Could Steiner schools have a point on children, tablets and tech?

Studies have yet to show much benefit from technology in schools, leading some to wonder whether the offline life is better for children.

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The educational significance of practical learning

By Wilfried Gabriel, April 2018

Which skills and abilities should schools give to children and young people so that they are prepared to confidently confront the challenges of the future? On what basis can these increasingly bigger and more complex seeming tasks such as globalisation and digitalisation, peace and social justice, and responsibility towards the earth and its inhabitants be tackled? From the point of view of Waldorf education, the school’s contribution when it comes to overcoming these challenges can only arise through a human-centred understanding of education.

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Ten Reasons Middle Schoolers (Yr 7-9) Don’t Need Social Media

1. Social media was not designed for children. A tween’s underdeveloped frontal cortex can’t manage the distraction nor the temptations that come with social media use.

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7 Benefits of Waldorf’s “Writing to Read”

Waldorf Education starts to set the foundation for reading in kindergarten. Learning to read is allowed to evolve for each child in the same form as it evolved from the beginning of humanity: spoken language developed first, then people drew pictures to communicate their ideas, followed by symbols such as hieroglyphics and finally the abstract letters of our modern alphabets. Once there was a written language, people learned to read. This is exactly the sequence in which children master language, and it also is the sequence in which reading is taught in Waldorf schools.

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The Rich Get Smart, The Poor Get Technology: The New Digital Divide in School Choice

The “digital divide” was a term originally coined in the early 2000s to describe the “have” and “have-nots” of computers and mobile technology. There was great concern that low-income children would be left behind because of their lack of technology in the home. In the United States, the middle-class predominantly white families who were able to afford computers (and later mobile technology) were able to allow their child to experience (and learn) so much more through the internet accessed on these devices. A number of things addressed these fears, including the decreasing cost of computers. This helped bridge the digital divide, but nothing had quite the effect of the one-to-one programs we now see in so many school districts, including those in low-income areas. All children could have access to the internet. Digital Divide closed. The problem is there is little evidence to support the idea that technology in schools improves learning outcomes.

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Tests or trees?

Emphasis on standardised tests is robbing children of crucial playtime, some teachers say.

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Children struggle to hold pencils due to too much tech, doctors say

Children are increasingly finding it hard to hold pens and pencils because of an excessive use of technology, senior paediatric doctors have warned.

An overuse of touchscreen phones and tablets is preventing children’s finger muscles from developing sufficiently to enable them to hold a pencil correctly, they say.

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Why does Waldorf Education talk about warmth so much?

With the approach of cooler weather it seems timely to consider the importance of warmth for healthy child development. Waldorf/Steiner Education talks about warmth so much because warmth needs our attention. This link will take you to a wonderful article about this, please make time to read.

 

The Easiest Parenting Strategy That Actually Works: Don’t Get in the Way

Screens vs. Staying Out of the Way
Both of these strategies: showing your child a screen and staying out of the way give the parent some more freedom and flexibility in their day. Parents often turn to screens so that they can get something done or “get a moment’s peace.” However, there is another alternative: insist your child solve the problem independently or play independently whilst you have some time for yourself.

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Building Resilience in our HS students

In the High School, we have been working on how to counter the growing anxiety and mental health concerns that are prevalent in adolescents today. Our Main Lessons, anthroposophical approach and wellbeing programs have a positive impact on the challenges faced by teenagers today, but there is always more we can incorporate into our work.

Resilience is defined as the ability to “bounce back” from stressful or challenging experiences. It involves being able to adapt to changes and approach negative events, sources of stress and traumatic events as constructively as possible.

The High School staff are committed to working with students to build this important life skill. It is very important for students to experience ‘failure’ to learn how to bounce back. Experiencing ‘failure’ helps to build mental capacity and learn that life is a series of challenges and joys. Expecting ‘happiness’ in every life experience is not realistic nor healthy. Being ‘saved’ every time something goes wrong does not assist in building strong capacity to cope with future obstacles. There is a growing picture of anxiety and mental health challenges in young people and we need to be responsive to this and address this in our daily work.

I attended a Mental Health in Schools conference a year or so ago and I shared some of the important points from a lecture I attended in a presentation to the HS students at a recent assembly. The speech was written by Peter Ellingson and some of the points below were thought provoking.

“All success is due to failure, and all advances in knowledge come about as a result of failed attempts. This is the reality of achievement. It is a truth that, once grasped, frees us to experiment and innovate –to discover, rather than vegetate or imitate.

Success, after all, is nothing if not the ability to tolerate failure.

Although we can learn to fail without learning from it, when we do pay attention to it, we enter new thinking and risk-taking. Failure is how we learn – the natural consequence of the risk and complexity – which not only characterises life – but, when embraced, makes it exhilarating. It is when things fail that minds get to work to devise better solutions.

US celebrity talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, who ran one of the highest-ranking TV shows ever and is the richest self-made woman and the only black female billionaire, was fired from her first job. Her boss told her that she was too emotional and not right for television.

Similarly, Walt Disney, whose Disney studios pioneered animation and inventive film-making, was fired by a newspaper editor because he lacked imagination. Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, did not become the world’s richest man, overnight – he was a university drop out, whose first business failed. The man whose name implies genius, Albert Einstein, was a “failed” child. He did not speak until he was four, did not read until he was seven, was expelled from school and refused admittance to his local university. He went on to win the Nobel Prize and change, not just physics, but how we understand who we are. The same is true of Sir Isaac Newton, the man who discovered gravity, and Charles Darwin, who before he stumbled on to Natural Selection, gave up on his medical career. The man who literally had a light bulb moment, when he invented the light bulb, Thomas Edison, was another who did poorly in early life, along with US President Abraham Lincoln, TV’s most successful comic, Jerry Seinfeld, French artist, Vincent Van Gogh – who only sold one painting in his lifetime – and Elvis Presley, who was fired after one performance. According to the promoter, the future king of rock n’ roll was a failure who needed to go back to driving a truck.

Failure then, is productive, not because good guys come last, but because good outcomes arise from bad ones. Although we can learn to fail without learning from it, when we do pay attention to it, we enter new thinking and risk-taking. Failure is how we learn – the natural consequence of the risk and complexity – which not only characterises life – but, when embraced, makes it exhilarating.”

Some of the examples of where we see a lack of resilience in the HS are:

  • Students calling parents to pick them up when they don’t feel comfortable or ‘happy’ at school or at a school event or camp
  • Students using “I can’t….” statements when they feel something is too hard
  • Students feeling too stressed to do timed exam responses or timed assessments as they are worried they will do badly or ‘fail’
  • Some students feeling that receiving a 19/20 on a task is somehow a ‘failure’

Some things we do to support students in the HS that assist in building resilience (these are a few examples) :

  • SRC – Student Representative Council – students having a voice in the school and listening to other students’ concerns and discussing how to deal with them
  • Year 9 community work – working towards causes that are bigger than themselves
  • PDHPE curriculum which actively targets personal development ideas
  • Sport classes – physical activity is a proven antidote to anxiety and feelings of sadness
  • enriching Main Lessons that work on the three-fold picture of human development and use history and art to show the progression of ideas and the continuation of human consciousness
  • Whole HS singing each Wednesday – brings a sense of belonging and a chance for non-singers to build resilience in sitting in the ‘uncomfortable zone’ and knowing that their presence alone is important
  • No Smartphones in the playground – to enable students to sort things out in a face to face way rather than online in more anonymous modes and allow for natural human connection amongst students
  • Sports Carnivals – students feel connected to a whole group or may feel uncomfortable in the physical realm, but learn to work through uncomfortable feelings
  • Work Experience – risk taking, being in an unfamiliar situation and experiencing the world outside the ‘safe’ school environment
  • Tobias Project at Year 8- sticking at a project for a whole year and dealing with the obstacles and pitfalls that inevitably occur
  • Camps Program – despite some students feeling nervous and worried about being away from home, we see amazing changes in reluctant camp goers
  • Teachers showing and modelling their ‘mistakes’ – we all try to show that we are not flawless and that mistakes are human and normal.
  • Shared cross year level projects – to enable younger and older students to share ideas and solutions
  • Leadership in senior school – House Captain responsibilities and Year 12 students as MCs in High School Assemblies, which encourages students to take risks and face challenges

We are always working on ways to encourage students to take risks in a safe environment and to learn from things that feel hard. We ask for your support in cementing what we bring at home and are always happy to receive feedback about what we do. Conversations around the dinner table that perhaps talk about how you as adults have learnt from mistakes is a great start!

Katie Biggin 

What’s Essential: Five Gifts of a Steiner School Education

By Steve Sagarin

(This brief article is based on part of my talk, “What Makes Waldorf, Waldorf? Separating Myths from Essentials and Making the Future Bright,” a keynote address at the annual Governance, Leadership and Management (GLaM) Conference, Steiner Education Australia (SEA), Shearwater, The Mullumbimby Steiner School, NSW, Australia. May 2, 2015.)

A Steiner school gives its graduates—high school graduates—five gifts. Primary school parents and graduates will recognize these gifts, but they will also recognize that they do not come to fruition by 7th or 8th grade.

1.) The first gift is the gift of ideas and ideals.

A Steiner school does not provide beliefs or a worldview. Belief, knowledge, and worldview may be “about” spiritual matters, but are not them. The school provides a pathway or method for discovering profound ideas and ideals, should a student wish later in life to pursue them.
In fact, all we can give with regard to spiritual realities—the realm of ideas and ideals—is a path that can be followed or retraced. In geometry, I can show you how the steps of a proof lead to logical proof, but you must take that final intuitive leap yourself. If you do not “see” that these steps constitute a proof, all I can do as a teacher is retrace the path with you, perhaps using different language or different symbols in order to help you again to the brink of intuitive understanding.

2.) Second, a school addresses its students as developing human beings, beings uniquely capable of inner transformation.

In nature, metamorphoses and transformations are primarily visible. We can see a plant grow from shoot to leaves to flower, each stage presenting unforeseen changes of form. No one looking at a caterpillar for the first time would guess that it will soon be a butterfly. In human life, especially after childhood, transformation and development are not so visible. For Steiner, all cats belong to the same species, but each human being is a species unto himself or herself.

3.) Third, a school introduces students to different ways of knowing and being, three in particular.

(Psychologists recognize these with terms like “cognition,” “affect,” and “behaviour.”) You can know cognitively, you can live in your head. You can contemplate or reflect, observe or compare, analyze or synthesize. These accord most closely with what the world outside a Steiner school means by knowing.
But you can also know with your heart. I call this aesthetic knowing, knowing in which you are awake to beauty, to an ethical understanding, and even to truth. The path to truth may be cognitive, but the recognition of truth is a feeling. Playfulness is the true expression of aesthetic knowing. One way to understand what I mean is to contrast aesthetic knowing with its opposite, “anaesthetic knowing.” Something that anaesthetizes you puts you to sleep—you cannot know anything. The aesthetic awakens you.

Last, you can know in your body and in your senses. Michael Polanyi calls this “tacit knowing,” knowing more than we can say. You can read a book about playing the piano or performing heart surgery, but I hope you would not say after you put the book down that you knew how to do these things.

4.) Fourth, a school can provide profound examples and guidelines for a healthy life with other persons.

If they choose to, Waldorf school graduates know how to care for others in brotherhood and sisterhood, in solidarity. They know how to respect the equality of any man or any woman. They know where their individual freedom lies, the sort of freedom that laws and conventions cannot touch, and how to accord others their own freedom and dignity.

5.) Fifth, students receive a reverence for life and for the world; a concern for the environment, however defined.

I mention this last because as a society we have probably embraced this gift more fully in the past fifty years than we have the others. Any school, any teachers, may give these gifts. But the sad truth is that in our world today only in Steiner schools can you regularly find teachers united in common purpose to give their students as fully and consistently what I have outlined here.

From ssagarin.blogspot.com.au

Why idle moments are crucial for creativity

Our brains are at their most innovative when they are resting, so why aren’t we making time for quiet reflection?

To read more follow this link.

Safe on Social Media

Kirra Pendergast is the director of the Safe on Social Media website who recently gave a talk at our school. www.safeonsocial.com

This link takes you to some important insight she shares specifically for parents.

You would be careful in real life, so why not online?

Social Media is viewed by most people as a fun way to share information about themselves, friendships, family and things that happen in their day-to-day lives.

But things can go wrong…

It is important to understand that what you post on social media sites can affect your life both in good ways and bad.

Safe on Social Media guides are available on our website you can find them here 

Harry Potter- Why we should wait!

Please find  below some links to a couple of very good articles on why it is a good idea for children to wait until they are well into the middle primary school years to start reading Harry Potter.

Increasingly we are experiencing parents of very young children questioning the schools policy on not letting them start reading Harry Potter series until Class 4 and asking for more information as to why it is best to wait. One article suggests that Class 4 age is still considered too young- but they are certainly not for the 6-7 year olds that are wanting to get started.
Harry Potter is a great fantasy but as renowned author and Steiner teacher Horst Kornberger points out “a certain foundation of the soul needs to be established before a child enters the gothic labyrinth of Hogwarts”. The books are based on a mystery novel and emotional suspense. The dark forces are hidden and unscrupulous, and become even more so as the books progress. This is exciting for a teenager but is not appropriate for younger readers who need to know who is good and who is bad so they can orientate themselves in a story. ” H. Kornberger, Story Medicine.

We hope you will find the articles food for thought and help back up our schools policy. Whilst we all appreciate J.K Rowling’s imaginative series (they are well written, entertaining and exciting books) let’s all try and keep them for the appropriate time. We still have high school students enjoying the series and rereading them-they are very quick to report they are glad they waited …

http://capebyronsteiner.nsw.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/New-Tales-for-Old-from-Story-Medicine-by-Horst-Kornberger-1.pdf

https://bookriot.com/2015/08/04/ill-kids-wait-read-harry-potter/