This post is titled "Waldorf First Grade" because there definitely is a distinction between Waldorf schools' first grade and any other school that I know of...not that I am familiar with any other school except for public and my own experience - I don't know if some private schools might also celebrate the first grade. Seemed like first grade was just another grade when I went to school.
Not so in Waldorf. As I am writing this post, I am wiping away tears of...joy, anticipation..PMS? I just read our teacher's first first grade newsletter and just has me brimming with pride that my child is starting first grade and it is such an important Right of Passage. Firstly, the teacher tells us to prepare for the Rose Ceremony. This ceremony is where the first graders are presented with a rose from their TWELFTH GRADE partner. Yes, the first graders are presented with an older partner that sort of acts as a symbol of "what the future holds". Because elementary and high school are on two different campuses for us, our first graders are also paired with an Eighth grade partner - their older counterpart in the school that can guide them if they need guidance. Also, someone familiar to wave "Hi" to during school.
And, when the Twelfth graders graduate, their first graders hand them a rose at the end of the year in a ceremony. Another symbol for the twelfth graders, reminding them how far they've come and that they are a role model for these youngers and a symbol for the 1st graders of what's yet to come and how beautiful education can be.
The children are asked to dress in their Sunday best for the Rose Ceremony and then change into play clothes "appropriate for climbing frames, obstacle courses and jumping as high as you can."
I mean, just that description above makes me tear up because that is exactly why we send our child to a Waldorf school. Play and movement are essential to brain development and Waldorf does not lose sight of that. Movement is essential to Waldorf Education.
Also, giving the child a sense of wonder and responsibility really sets the stage for the grades. They understand and feel strong in their will that they are "leaving the land of fairtytales and moving into letters and numbers." They are now moving into the "adult" world and learning. It is a very rigorous education that they are experiencing in Waldorf education. The difference is that it is brought to them in a very different way. I am so excited I can barely stand it.
After reading the letter, it seems appropriate to give as much reverence to the start of first grade as Waldorf does. We will take D to buy a new outfit for the Rose Ceremony and make a big to do of it. It feels so wonderful to celebrate this new adventure towards the joy of learning.