Effective Practices : Annual Events
Pedagogical Operations Section 1
1. Certain events happen year after year in our schools, including graduation, the Rose Ceremony, High School Prom, and major field trips such as a senior class trip to New York or an 8th grade white water rafting trip. These events have one common characteristic - the person or persons most concerned with the quality of these events changes every year (e.g. a new first grade teacher and a new 8th/12th grade teacher for the Rose Ceremony). List each of these events/activities that take place in your school.
2. For each of the events listed above please indicate who the primary person or group is that organizes each of these events.
3. In cases where the primary person coordinating the event changes each year how does the school ensure that there is a consistent consciousness about the event and activity? Are files maintained in a central place so that resources and prior year programs, etc. can be easily found? How does the school avoid the need to reinvent the wheel for each of these activities?
4. What is your school’s philosophy in regard to maintaining a consistent, high quality experience in each of these events and activities?
5. With regard to your annual events, what is working particularly well?
6. If there were something you could change with regard to your annual events, what would you change and why?
Certain events happen year after year in our schools, including graduation, the Rose Ceremony, High School Prom, and major field trips such as a senior class trip to New York or an 8th grade white water rafting trip. These events have one common characteristic - the person or persons most concerned with the quality of these events changes every year (e.g. a new first grade teacher and a new 8th/12th grade teacher for the Rose Ceremony). List each of these events/activities that take place in your school.
The school year begins at every Waldorf school with the traditional Rose Ceremony, with the new first grade class being welcomed into the school community.
Michaelmas comes next, followed soon thereafter by a Martinmas celebration or a Lantern Walk. Many schools follow this with a celebration of Santa Lucia and Thanksgiving assemblies.
Advent Gardens in the kindergarten, and Advent assemblies in the lower and high school mark the beginning of the Christmas season. Plays are often offered at this time of year, with the Star Child Play and the Oberuffer Plays being the most common. The holiday season is also marked by the performance of lower and high school music concerts.
Fall is also a popular time for class trips with many occurring in conjunction with the various main lesson blocks offered at this time.
A performance of the Three Kings Play from the Oberuffer cycle traditionally marks the close of the holiday recess. When school resumes in January there is often a period of rest and inward activity before the pace of pedagogical events quickens again in the spring.
Spring is the time for the 5th grade Pentathlon, 6th grade medieval games, and the 7th and 8th grade track and field events. Eurythmy presentations and spring concerts take place, as do many of the class plays. Spring is also a time for many class trips.
The end of the school year is marked by the performance of the 8th and 12th grade plays, the final assembly, and the 8th and 12th grade graduations.
For each of the events listed above please indicate who the primary person or group is that organizes each of these events.
Pedagogical events are usually coordinated in one of four ways in Waldorf schools:
A Festival Committee is often formed by the faculty to carry many of the events that occur annually in a Waldorf school. This committee is charged with two tasks, study and event coordination. In preparation for a festival the Festival Committee will often work with the Faculty Chair to plan a study that will help inform teachers about the pedagogical purpose of an upcoming event. The Festival Committee also maintains files on the details of the event, and then works with the particular class teachers or sponsors involved in the festivities for that year. This approach provides consistency from year to year for events such as the Rose Ceremony, Michaelmas, Martinmas, and Santa Lucia.
The faculty, either as a whole or by school section (Early Childhood, Lower School and High School) carries other events. Events typically carried in this way include the lower school and high school Thanksgiving and Advent assemblies, the Advent Gardens in the kindergarten, and the year end assembly. The faculties of the various parts of the school are also supported through seasonal faculty study coordinated by the Festival Committee.
The class teacher or sponsor coordinates other events such as field trips and class plays. Often times the field trips are repeated from year to year and planning for them is simplified in schools where good central files are maintained from year to year. (See question 3 below.) Class teachers also typically handle the direction of their class’ play.
Subject teachers coordinate other events at the school. These include the high school and lower school music presentations, which are often coordinated by the directors of the orchestra, chorus, recorder ensemble, hand bell choir, and other music classes offered at the school. The eurythmy teacher(s) coordinate those assemblies, and the drama teachers often carry events such as the senior play, the Oberuffer plays, and the Star Child Play. The games teacher often works with the class teacher and his/her colleagues at the other Waldorf schools in the region to plan events such as the Pentathlon, the medieval games, and the 7th and 8th grade track and field events.
In cases where the primary person coordinating the event changes each year how does the school ensure that there is a consistent consciousness about the event and activity? Are files maintained in a central place so that resources and prior year programs, etc. can be easily found? How does the school avoid the need to reinvent the wheel for each of these activities?
Several approaches are used to simplify the planning process for events that recur every year. These processes are particularly helpful in situations where events remain the same from year to year but the person handling the coordination of the activity changes.
Helpful techniques include:
Central files are kept in many schools for field trips and other activities. A typical field trip file might include the name and phone number of the contact person at the field trip location, price lists, packing lists for students in previous years, copies of food supply lists, directions to the site, and any other correspondence created in the course of organizing the event. Similar central files may be kept for events such as the Rose Ceremony and graduation. Information might include copies of programs from prior years, chair and other rental information, and contact information for press releases to local media.
The Festival Committee is an important way in which consciousness for various events is maintained from year to year. Typically the committee will add a few new members each year to replace any members who are cycling off, ensuring a stable core of members to hold the events from year to year.
An in house mentor is often assigned to each teacher, and this mentor can be of considerable help to a class teacher, particular in his or her first cycle through the grades.
Review is an important part of each event in a Waldorf school. Each of the activities listed in question 1 above are typically reviewed at the faculty meeting, and notes retained about what worked well and what could be improved in the future. Ideally a copy of these notes is kept in the central file for each event, but at a minimum those who are carrying an event can look to the minutes from prior years for helpful advice on coordinating a particular event.
What is your school’s philosophy in regard to maintaining a consistent, high quality experience in each of these events and activities?
There is great value in asking faculty members to do study outside of the faculty or assembly committee meetings in support of the events being planned. These studies keep us connected with the underlying basis of the events we are planning.
When planning our annual events it is important for us to consider how that event can be realized in our school in our environment and in our time. The practical application of the study material is a really strong factor when we coordinate event.
Festival committee members strive to recognize the wisdom that is living outside of the committee. We ask for advice from people who are not on the committee when we recognize that a particular event lives strongly for them or when they can bring real anthroposophic depth to a conversation.
The regular reviews are an important part of ensuring that the quality of events is maintained from year to year.
Most of these events are coordinated in a collaborative way, helping to ensure quality and consistency in our events.
The school is committed to maintaining high quality events. We do many events in other locations in the larger community and need to ensure that whatever we put out to the larger community and to the students is fully satisfying.
We are hard on ourselves. We record commendations and recommendations on each event after it is completed, and the committee takes those comments seriously.
We must know why we are doing a particular event. We can’t choose to do something just because some other Waldorf school did it years ago. Philosophical study and conversation must take place before each event. This is important both to orient the new faculty members who come to the school, and to keep events from becoming stale to the old hands.
The festival life is an opportunity to involve our parent community and to embrace the larger community as well.
The teachers must lead these events as they are pedagogical in nature, but the Parent Association, room reps and the development office are all resources that teachers are encouraged to use for additional support.
With regard to your annual events, what is working particularly well?
Event coordination in general works well. Availability of needed supplies, chair ordering, and general set up are really strong.
Students have become more actively involved in ushering and set up.
More dedicated funding is available for particular events.
More office task support has been provided.
The quality of the events is high. People look forward to them.
This is a way for the school to work together. Faculty members and students come together and share who they are and what they are doing.
The collaborative approach is working very well. Parents and students see it and come away with a real sense that the whole faculty is holding the events at the school. One recent example of this is the way in which the entire faculty assembled on stage and then sang at the Rose Ceremony at the beginning of the school year.
We are almost 40 years old as a school, and there is real depth in what we do and a sense of tradition. So many people have participated in so many events for so many years that there is a shared consciousness and understanding.
The Michaelmas event is one of our strongest events. For this event each 8th grader leads a group that has 1 or 2 members of each grade in a variety of tasks and challenges. This event has a remarkable ability to bring us together as a school and fosters cooperation that extends beyond the classroom boundaries.
Our Advent assemblies create a quiet mood of reverence and introspection at this time of year. They are held on the first three Mondays in Advent, with a final assembly occurring on the last Friday of school prior to the winter break.
If there were something you could change with regard to your annual events, what would you change and why?
We are careful about making drastic changes to the events that have been developed over time at our school. No major changes in our events, or in our approach to organizing them, are being considered at this time.
I might change the number of events we have. We are a busy place and the adults are at risk of having too much to do.
We have a challenge with the festival life as it is seen as being too Christian centric. We need to be aware of this, and consider appropriate changes.
We are getting better at documenting what we’re doing, and placing the files in a consistent place so they can be easily retrieved the following year.
It would be good to have more parent involvement, especially in the social aspects of these pedagogical events. We must see pedagogical events as driven by the teachers with parents participating, in the same way the fundraising events are driven by the parents with teachers participating.
We could use increased study around the festivals to improve our understanding of what stands behind them.
It would be ideal if the pedagogical events provided more opportunities for interaction between the students. For example, Michaelmas is a day of community service and it would be great to have young and old students working side by side on a project.
We could do more to connect with the surrounding community through our festival life at the school.
The space where the events take place is a challenge. We don’t have a large hall so we rely on good weather and hold many events outside.
A festival committee that is consistently staffed would be helpful to our efforts in this area.