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Torin Finser on Parent-Teacher Relationships this Tuesday

Please join usfinser_whidbey on Tuesday evening, March 17, to hear Torin Finser speak about his latest book, “A Second Classroom: Parent-Teacher Relationships in a Waldorf School.”

Torin Finser, PhD., is Chair of the Education Department at Antioch University New England.  He has written extensively on Waldorf Education and consulted world-wide.

More information on the event is here: http://waldorfmoraine.org/event/adult-speaker-series-3/


BOOK REVIEW: A Second Classroom: Parent-Teacher Relationships in a Waldorf School|by Kathy McElveen, Austin Waldorf School

The doorway to a classroom is a threshold where teacher and student meet. There is another kind of meeting at this threshold, that between the child’s parents and teacher. This important relationship receives thorough attention and its just due in Torin Finser’s book, The Second Classroom. “How adults work together can be as important as the curriculum on any given day.”  This is true at all levels of work in a school, in what the children learn as they watch adults interacting, in the effective working of the school community, and in the success of addressing the needs of a particular child.  Consciously and carefully cultivating relationships is the hard work of community building and this book is a treasure trove of practical advice, diverse experiences, and a call for action.

There is value here for new and experienced parents, teachers, and school administrators or anyone interested in education.  There are practical tips for improving parent conferences and class meetings, strategies for “hard to handle parents”, as well as chapters on parent volunteers and the value of effective administration. Parents are challenged to be “co-responsible for the social health” of the class and encouraged to become part of an active learning community.  The author does not shy away from traditionally taboo subjects such as burned out teachers, the “uber” volunteer, or Waldorphans, the students of faculty members.

Like a many-faceted gem, a multitude of perspectives and ways of approaching the subject are explored. The chapters alternate between practical advice and inner dimensions that encourage self-reflection and inner work.  Together they form an “outer path thread” and an “inner path thread” weaving together practical application with philosophical foundations, support for personal development, and esoteric considerations.  “Outer challenges are often a manifestation of inner challenges and the more inner work one does, the less likely personal issues will need to be played out in the community.”  While much advice is offered, at least as many questions are raised and left for the reader to consider.

The author is honest, personal, and direct.  He draws on his own experiences as a parent and teacher of over three decades. He shares many personal stories humbly revealing his own blind spots, vulnerabilities, and mistakes. While he could have drawn upon these experiences alone, he is an advocate for research and reached out to current parents, teachers, and others through surveys and interviews.  He also incorporates related work by Marshall Rosenberg, Karl Konig, Martin Buber, Carl Jung, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, and others.

Voices of teachers and parents ring out in a chapter summarizing the results of the survey and interviews. Questions include: “What do parents need from a teacher in order to feel met and supported?” ,“What advice can you give a new parent in terms of establishing an effective parent teacher relationship?”, and “What makes for a successful parent meeting/class night?” There are also stories of lessons learned when “relationships broke down” and when they worked especially well in service to parents, teachers, and children.  These represent real-world case studies that support the other chapters in the book.

The book includes insights from the work of professionals and academics in communication, parent/teacher dynamics, and education.  From Marshall Rosenberg and collaborator John Cunningham there are the techniques of nonviolent communication.  The author presents Rosenberg’s method of how one can participate more consciously in a conversation then offers examples of what that might look like for a parent or teacher in “before and after” scenarios.  Rephrasing a comment in terms of observations rather than judgment can shift how the other person experiences it and responds.  Effective listening includes checking for understanding, catching errors quickly, as well as developing empathy for the other person.  Parents and teachers carry equal responsibility for rxamining listening habits and working to open clear pathways to understanding.

From Karl Konig there are ideas about the impact of family of origin on social behavior and specifically birth order.  Becoming conscious of these “childhood tendencies,” Finser suggests, can help move us “from reactive behavior to a more proactive, enlightened approach.”  Harvard professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot has looked deeply into the nature of parent-teacher conversation bringing greater understanding about why there is so much at stake in these meetings and how participants can become more conscious about the emotions that often arise.  She describes how adults arrive to the parent-teacher meeting believing they are working in the present but suddenly find themselves visited by “ghosts” from their pasts, “filling the spaces with the voices of people who are not there.” Finser comments: “There is a vast sea of drama under the surface of parent-teacher conversation.”  He goes on to offer suggestions for both teacher and parent in working sensitively and respectfully with one another.

“The door of the classroom is the portal through which both child, parents and teachers pass. It marks the threshold of moving from the old to the new, from what we are to what we can become. The doorway of a classroom can be seen as simple lumber, nails or mortar, an “it.” Or it can be crossed with devotion and reverence for a threshold experience, a moment of “I – Thou.” It contains both the ordinary and the loftiest portion of human experience.”  Many of the chapters in the book challenge the reader to become more conscious in the encounter with the other, to struggle to see who is really there to be met. By offering examples of different points of view, the obstacles that can be in the way, and tools for working with them, Finser urges us to improve the quality of the third space, the meeting place in the middle between two human beings. In doing so, we can better serve one another and the children in our care.

While the book is written especially for Waldorf parents and teachers, it is relevant for anyone interested in education.  As a teacher who recently graduated an 8th grade and a Waldorf parent of many years, I know firsthand the critical role that parent/teacher relationships play in the success of a class.  This book will give you much to consider and it is highly recommended.



Middle School Brings Math Outdoors on Pi Day

Pi Day Photo 1

Last week the seventh and eighth grades celebrated Pi Day, marking the once-in-a-century 3-14-15, with some scientific, artistic, and culinary experiences. 

Our main activity was a project to estimate the age of trees on part of our campus. Armed with tape measures and field guides, we went outside to record the DBH, “diameter at breast height,” for a range of trees on the property. Of course, we did not want to cut down the trees to measure the diameter of their trunks, so we measured the circumference and divided by pi to get the diameter. We then multiplied the diameter by a species-specific growth factor to get an approximate age of each tree.  In the process, we needed to solve several challenges we encountered, especially given the extensive snow cover—measuring the circumference at 4.5 feet (the standard for “breast height”) while standing on several feet of snow, and identifying the tree species without leaves and cones to examine. We resolved to return again in the spring to verify and augment our data!  Pi Day Photo 2

Back in the classroom, we explored properties of irrational numbers in general, and we heard music based on pi (which some of the students played for us) and looked at some creative data visualization techniques, also based on the digits of pi. And, of course, we ate some pie—chocolate cream and apple, to be

exact. Thanks to Daniel Foster (not only our Spanish teacher but also an environmental educator) for suggesting the idea of measuring DBH, and to Mrs. Babcock for baking the pies!

—Mrs. McGaunn and Ms. Helmick

Support the Annual Fund and You Could Win 4 Tickets on Cape Air!

about-cape-airMake your gift to the Annual Fund for Waldorf School at Moraine Farm by March 31, 2015, and earn your chance to win 4 airline tickets on Cape Air.*

All who make a pledge or donation to the Annual Fund by Friday, March 31, will be entered automatically into a drawing to win four tickets on Cape Air, thanks to a generous donation from Stella and Don Wolf of Cape Air Airline. Tickets are good anywhere Cape Air flies; no restrictions or blackout dates. Those who have contributed to this year’s Annual Fund since July 1, 2014, are already entered in the drawing.

The next few weeks are all about achieving 100% parent participation in the Annual Fund and reaching our goal of $50,000. For easy online giving, click here and make a gift today. Questions? Email Scott Smith at developmentoffice@waldorfmoraine.org.

Good luck, and thank you for your support.

*No gift or pledge necessary to enter. Pledging does not increase the chances of winning. To enter the drawing without making a gift or pledge, please submit your name, address and telephone number to Waldorf School at Moraine Farm, 701 Cabot Street, Beverly, MA 01915, ATTN: Scott Smith and note “Cape Air Drawing” and the date. All entries must be received by March 31, 2015. Click here for official rules.

Waldorf School at Moraine Farm & Tuition Adjustment in the National News

Jenny Helmick was interviewed by U.S. News & World Report last week for a story on the affordability of a private school education. Throughout the interview, Jenny was able to talk about the new Tuition Adjustment Program. It is wonderful to see this school’s forward-thinking approach to tuition highlighted nationally. It is also wonderful to be reminded about the fundamental ways in which this new program is so firmly rooted in the values and ideals of this school. As U.S. News & World Report notes, “the approach has allowed a more economically diverse student body to attend the school, which the staff sees as a major plus.”

Tuition adjustment is a means to help the school fulfill its educational and social mission. Vibrant, inclusive classrooms, where people from different backgrounds work and learn together, benefit every student and the whole school community.

We extend our thanks to Jenny for all her work on the Tuition Review Task Force and for generously spending her time working with the reporter at U.S. News & World Report.

To read the U.S. News & World Report article, please click here. For more information about the Tuition Adjustment Program, please visit waldorfmoraine.org.

Waldorf Community Association – Upcoming Events

From the WCA, Our School Parent Association


The Waldorf Community Association (WCA) is looking forward to a full 2015.  Please take advantage of these offerings and please consider getting involved to help move the WCA into 2016 and beyond.

Winter Festival Feb. 28  Yes, our first ever Winter Festival! A hot fire, warm soup, perhaps some cross-country skiing and/or a winter walk, and more. We’ll make snowmen if King Winter obliges. Please plan to join us for weekend fun here at school.

Talk: Parent-Teacher Relationships at a Waldorf School Torin Finser is the chair of Waldorf teacher education program at Antioch University New England and is author of several books, including School as a Journey: The Eight-Year Odyssey of a Waldorf Teacher and His Class, and his most recent book, A Second Classroom: Parent-Teacher Relationships in a Waldorf School, which was written with the help of our very own first grade teacher, Ana Reiselman. Please join us in March (date to be determined) for a presentation and discussion with Mr. Finser.

Foundation Studies: Delving into Waldorf Education This is an invitation to participate in an extended inquiry into the ideas and practices of Waldorf Education. In this twice-monthly class, we will look at curriculum, try our hands at painting, music, movement, and other arts, and read some of the texts central to the Waldorf philosophy. September 2015 through June 2016 (with year II to follow). Please contact Colleen Ryan or James Kennedy today and look for more information in future Newsletters. Contact: cryan@waldorfmoraine.org and newsletter@waldorfmoraine.org.

Lazure Workshop: Ensouling Your World With Color The WCA is working with artist Charles Andrade of www.lazure.com to bring this spring painting workshop to our school. The lazure technique uses very thin layers of color over a white surface to reflect light such that the color appears to be floating in space rather than sitting on the wall. “It can achieve aesthetically beautiful results AND act as a powerful healing influence amid the stress and tension of modern life,” says lazurebylogsdon.com. Keep an ear out for our weekend workshop date this spring.

What Could the WCA Do for You?
Leadership in the Waldorf Community Association is in transition. As we continue to look for ways to educate parents and otherwise support the school, now is the perfect time for interested individuals to reach out with ideas for the future.  Please contact Laura Freysinger, Stacey Fischer, or Jocelyn Schaeffer!

Winter Wonderland

Two feet of snow fell on Tuesday and Wednesday, giving the children not one, but two snow days! Here is how the campus looked on Wednesday night, all ready for a day of school on Thursday.





Waldorf School at Moraine Farm

701 Cabot Street
Beverly, MA 01915

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