Curriculum groups or other meetings that take place regularly between teachers.
4. Faculty meeting expectations. Attendance and participation guidelines, methods of working and decision making (voting, consensus, etc)
5. Other faculty commitments. Festivals, plays, singing etc.

Evaluating a New Teacher

Evaluation is a very different process to mentoring, and must be viewed and practiced separately. Mentoring is a process of supporting and developing teaching skill, a process in which the mentor is an advocate for and supporter of the individual teacher. Evaluation is a more objective and standard-based approach to assessing how the teacher is doing in the classroom. Both are important for the long-term development of a strong teacher.

Evaluation in most situations takes place only after a couple of years of teaching with strong mentoring have been completed. The teacher is then ready to have an outside evaluation of his teaching, outside meaning not carried out by his regular mentor,. New teachers need to be evaluated within the structure of evaluation in the school as a whole.

In some cases where there are concerns about new teachers and their abilities in the classroom, an evaluation may be necessary at the end of the first or second year as part of a decision making process about the teacher’s continued role as class teacher. It is very important that as this takes place the distinction between mentoring and evaluating is sustained and that the teacher’s mentor is not asked to recommend for or against continued employment.
Continuing Education for a New Teacher

Continued professional development is an essential part of every teacher’s development, whether newly educated and hired, or a long-term successful teacher. Professional development opportunities can be varied and range from curriculum development work to personal refreshment and renewal. The following kinds of professional development opportunities should be offered to all new teachers:

a. Conference attendance and participation. Regional, national and topic specific conferences are offered through AWSNA and the Waldorf teacher education institutes each year. Conversation about appropriate ones for individual new teachers should be part of normal mentoring work, within the budgetary structure of the school of course.

b. Ongoing summer workshops. A teacher education certificate means that the newly hired teacher has completed the full course of study in Waldorf education offered by the particular institution. However, these courses can not be focused on the entire curriculum for specific school years. Many fully trained teachers find it very helpful to attend intensive summer curriculum or personal renewal courses as they prepare for their next year of teaching.

c. Local, non-Waldorf, opportunities. There are many excellent opportunities for continued education and professional development in communities. Consideration of such programs and offerings should be made as professional development choices are decided.

d. Renewal opportunities– arts, anthroposophy and other personal renewal courses and programs.

Ideally, through the mentoring process each teacher will have a personal professional development plan. This plan is particularly important for new teachers as it will form the structure for their continued education and growth during the very important first three or four years of their life as Waldorf teachers.

Individual information about and suggestions from your new teacher

(This form should be filled out by your new teacher with their ideas and input for supporting them well)

Name of new teacher:

Teacher Education Institution:

Program:

Particular strengths that I bring:

Particular areas where I need growth and development

Description of my individual practical teaching experience:

I would like the following mentoring support:

I would like the following continued education support: