Confident Classrooms

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Pace Academy, a Waldorf school in Harlingen, is implementing personalized instruction strategies to meet the differentiating needs of even the shyest, most disengaged, or hyperactive student by adjusting their lessons to a child’s temperament. Taking into account things like how well the student adapts to new situations, typical mood, distractibility, or how they react in different social settings is paving positive views of learning for each child.

“With Waldorf, you are looking at the child, deciding what their temperament is, and allowing them to be that person and not trying to force them to be something else,” said Robin Wilson-Clipson, principal and teacher at Pace Academy.

The benefit of teaching to a child’s temperament is a harmonious classroom that ignites a student’s best qualities and gives them more self-confidence in the classroom and around their peers. When children can begin to enjoy subjects they did not enjoy at first, learning takes on a whole new meaning. It also allows them to excel in subjects they truly delight in, and builds assurance in themselves as learners. Avoiding unnecessary fights between the students and teachers — when students are forced to do things — also helps maintain a healthy rapport in the classroom.

“When you don’t teach to a child’s temperament, it becomes a battle. You’re battling against that child’s temperament and a child that is naturally outgoing and a natural-born leader is now caused to be overbearing and a bully because you are constantly trying to tell them that their personality is not the one that you’re looking for,” Wilson-Clipson said. “Or if a child is shy and you’re constantly saying they need to speak up, stand up in front of the class, or speak louder, you’re not going to get the results that you want because that child is going to feel like they’re being bullied.”

Much better results are achieved when the teacher allows the student’s temperament toward that subject to expand at their own pace. The student will eventually feel comfortable to do those things the teacher is asking.

One of the biggest goals at Pace Academy is leading children to become lifelong learners. A Waldorf education means students are not only learning academically, but physically, artistically, socially, and emotionally.

“All of these things about this child are developing and it is just as important to teach a child how to multiply as it is to teach a child how to appreciate their gifts,” Wilson-Clipson said. “Teaching to their temperament helps them step outside of their comfort zones and develop a part of their personalities that they didn’t know, and do things they didn’t know they were capable of.”

For instance, a student who was very shy and reserved came to Pace Academy as a sixth-grader, but after two years of being taught to her temperament, started ninth grade as a cheerleader.

“We want parents to understand that we’re not labeling their kid as being one thing or another. We’re embracing all facets of their person,” Wilson-Clipson said. “When you’re confident, you want to do more. When you’re comfortable with who you are, you don’t mind raising your hand whether you know that the answer is correct or not. You know, that’s the kind of confidence that builds beautiful classrooms.”