David & Goliath & 6th Grade

By Sherri Scott

This installment of the CoOp Corner feature\’s Linden Waldorf teacher Sherri Scott. Her perspective, experience, and insight have benefited the work of the teachers in the Cooperative immeasurably. Sherri\’s post on her summer training offer a powerful reflection on how we prepare our students for all challenges that await.

This August marks my 38th “back to school,” and it feels just as exciting, just as scary, and just as compelling as always.  I am a sixth grade teacher; that is a new grade for me, but not a new class. In my Waldorf school, teachers traditionally travel with a class for eight years.  I have been the teacher of this group of children since kindergarten, allowing me to see them blossom and develop over the past six years.
I was not always a Waldorf teacher, I happily taught in public and private schools for many years tweaking and stretching the limits of those settings. Coming to the Waldorf philosophy has allowed me the freedom to teach in a far more holistic and integrated way. Since I know what the students are capable of and the material we’ve covered, I have a strong sense of what they need and also how far I can push them.  
Like all teachers, I use my summers to prepare for the coming year. Because I teach a new grade each year, there is much to be done. I always take a course or two that covers the curriculum and child development with other teachers of the same grade. My summers are consumed with what needs to be prepared, though it is always thoroughly enjoyable.
This summer, I found a class for rising sixth and seventh grade Waldorf teachers taking place in Italy. Since Roman History and Renaissance are an integral part of the curriculum, what better setting than Rome and Florence?  Our small group walked, toured, explored and immersed itself in the history and magnificence that is everywhere in Italy. Of course, the age, the beauty, the history, the architecture were truly awe-inspiring but there were other moments that will impact my teaching this year even more.
As I joined the crowds around the statue of Michelangelo’s David, I was struck not just by the beauty and perfection of the statue, but about David’s thoughtful stance in the light of my rising sixth grade students. Though David was not a sixth grader, like the sixth grader, he was about to engage in a mighty challenge. David about to take on Goliath, the sixth grader about to take on a new stage of development. In my school, the sixth grade moves to a new building, becomes part of the upper grades, is allowed new freedoms and has more responsibilities, all the while dealing with the surprises and challenges of adolescence.
As I accompany my sixth graders through this potentially turbulent year, and encounter the inevitable challenges, I will keep that image of a physically perfect but contemplative David in my mind. I will know that each of my students is capable of conquering his or her own battles with the tools acquired in a healthy classroom, which I strive to create.
Traveling this eight year educational journey with my class is a gift; to know these children so well, to be a part of their lives has enriched mine.  As Michelle Kuo describes in her book, Reading with Patrick, “And yet to know a person as a student is to know him always as a student: to sense deeply his striving and in his striving to sense your own. It is to watch, and then have difficulty forgetting, a student wrench himself into shape, like a character from Ovid, his body twisting and contorting, from one creature to another, submitting, finally, to the task of full transformation. Why? Because he trusts you; because he prefers the feel of this newer self; because he hopes you will help make this change last.”
A lofty goal for sure… to help a child create the feel of a newer self. It keeps me coming back year after year.

1 thought on “David & Goliath & 6th Grade”

  1. Sherri is an amazing teacher, and her K-8 students are so fortunate to have her. I’m fortunate to have her as a colleague — I love this perspective. I want to know my students as well as Sherri knows hers!

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