What is a main lesson?
The main lesson is a central feature of Steiner Education. Each day begins with a Main Lesson that incorporates a range of activities and content which address the children’s intellectual-cognitive, aesthetic-affective and practical modes of learning from Class 1 to 12. It focuses on subjects in the Sciences and Humanities within an artistically rich and integrated curriculum closely allied to the development of the child. Each Main Lesson is presented over a three week period for approximately two hours every morning and is linked to the others, either in a horizontal sequence (throughout the year) or in a vertical sequence (across the span of the years).
The Class Teacher (or specialist teachers in the Upper School) endeavours to make each lesson an artistic whole, which supports the child’s learning and understanding to an age-appropriate level. This approach enables the students to experience a topic fully and allows them to gain a depth of understanding beyond the bare facts.
What is your attitude to discipline?
Discipline in a Steiner school is neither rigid in the traditional sense nor free in the progressive sense. Discipline is aimed at, and arises out of, the human understanding between teacher and student – a caring concern met by affectionate regard. The ongoing Class Teacher relationship allows time for this understanding to develop.
Discipline has two elements – the maintenance of outer order whilst helping children to master them. Therefore, ideally any discipline should be both constructive and therapeutic. All Steiner schools have Behaviour Management Policies which state clearly their approach to discipline and outline the steps involved in finding this balance.
What if a child does not get on with the class teacher? (given that that teacher may be with the child for a number of years)
A Class Teacher will be with his/her class for up to 8 years. During that time, relationships between teacher and students will go through different stages. When there is tension in the relationship, it is seen as an opportunity to change and the Class Teacher will do everything possible to heal the situation. Class Teachers, because of the length of time they stay with their students, have a long-term perspective – it is more like a family dynamic, where difficulties can arise between family members, but which need to be dealt with in a loving and understanding way. Additionally, during the Class Teacher journey, a real partnership develops between teacher and the families of the children – again providing a strong base for resolving difficulties. Sometimes however, despite all efforts, the situation cannot be healed and this must also be accepted.
Do the class teachers teach all subjects to the class?
The Class Teacher is the stable, enduring element in the child’s education in primary years and teaches the Main Lesson along with the weekly practice lessons. However, it is seen as very healthy for the class to experience a wide range of teachers and personalities on a regular basis. In addition to the Class Teacher, specialist teachers in Foreign Language, Music, Craft, Eurythmy and Physical Education enrich our curriculum and share their skills with the students.
What is your attitude to Physical Education and Sport?
All Steiner schools provide a range of physical education activities. In the early years, the focus is on movement, balance and acquiring simple ball skills. As the children develop, a larger variety of sporting activities are offered, both team sports and individual sports. The attitude to Sport however is that it is played for exercise, health, agility and enjoyment – the competitive element is not particularly stressed. There is a strong element of Outdoor Education, with Class camps from the mid-primary years leading to very challenging programmes with the older students.
How do your children cope in a competitive world, given that you do not encourage competition?
It may well be said that the only worthwhile competition is with yourself, to outgrow what you are and to strive to discover what you might become. The question is not so much whether or not you are better than another, but rather whether you are the best you can be. Thus Steiner schools prefer to encourage emulation rather than competition.
A teacher will encourage each student to be the best that he/she can be, and will find many opportunities to acknowledge to the whole class, achievements of individual students as they show particular strengths or as they overcome weaknesses. The whole class will rejoice in each instance.
How people cope in a competitive world depends on their self-esteem. If they leave school with an inner confidence in their ability to grow to meet the demands of a situation, they will be able to live their lives positively and constructively.
How do your students adjust to life after school?
Steiner education has existed in Australia for over 45 years. There are many graduates around Australia in their twenties, thirties and even forties. These graduates have shown themselves to be well able to meet difficult and shifting circumstances, to retain their presence of mind and equilibrium under stress, to achieve well in their chosen careers and to take initiatives in their work, social and personal lives.
It is always exciting to hear of students’ achievements in many different fields, here in Australia and overseas. Studies have shown that the career paths are evenly divided between the sciences and the humanities – a tribute to the balance in the education. Former students are open-minded, much interested in the world around them, ready to be involved and take responsibility.