We travel to Reggio Emilia to visit and know more about the Rudolf Steiner school. We talk to Barbara Bonomo about a variety of aspects that characterise Waldorf pedagogy such as the Waldorf curriculum, the rule of three, the «pagella artistica» or the students assessment.
The rules of three in Waldorf pedagogy
As teachers we like to respect the rule of three when you bring a new topic to your students.
The first day you explain it, you don’t write anything, you don’t do exercises about it, you don’t give a rule…you simply explain it. Maybe you can do an experience from it. For example you can cut triangles and understand how Pitágoras did with these triangles. But you don’t do any exercise.
So children go to sleep and the second day in the morning you ask them “Ok, what do you remember about yesterday? What did we talk about?”, we try not to say anything but let them explain you what they remember. And this is the power of the night. Because during the night something happens and the next day, they remember. Only at that time, you can write something or complete, or finding together the rule of the topic.
Then they go to sleep the third night. And then the third day you can ask them “Ok, what have we been talking about yesterday and the day before yesterday?”, so at that time you can write and you can already study what you have left sleeping during the night in your soul.
The Waldorf curriculum
So we have curricular subjects that are the same that you can find at the public school even if the approach is completely different. So for example, we have geometry, history, science, geography, Italian, maths, music, gyms and then art.
But then we work a lot with our hands, we work with wood, wool, clay, paper, we have eurythmie, which is not known outside from Waldorf schools. And for example eurythmie is a basic topic for our school. They are all important to let the child growth in a positive way, using the thoughts, the feelings, your arms, your hands doing something useful.
The «pagella artistica», a different kind of evaluation:
When you evaluate a student, we say it in Italian “pagella” (academical record). We have what we call a pagella artistica.
So from the first class up to the eight class students receive a book prepared by the teacher. In this book the teacher explains to the child according to this kind of development where he/she is and what he/she can do better.
When they are in the first class usually the teacher writes a tale for them and then so on. Until the sixth or seven class when they write a letter directly to the child. So this is our best way for evaluation for children. We don’t write A, B, C, D…we never put a number.
In 7th and 8th class in order to let them prepare for the public school where they will receive grades, we start writing something, for example, it was good, it was not so good, you should study more, but not until 7th class.
Dealing with conflicts at school
When something happens, when there is a conflict, we sit together in this big circle and try to talk together with students but it is something new for us. It is something than never happened in the past. So we are studying as teachers how to solve these conflicts, to pay attention to the little signs they can give.
The connection between maths and music
For example to learn maths in primary school I would suggest to use music and rhythm and body. Maths and music are very connected and music can help students learning maths. Also going on it’s also very important to keep this relationship between rhythm and body and music and math even if things become more abstract in the 7th or 8th grade.
In the first classes we usually teach numbers through tales, so there is always a tale and the image of the number arrives before the pure number itself. Then they experience the number, but before they experience the tale, they can count using everything, shells or whatever. So if possible doing experience with numbers.
«As part of your teacher development you have to experience Art by yourself»
To be a Waldorf teacher do you need to be an artist?
Maybe if you are an artist you dream to be a Waldorf teacher because art is really connected so if you have art inside, it’s so near to you this pedagogy.
If you are not an artist you have to develop that side of you. For example each week we meet as teachers, we study together and we make art together, each Thursday of each week. So first of all we try to nourish ourselves with art, to experience it, to be ready to meet children.