Children's education at Waldorf and Steiner schools is based on a spiritual philosophy of human values and self-knowledge. Children are treated as whole people who bring mind, body and feelings to the learning process through creative expression in art and movement. If you are artistic and contemplative, then read further to learn if this style of teaching is for you.
At a Waldorf or Steiner school the role of teacher involves a unique approach to child education that would require an imaginative sense of play on your part as a teacher. Developed by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in 1919, this approach promotes learning through activities intended to enhance creativity. You would handle the usual responsibilities of a teacher by developing lesson plans, giving class and individual instruction, assigning homework and assessing student work. However, your lessons would integrate art, drama, music and expressive physical movement, known as eurythmy. You would use these arts to foster children's imagination in learning mathematics, science, language and other subjects. Your role would be to prepare children for adulthood imbued with practical skills and knowledge and self-awareness.
To a Waldorf or Steiner school you would bring the usual traits of a good teacher, such as patience and the ability to communicate concepts clearly, in a manner appropriate to the grade level you teach. As a preschool or kindergarten teacher you would introduce children to an educational setting that encourages social and intellectual development through play and learning basics. Elementary school teachers give instruction in all subjects, including reading, writing and mathematics. As a high school teacher you would specialize in a specific subject, such as science or history and your role takes on the flavor of mentorship. After some experience teaching in a Waldorf school, you could choose to become a school administrator, responsible for overall management of a school. Your duties could include preparing budgets, hiring teachers, setting policy in cooperation with faculty, staff and teachers, as well as some continued involvement in educational programs and curriculum development.
According to the Waldorf Association of Schools of North America, Waldorf teacher training programs do not fill all of the positions available (www.whywaldorfworks.org). As of early 2012, there were 77 Waldorf schools in North America plus another 67 schools in transition toward the Waldorf educational model. Although the specific salaries of teachers at Waldorf and Steiner schools is not available, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the average salary of teachers ranged from $51,550 for kindergarten teachers to about $55,990 for high school teachers in 2010 (www.bls.gov). That same year, preschool teachers earned an average salary of about $29,200 while school administrators earned an average salary of $89,990. Employment opportunities may be available overseas at one of more than 2,000 Waldorf schools and early childhood education centers worldwide.
To become a teacher for a Waldorf or Steiner school, you would be required to complete a program of study at one of the 19 teacher preparation centers in the United States, earning a Certificate in Waldorf Education. You could attend training at one of over 80 international teacher preparation centers. The training program takes a holistic perspective of child development that encompasses the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of children. Curricula may include music, drawing, storytelling and other creative pursuits as part of the pedagogy of creative imagination, through which you learn to engage children in their natural inclination to learn. Group process, teaching and social issues related to teaching may be part of your training as well. Completion of the program would take one year if you are attending full-time and up to three years for part-time attendance.
Most of the Waldorf training schools don't require you to have obtained a bachelor's degree in education. Instead you might want to choose to major in fine arts, or philosophy or take a general course of study in liberal arts. If you plan to teach high school, you could obtain a degree in the subject you want to teach, such as biology or history. Most states don't require licensing for private school teachers, but some Waldorf and Steiner teaching centers offer a state teaching certificate, as well as a Master of Science in Education. If you want to become a school administrator, you may also want to consider obtaining a master's degree in school administration.