Leading in a Waldorf School: Is There Another Way?

As a Waldorf graduate, a former staff member, and a substitute teacher, I’ve had ample experience in learning the complex realities of being part of a Waldorf community from multiple angles. Waldorf schools are notoriously volunteer-heavy and are a complex networks of leaders, or leader-like, individuals who are trying to manage the school community. Unfortunately, a lot of Waldorf schools try to run on good intention—which isn’t a healthy operational for, and it’s certainly not sustainable. Further down the line, good intention runs out and then a school is left in the lurch—and usually with a mess of overlapping stop-gaps which aren’t really addressing the problems adequately.

These are complex issues—those problems that keep leaders up at night. In our experience, complex issues require unconventional practices, and this is where systemic methods come in. First, leaders need to learn to discern what kinds of problems they are dealing with—sort them out—what’s routine (which can still be painful) and what is complex. In learning to sort, then leaders can strategize how to work with their supporters and colleagues in developing next steps. In this process, of recognizing the kinds of issues at hand, we actually empower our colleagues to be leaders.

Learning how to do this is one of the first tasks we take up in our systemic methods workshops. Because of the problems manifests in Waldorf school communities, last Spring we designed a workshop just for Waldorf leaders to look at how leadership looks within the complex network of their own schools. Because we recognize the inherent need and value of this basic, but incredibly useful, tool, we encourage teams to come. By having a team come to a workshop, schools organically establish a group of individuals who will share, practice, and implement the tools they have learned and share them with their colleagues. It’s a step towards toppling hierarchy in addressing complex issues–those gnarly things which give us knots in our stomachs, headaches, and have us scheduling even more meetings and conversations to figure out how to solve the issues. Stop. Consider: what if there was another way to dealing with these problems? We know there are. We’d like to share with you what’s worked for us.

Leslie Loy has worked in the non-profit sector for over ten years, focusing on integrating youth and social technologies to impact social renewal. Her work with youth began in her teens when she become a youth advocate and representative on numerous community-wide groups and facilitated a peer-led, self-organized regional publication. She has been active in giving voice to youth social activists and providing diverse forums for them to engage in, both on and off-line. She was a founder and later Director of WeStrive.org, an alternative social networking platform, a Community Facilitator for the Anthroposophical Youth Section in North America, she lived and worked in a Camphill community supporting young adults with special needs and abilities, and a volunteer coordinator for college students to become actively involved in addressing complex issues within their own communities.

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