When the teaching faculty decided that I could take charge of the first grade class in the fall of 2014, I had just re-entered the world of the younger child. My wife and I had our hands full with our infant son Albert, who loves to watch the other children play, and loudly insists upon being as close to them as possible, as soon as possible. We also recently moved into a children’s house, after both living in high school houses for a number of years. My whole world was becoming smaller. The students of the 9th grade would be sorely missed, along with the science lab, the high school council, and the guitar based folk songs.
Upon entering my new first grade classroom on day one I was not truly sure what to expect. I had done my best to prepare the space, to make it colorful and beautiful; to im
bue it with the kind of atmosphere that permeates the classroom of a Waldorf school first grade. Silk cloths? Check. Red, Yellow, and Blue paint? Check. Fairytales? Check. Lyre and Recorder? Check. My colleague Narkie, helped especially to create beautiful seasonal displays and keep the space in order.
The children fill the room with their unique approach to enthusiasm. I was not used to this with most of my high school students. My years upstairs in the high school were more focused upon animating teenagers, lifting them up to the world of science, literature, and the arts. My initial days in the first grade have been the most exhausting of my time at the school. The trick here is to bring a sense of calmness and order to a pot that is always starting to bubble over. Once the calmness descends, one needs to be a storyteller our children can listen to. One needs to be a puppet maker and performer. One needs to be a songwriter in order to have just the right song for each story. One needs to be a painter, who can describe the very mood of the colors themselves!
My journey down the staircase from the high school to the lower school did not end that day when I first entered my classroom. I am not yet a storyteller or a songwriter or a painter. Yet, I am learning to be all of those things. And what better place than Beaver Run? And what better teachers than our children?
By Joe Harris, Lower School Teacher