Waldorf education embraces cohort teaching, a term indicating that the grade school teacher stays with the same group of students as they transition through the grades. Often a teacher who starts with a group of students (their cohort) in first grade will stay as their main class teacher throughout the entire lower school years until completing eighth grade. This long-term relationship supports a rich social dynamic in the class. It gives the teacher a deep understanding of each student’s strengths, challenges and developmental milestones. No time is lost at the beginning of each academic year, since the teacher is already familiar with learning styles and material already covered.
In first grade, the teacher meets each student in a formal welcoming assembly called the Flower Ceremony. This initiates a personal commitment to study the development – and mentor the skills and personal growth of – each student while forming a strong bond that will last for many years.
As with children’s own family relationships, there may be a bump in the student-teacher relationship along the way, but the commitment by the school and the teacher is so strong that issues are quickly resolved.
Waldorf teachers attend professional development workshops, conferences and teacher trainings during summer breaks in preparation for each year’s new curriculum. The teachers customize their lesson plans from archetypal Waldorf curriculum modules and they are also mentored and given operational support and supervision from teachers with mastery and depth of experience in specific subject areas, and who have previously taught the course materials. This offers younger teachers mentors with experienced perspectives and it invigorates master teachers with new ideas and enthusiasm and innovative thinking. This mutually beneficial collegial process supports an active, engaged faculty who bring expertise and a field-tested strength in instructional methodology to the students in the classroom.