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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 and Evaluating Terms: Definitions and Clarifications, D Gerwin, M Soule AWSNA

The following descriptions attempt to clarify the uses of the terms relating to mentors and evaluators of individual teachers, as well as terms referring to the mentoring and evaluation of schools as a whole.

 

Mentoring

In-house Mentor – appointed by the school

In-house mentors are experienced teachers assigned by their schools to support a colleague (often a new teacher) in the improvement of his or her teaching. It is necessary for mentors to visit regularly to observe the students and teacher in the classroom, to meet with the teacher regularly, be available for questions and provide support to the teacher. These relationships are confidential and non-evaluative.

Outside Mentor – appointed by the school

Outside mentors are experienced teachers assigned by a school to visit one or more of its teachers when no suitable or appropriate mentor is available within the school. The relationship is the same as with in-house mentors.

 

Peer Support (also called “buddy” or “talking partner”) – chosen by the teacher

A peer support position usually is an experienced colleague in the same school as the teacher seeking help. He or she is a person with whom the teacher can speak in confidence as a way of gaining perspective and insight and share materials.

 

School Mentor – appointed by the school

This term generally refers to those who advise and provide guidance and oversee the mentoring. If they are from outside the school, their periodic visits may include observing individual teachers and offering suggestions in follow-up.

 

School Mentoring Team – appointed by AWSNA’s regional delegates in the school’s region

            As a “developing member” of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) the regional delegates designates a team of 2-3 experienced teachers, usually from the delegates group and member schools, that provides ongoing support to the school as it progresses towards candidacy. Members of this team may make visits to the developing school to observe and assess progress, and provide support and resources to help the school in its development. These visits are usually focused more on the overall development of the school and while they are not intended to include individual pedagogical mentoring or evaluation to teachers, they may include drop-in visits to classes and conversations with individual teachers.

 


Evaluating

Teacher Evaluator – appointed by the school

Evaluators are experienced teachers invited into a school to observe one or more teachers as part of the school’s periodic review program. Evaluators write reports based on their visits, identifying strengths and areas for growth. Usually evaluators discuss their findings with the teachers they have evaluated before submitting their report to the school.

 

School Evaluators – appointed by the school

From time to time a school may opt to invite one or more colleagues to visit the school to offer outside perspectives. These school evaluators may come in response to a crisis or in the context of a chronic or systemic problem.

 

School Evaluation Team – appointed by AWSNA

            As a “candidacy member” of AWSNA, a school will be visited by a team of evaluators whose task it is to determine whether the school is moving successfully towards full membership in the Association. These visits are largely focused on the overall development of the school but will include drop-in visits to classes and possibly conversations with individual teachers.

Schools undergoing AWSNA accreditation receive similar visiting teams.

AWSNA member schools commit to periodic self-study and peer review, which may include a site visit by an AWSNA-appointed team. (See AWSNA membership guidelines for details.)

 

- - -   Other Forms of Mentoring and Teachers Support   - - -

Supervising Teacher – designated by a teacher education institute

A supervising teacher is a colleague working in a school who agrees to accept a student teacher into his or her classroom as part of an internship of observation and practice teaching. This teacher supervises the work of the student teacher using guidelines set by the student’s teacher education institute. Often this colleague is designated as “cooperating teacher” or “on-site teacher”.

 

Internship/Practicum Supervisor – designated by a teacher education institute

Students enrolled in a Waldorf teacher education program generally undertake an internship or practicum in a Waldorf school as part of their training. In this context a faculty member of the program may visit the school to observe the student who is interning in the school under the guidance of a supervising teacher (see above)

 

Pedagogical Mentorship Network (formerly Pedagogical Advisors Colloquium)

This group of teachers has been working together for several years to deepen its understanding of supportive mentoring practices and the overall role of mentoring in schools. The purpose of this group is not to train or prepare mentors but to build a body of experience and resources that can be helpful to schools in developing their mentoring programs. Participants in the colloquium have taken active roles in offering regional mentoring seminars based on the experience of the colloquium.

 

August 2006

 

 

Engaged Community: A new book by Jon McAlice

“All education is self-education and, as teachers, we can only provide the environment for children’s self-education...where children can educate themselves according to their own destinies.” —Rudolf Steiner (1923)

Based on many years working in Anthroposophy and in Waldorf schools, and drawing extensively on Rudolf Steiner’s words, Jon McAlice’s radical, thought-provoking book opens the ­ field for a new vision of the collaborative possibilities available in schools that are established and sustained by parents and teachers for the sake of students.

Seeking to shift the conversation concerning school governance from a structural to a dynamic approach, McAlice emphasizes learning as a multileveled process of becoming. As he puts it, “a school is a working community dedicated to the art of becoming”—a community in which students and adults participate in the ­difficult task of creating a free, self-governing ecology of learning. For this, the adults must learn to trust one another and develop confidence in collegiality. Understanding the guidance of their common task, they must ­find the humility and honesty to listen without judgment and to speak with authenticity. To create a context in which “children can practice the art of self-education,” educators must themselves become examples of self-governing, creative, responsible human beings, committed to learning and self-development through encounters in which content and process merge in an experience of absolute freedom. Thus something new becomes possible.

McAlice shows how such an ideal can become a reality when parents, teachers, and students all work and learn together for the common goal of becoming more fully human within a dynamic, engaged, participatory learning community.

Engaged Community provides anyone involved in Waldorf education with the appropriate tools and language to take the hard work of dialog and conversation to a higher level.

"This is not a book with a recipe for governance in Waldorf schools. Jon McAlice has written a book about the "challenges" of governance in Waldorf schools in the context of the "mission" of Waldorf education. His book is a meditation on this relationship, and urges us to embrace the challenge free from our preconceived notions of how Waldorf schools "should" be run: to look at what is needed now, in our current situations, in our individual schools. At the same time, he shines a light on the manifold opportunities for growth, change, and development that are possible when we embrace this challenge." —Kevin Hughes, Waldorf teacher (26 years at Kimberton Waldorf School—as a class teacher, art teacher, and now member of the “governing team”)

 

LeadTogether Highlight #2 8-25-14, Core Principles of Waldorf Education

Highlight 2, 8-25-14

 

Dear Colleagues

 

What are the core principles of Waldorf Education? Members of the Pedagogical Section Council in N. America discussed this question over the past year. The result is a set of seven principles that can inform and enliven our conception of our task as teachers and school leaders. These principles are easily accessible and valuable in stimulating research and discussion about our central tasks in our schools. They are not set in stone, but are seen more as living ideals that will continue to evolve and refine as people work with them. Here is the first one to get you started. Find the rest in our resource center here.

  1. Image of the Human Being: The human being in its essence is a being of Spirit, soul, and body. Childhood and adolescence, from birth to twenty-one, are the periods during which the Spirit/soul gradually takes hold of the physical instrument that is our body. The Self is the irreducible spiritual individuality within each one of us, which continues its human journey through successive incarnations.

 

Keep in touch,

 

Michael Soule