George Lucas Educational Foundation

What about Waldorf?

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Since the place I work has a Waldorf teacher training program, I spend a lot of my time seeing evidence of Waldorf education (paintings, felting, etc). I'm surrounded by Waldorf educators and Waldorf-inspired pedagogy and I've always been struck by how gentle and student- centered they are. It's got me wondering about how Waldorf teachers and students engage in the whole SEL conversation.

I visited a site recommended by Torin Finser, one of my colleagues, called Why Waldorf Works ( and discovered some interesting things. For example, according to the site: 92% of Waldorf graduates placed a high value on critical thinking and 90% highly value tolerance of other viewpoints.

Then I came across this on empathy in a piece called "Social-Emotional Education and Waldorf Education"

While love is often impatient,
empathy is patient.
While love is often aggressive,
empathy is kind.
While love is often generous,
empathy envies no one.
Love is often proud,
but empathy is never boastful nor conceited.
While love is often selfish and very easy to take offense,
empathy is never selfish and never takes offense.
Empathy keeps no score of wrongs, nor does not gloat over
other men's sins, but delights in the truth.
There is nothing empathy cannot face,
There is no end to its own faith, hope, and its endurance.
(17) (Thomas Weihs)

We don't talk much about Waldorf Education here on Edutopia, so I"m curious. What are your experiences with it- particularly around SEL?

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Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Maker Educator, Google Certified Innovator & Trainer, Dreamer, Doer. Learning experience designer, workshop leader/speaker, author. Stanford #Fablearn Fellow. #GoogleEI #GoogleET

Hi Laura! It's completely new to me - is it big in certain geographic areas of the USA? I did find this:


It sounds delightful. How does it figure into your work at Antioch? Do Waldorf teachers end up in public schools too?


Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

Hi Kevin! Waldorf Schools seem to be everywhere- though they're usually private. There's an emerging group of Waldorf Charter Schools- especially on the west coast of the USA- but I think they differ in many ways from the "pure" Waldorf philosophy (they give standardized tests, for example).

We have both Waldorf and non-Waldorf teacher prep programs at Antioch, though our non-Waldorf program uses an integrated day model, which has a lot in common with Waldorf. Some of our Waldorf folks get state certification (it's an option we offer) and they end up in public schools sometimes. I'm not sure how they integrate the two.

Diana Graber's picture
Diana Graber

I teach "Cyber Civics" at a Waldorf charter school in Southern California (Journey School); my kids also attended this school. This program was born out of research that finds Waldorf edu- cated students scored significantly higher in moral reasoning than students from a religiously affiliated high school and students in public high schools. ( Because our school, like most Waldorf schools, places a heavy emphasis on SEL in the early grades, it was a natural transition to teach them how to extend these skills into cyberspace when they reach middle school. You can read about the outcomes of this program:, or my blog about "Cyber Civics" at
I hope this isn't more information than you were looking for... Happy to answer any questions!

Mary's picture
Fourth Grade teacher in Napa, CA

Hi Laura,

I have just spent the last 12 years as a public school teacher in the 3rd and 4th grades. I am in my 2nd year of a Waldorf teacher training program and am currently a 1st grade teacher at a Waldorf inspired charter school.

The curriculum is brought to the children at developmentally appropriate times. We do so much movement in First Grade because they are still growing into their bodies and finding their handiness and coordination. We teach them in a way to develop their ability to make pictures in their head. That is why they can do mental math. My first graders are doing more mental math than my 4th graders could.

This is not the only thing different from a public school. From the very start, we teach them to engage with each other. We greet each one individually every morning. We shake hands with them and look each other in the eye. We say good morning to any adult in our room and thank them for any help they offered. This is just the beginning of the differences. It is truly an amazing and mind shifting program.

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