Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nursery Observation

Yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity to observe in a nursery classrooom at Kimberton Waldorf School...
Only it wasn't really a classroom at all!
In keeping with the belief that young children thrive in a home-like setting, the nursery is located "off campus" on a country road, in a refinished farmhouse.

It's magnificent.
I visited for a tea and play 2 years ago and snapped some photos at this time. I wasn't able to take any photos during this trip as I arrived a bit late after traveling over 60 minutes. I'll be reposting these beautiful photos throughout this post.
The nursery encompasses 2 assistants and one lead teacher. The second assistant seemed to be solely focused on kitchen work, food preparation, making sure all of the details were in order to ensure that the morning ran smoothly.

The first assistant was ironing cloths and pieces of satin ribbon when I arrived. Sunlight filled the room....I glanced out the window and saw cows grazing in the pasture across the street. Hardly a car drove past. It was so calming and very slow.
The assistant greeted each child as they arrived with a softly sung song as they walked over to see what it is she was doing. Pieces of the satin ribbon were handed out and I could imagine how soft and lovely they felt upon holding them in your hands or rubbing them on your arm or the side of the face. 

The children began their play while the morning work continued. More and more children arrived. All of a sudden, I was counting 18 children. 18! Plus 4 adults including myself.
It was a full house, literally.
I loved this morning experience. Not only did I get to spend time in a beautiful environment among talented teachers, but I got to see first hand how they react to difficult situations. My ears perked up every time I heard crying or fighting. I watched children hit each other...and the teachers reacting in a way that served to be respectful of the development of the very young child. There were no punishments and no exclamations of "No!" Instead, there was much, much modeling of how to care for each to listen to someone when they are hurt, how to make them feel better, how to give them the space they may need. "My eyes saw you hit "John". Our hands are gentle." The teachers seems to speak in present tense....such as if a child was up out of their seat at snack time, the response was "John is sitting at the table". "My eyes just saw you throw this". "I see that John had this first". A response to hitting was "That was too much for (name of child being hit)" Another response to the "tattling" or (some may call it) "stating the obvious" which is right on for this age group (very young children, 3-4) was "Thank you, my eyes did see that" or "Thank you, my ears heard this, too".

During snack, one child in particular was sort of relentlessly hitting another and the lead teacher moved his chair back from the snack table. "Oh my. You will come back when I fee you're ready". The teacher also did her best to catch the punches before they hit, a tactic that works best for me in practice. It requires a very keen eye; much attention and observation. I am always striving to work on this.
  The snack, a vegetable and grain soup was delicious. The children also enjoyed it, taking seconds and thirds.

  This observation was especially important for me to experience. I did see that the rhythm of the day is *not* by any means without loud and somewhat "chaotic" moments. I am seeing that it is all how you go about responding to these situations...such a 2 children crying at once, someone hurting themselves and needing care, etc. It was also intersting to observe the children who were somewhat cranky or of the girls experiencing these emotions was dropped off late and looked like she had been crying. As teachers, I suppose we will never truly know what is happening at home; the emotions, the situations in the morning, the energies, but we can strive to stay in contact with the parents in a way that is not bringing adult conversation into the classroom.

 A seasoned Waldorf teacher I know had the idea of putting a notebook outside of the classroom door. This way, parents can document anything the teacher should know. ("John had a tough time sleeping last night", "no breakfast", "we need to talk later") This may serve to give a teacher glimpses into what could be causing a behavior and how to respond in the way that will serve the child best.

Thanks for reading...this was a great opportunity for me to reflect on all of the valuable lessons I learned from this experience!
....I'm working on our Lenten decorations including a Lenten Garden. Stay tuned for photos and details. There has been a lot of excitement in my life the past few days!!!!!


  1. Thanks Rebecca, so enjoyed reading of your experience. I teach handwork to young children and it is such a journey to learn how to deal with potentially difficult moments. I love the expressions used here, really helpful. Thanks so much for sharing and look forward to seeing your Lenten garden! x

  2. P.S. the photos are awe-inspiring!

  3. What soothing photographs, and I was most taken with the one of the dining room table. So orderly. In our chaotic (homeschooling) house of 8 children, this is so appealing.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences....even after teaching our children for about 19 years, there's always something to learn. Take care. :)

  4. My husband and I had deeply discussed the possibility of moving into the Camphill community in Kimberton. We almost made the leap until we moved into another intentional community, where we still are now. How beautiful your photos and your experience. It was like a breath of fresh air and quite inspiring to see life there through your eyes. Thank you!

  5. Thanks so much for this post (and others) and the beautiful pictures. Great reminders here.

  6. What a wonderful experience this must have been for you! Thank you for sharing it with us!

  7. Beautiful post. Seems that the things going on in this classroom spoke to you right where you are personally (and I'm there, too.).

  8. What a beautiful school, and a wonderful looking environment. Thank you for taking the time to share it with us. I don't homeschool my children as that is not in the cards right now, but you did give me ideas of things to try just in our own home. Thanks again/

  9. Our children attend a Waldorf school here in New Zealand, and it was the calm and slowness of the pace which appealed to me too. I really like how you've described the approach to discipline.

  10. Can adults attend that school? I will enroll tomorrow. I think the Waldorf philosophy helps to remind all of us to create an environment of peace and calm wherever we are. Thank you so much for sharing the experience.

  11. Thank you so muhcchor sharing this, Rebecca! I really have been wanting to know how Waldorf teachers handle some of these different issues. The pictures look lovely. What a pleasure it must be to visit there!

  12. This is a lovely description, thank you Rebecca! I run a small waldorf-inspired home nursery and my first thought was Wow I would love to have two assistants! :) It's helpful to hear the teacher's responses to common situations; the response "Thank you, my eyes see that too" or "My ears hear that too" will come in handy for me! I just love any opportunity to observe more seasoned teachers. :)

  13. Thank you for sharing! My daughter attends a Waldorf preschool and I attend whenever I can, mostly so I can absorb some of the teachers' beautiful energy and seek to emulate them at home.

  14. Gitanjali 8th March 2012March 7, 2012 at 10:43 PM

    Hi Rebecca, I was reading parenting passageway and found your post's introduction on the site ("most of you wonder how to discipline young children") very relevant for me... as I have a 6 month old son. He has been a darling so far and this question does arise in my mind discipline in a way so as to instill high self esteem in him...
    It was lovely going through your sharing and looking through the pictures. Thanks !

  15. I just re-read this post and have made some mental notes...I would loooove to observe this in action - it sounds like they are on top of their game! I don't know if I would have the patience or knowledge in how to deal with these situations - so its good to read and see how others who have been in the field for so long are handling challenges!

  16. Thank you so much for sharing this. It is so interesting to have a glimpse of what goes on in a real Waldorf school and to learn from others practical ways of dealing with the many challenges we face in our everyday with children. Your post has really helped me to reflect on how I could go about managing some situations that occur with my children at home.

  17. Thank you so much for sharing this. It is so interesting to have a glimpse of what goes on in a real Waldorf school and to learn from others practical ways of dealing with the many challenges we face in our everyday with children. Your post has really helped me to reflect on how I could go about managing some situations that occur with my children at home.


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