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Denver Waldorf School Alumni Panel 'Excellent,' Says 7th Grade Parent
By Andrew Clark, Denver Waldorf School Parent
Parents and students were treated to an excellent discussion about the benefits of a Waldorf High School education from a panel of past and present Waldorf alumni.
Panelists' ages ranged from early 40's to late teens. All either had professional careers or were college students.
The overwhelming feedback from all was that Waldorf produces confident, creative thinkers, who share a strong compassion and sense of community for their fellow members of society.
The audience participated with questions, ranging from, "How was the transition from Waldorf to college?" (not a problem) to "What would you change or improve about Waldorf?" (not a lot; maybe greater depth for physics, higher mathematics and modern languages) to "How culturally diverse is Waldorf?" (above average) to "What is Eurythmy?" (laughter, confusion and some reluctant affection).
All students felt that their English writing skills and creative thought were significantly enhanced by the Waldorf education.
As Waldorf lacks large classes and a comprehensive sports program, I was particularly interested and impressed to learn that many 8th grade students had chosen to stay at Waldorf for the exceptional personalization of their high school education, while still participating in large-school sports by joining area high school teams.
One panel member had won a full tuition golf scholarship to Denver University after only four or five years of golf with the South High School team. Others told stories of joining the major sports teams at large high schools to enhance their broadest athletic and social endeavors.
As these are obvious gaps at Waldorf, this was a great solution to two missing components.
Judy Lucas, administrative director, and panel members tackled the comparison of Waldorf to public school teaching methods by showing that Waldorf students get almost personal attention in the small classes here, which pushes them to their academic limits in every subject, whereas the teachers of the larger classes in public schools tend to treat students as numbers being churned through a machine.
One panel member's brother had returned to Waldorf after only a few weeks at a public school, due to his perception that the teaching was overwhelmingly poorer at public school.
All panel members confirmed that their Waldorf academic abilities seemed to exceed those of their peers in the first years of college. Integration into a huge college was a breeze for these well-educated, outgoing and self-confident individuals.
Having taught junior achievement for many years in Denver Public School, I can confirm that the typical public high school class is generally much larger and much less focused on academics or participation that the typical Waldorf class.
Accountability is much lower amongst public school students than at Waldorf too. One panelist confessed to being able to skip classes unnoticed after he figured out he didn't have to work nearly as hard at a public school, and the teachers didn't miss him out of the much larger classes. It's impossible to skip a class at Waldorf because, said the panelists, Waldorf is like a family; it's hard to skip dinner and the chores without being noticed.
We also learned that although Waldorf does not teach official AP programs as measured in public schools, the content of the curriculum at Waldorf easily matches or exceeds AP classes, and many colleges recognize and elevate Waldorf applicants for this. Judy Lucas is working towards a national recognition of the Waldorf high school syllabus as equal to AP in this arena.
Panelists agreed that they were fulfilled in their lives due to the Waldorf education's ability to help them think creatively. Many had siblings or kids at Waldorf; some had spouses working at Waldorf. All had a great affection for their time at a Waldorf school.
The issue of drug use in high school was discussed; one panelist said there was a very rare presence of drugs amongst DWS high schoolers during her time, in response to a direct question from a parent.
Cultural diversity was discussed, and students remembered their international and continental field trips with delight. Europe and Alabama were mentioned, both of which gave students great insights into the workings of societies very different from Denver's. Judy Lucas commented that The Denver Waldorf School has a demographic almost identical to that of Denver, with the possible exception of less hispanics than the general population.
As a parent of two girls at Waldorf, I was very comforted to learn about the socialization process that takes place in this smaller high school, where cliques aren't a problem and students care for each other as a community. The female panelists talked of not really dating until college. (as a protective father, I breathed a small sigh of relief).
As always, I am comforted, amazed and enormously appreciative of the deeply attentive investment made by our incredible teachers in the lives of our children....