The Rose Ceremony. First graders being welcomed by their new teachers.
At Mountain Sage, class teachers have the opportunity to take the same group of children through multiple years of schooling. For the teacher, this means time to deeply know the children and their families. This long-term relationship provides the opportunity to assess students over a long period of time, and allows the teacher to better meet the individual needs of each child. All class teachers have the responsibility to be fully engaged and to continually pursue their own self-development; this provides a powerful modeling of active learning and personal growth for the students.
The Structure of Teacher/Class Continuity at Mountain Sage
In private Waldorf schools, the class teacher may stay with one class of students from grade 1 through grade 8. At Mountain Sage, however, we have chosen to adapt this approach to better meet the needs of the public education realm and to maintain a high degree of excellence in upper level academic instruction in order to increase students’ ability to easily transition into high school life.
Kindergarten teachers are early childhood specialists. They provide a warm and welcoming foundational year for the school’s youngest students and their parents.
As students enter 1st grade, they will meet the class teacher who will be their guide and mentor through 5th grade and perhaps beyond.
Upon entering middle school (6th through 8th), students experience a growing team of teachers and subjects. Depending on their skills set and desire to move into the middle school realm, a class teacher may or may or may continue on with their class in the middle school years.
The same group of students remains together throughout their school career at Mountain Sage, grades 1-8, facilitating strong, supportive peer relationships and a "class family" atmosphere.
There are many educational advantages that come from teachers working with the same group of students for multiple years. Looping teachers do not need to spend two months of the school year trying to get to know their students. Nor will the students spend the first weeks of the year trying to adjust to new expectations and testing the teacher’s limits. The continuing teacher will already be aware of the individual learning styles of their students; who learns slowly and needs lots of practice, who learns quickly and needs to be challenged, etc. Students’ basic strengths and deficiencies will also be known, as well as the full extent of the material that was introduced in the previous years.
Benefits extend into the community, as well. Many children’s lives are filled with constant change, moving between two parent’s homes or having three to multiple extra-curricular activities during the week. It is essential for schools to step forward to provide care and continuity for children. Teachers that continue to teach the same group of children year after year establish a unique trust. These teachers develop a more discerning eye and are able to perceive problems before they become painfully obvious and more difficult to address. It also allows teachers to remain engaged throughout the years as they strive to master a new curriculum each year.
Looping brings out the best in a teacher, asking them to join with parents in accepting extended responsibility for a child’s well being. This requires a high level of dedication. Teachers who are drawn to education inspired by Waldorf are looking for a situation that offers such benefits and challenge as these. Teacher continuity is also a great aid to discipline when needed.