Waldorf: A Safe Healthy Haven?

by beansavi on mothering.com
Okay, here is part of my story. I will add more later, when I feel up to it. I’m sure you all can understand the draining qualities of recounting abusive experiences. Again, I am sharing here to encourage the bravery of others, and to establish a safe place to talk and get support for what we have each been through.

Please also reference posts numbers 164-166 later in this thread.

When my child was one year old, I heard about Waldorf Education from a friend. Since I was in graduate school for Elementary Education, I was naturally intrigued. I was drawn by the normal influences: the color, the softness, the natural toys, the stories, the slow pace of the learning. It was pretty much the opposite of what I was being taught in college.

I attended initial meetings for founding a school in my area (probably five people at most) and did a lot of the grunt work to get the school going, including using our truck to haul desks and blackboards from another school an hour away.

Naturally, the people I was spending so much time with became my new community, now that I was a new mother. My friends that still had no children and I grew apart, and I let that happen. The common thread with my new friends was the Waldorf school, and Waldorf Ed. Unfortunately, I didn’t attempt to find any other community. I felt like those I was with were the best of the best, and we really knew what was best for our kids, and for kids in general. We were also “mentored” by other schools and teachers, and so their opinion was that Waldorf was superior, and they stated constantly how and why. Not good.

The Kindergartens became established, and one grade. After spending years to help found the school, joining the local Anthroposophical study group, I became a substitute, then Kindergarten Assistant, then French teacher. I eventually I became a grades teacher at the school. They sent me, all expenses paid, to Rudolf Steiner College where I studied for thirteen hours a day, five days a week, in the summer.

After completing my foundation year of studies, my son was four and in Kindergarten. Another child started putting his hands down the kids’ pants and grabbing them in front and in back. It took three meetings with the teacher to get her to do anything. My son was switched by the teachers into another class, and lost all of the friends he had ever known. The teachers said to me, very rudely, that there was no switching him back. Period. Then they refused to consider him for first grade although he met the age limit. He began a blinking habit, and pooping in his pants “on accident”.

No one at the school called Social Services, which is the law, despite my many conversations about my concerns. I was told by the faculty chair that she thought the school had to call S.S. and that a parent (like me) could not. I believed her.

My son started acting out in class. He bit a child because he said the other kids were too “baby” and messed up his inventions made in class. (He should have been in first grade). He also said the teacher wasn’t even looking most of the time. Other kids got injured during playtime because the teachers were around the corner, behind a bush, talking and not watching the kids. Other parents complained. I was one. I pulled my child out of the school.

No other teachers ever did anything in general to hold others to the carpet. It all fell on me, and I was overly stressed at that point because of everyone else’s habit of ignoring elephants under the carpet.

Because I was a teacher there, too, I was “punished” (the term the faculty chose). I was required to write a six page apology letter to the Kindergarten teachers, and it was closely edited and reworded by the new faculty chair (they switched mid-crisis since the old faculty chair they considered to be too “on my side”) which took nearly the entire school year! I was soooo exhausted. People also spoke to me regularly as if I was a child who was behaving badly-and I wouldn’t even speak to my own child in such an abusive tone as they were using!

I was required to write the Anthroposophical doctor they required me to see for my son. In the letter I was to tell him I should not have told him about the very reasons I was there to see him and why my son was having a problem, because I could have ruined the Kindergarten teacher’s career! It was assumed that I told him about our situation because I was trying to win something at the school, like I am a bad person, or mean with anger issues. I have since come to understand that people see each other with their “own eyes” and that they saw me in the way they, themselves, lived. They could not see outside of that.

I am a good, caring person and my concern was for my child-of course! It seems silly to even have to say that, but they were so dysfunctional IMO that it can mess with your head when you are feeling low for a moment.

I was also told by the school that my child could not come back the next year for first grade and rejoin his lifelong friends with a new teacher.

My son’s Kindergarten teacher had beers every Thursday night with the Board of Trustees Chair (Head). The teacher admitted this in a fit of anger at a faculty meeting. The BOT Chair , after a special meeting on “the crisis” asked her in front of everyone if she still wanted to go to “Joe’s” and have a beer since it was Thursday. She said “Yeah”. Nobodyelse responded! I brought it up the next day and the new faculty chair said she would “think about it” noncomittally. WTH? How unprofessional (and illegal with the EEOC) is that?

The BOT Head and this KG teacher discussed confidential things they should not have. No one questioned this. This type of unprofessional behavior was commonplace and anyone who spoke out was punished.

The former faculty chair told me that one parent was taken off of every committee and her children threatened to be kicked out, if she “said one more thing”.

Additionally, the first faculty chair told me to look in the files to see if the teacher had documented my son’s behavior (since it was suddenly so “negative”). There was nothing. The faculty chair got the files out herself. Later, I was told that because I looked in the file cabinet, and was also a paorent as well as teacher in the school, then I would have to be on probation since looking in the files was unprofessional. I said the faculty chair suggested it and was present. They switched faculty chairs a few weeks before this statement and the new one said that what the old one did was irrelevant: I looked in the files and she (the new faculty chair) didn’t like it, so the punishment would remain or I’d lose my job. I was so dumbfounded. It was like the twilight zone! Completely twisted.

There is much more to this, but I need to pace myself. Bottom line, when I said they were going too far by also punishing my son (not allowed to return), they said they were considering that statement to be my resignation. When I said it wasn’t, they said they didn’t care, they were still considering it a resignation, and released a memo to the school and parent community saying I quit due to family difficulties. They also held a meeting with the parents of my class without me. They couldn’t even say the words, “fired”, which is what they were doing. I was given one more paycheck, and then my family had no more income, not even through the summer.

After all the exhaustion and abuse, I had to look for another job as well as grieve and recover. I can’t even believe I stayed through as much as I did, but at the time I viewed it as fighting for the school and stubbornly refusing to be bossed around. I lost the battle, but I feel like I won the war, because we are soooo much happier and healthier now. The school will never be much with such karma behind them. I still hear all the stories of the same behavior, and that makes me feel like they have learned nothing.

Too bad. But I just don’t care anymore, except to help others who feel abused. It took me three years to even realize how abused I felt. I walked around embarassed, with my head down. But no more. Those people are the ones who embarassed themselves. Shame on them.

My family and I are great now, though we do have “flashbacks”. We are working on baby number three, and I teach homeschoolers and enjoy being a family woman.

Sorry this is a bit disjointed, but as you know, I feel spent after talking about it all.