Waldorf School of Philadelphia, America

Waldorf School of Philadelphia "The way the world works and how we participate in it are changing every day – new technology that influences the way we communicate, new educational philosophies that influence the way we learn, changing family structures that offer more possibilities, and new complications. Take a moment to imagine how it feels to come into adolescence at this time. Today’s adolescents ask the same questions we did at the same age: Who am I? What do I want to do in this world? How did I come from this family? Am I accepted by my peers? Is this love? How do I self-identify? Many of us may have struggled to figure out roles in our communities and families when we were teens, however it may not have been to the same intensity and pace that today’s teens confront these issues. The answers to such questions are less clear cut today than for previous generations. What changing societal norms do children and adolescents face today? What are the questions that adolescents grapple with individually and as a social group? Will tweens have the internal strength to deal with the roller coaster of emotions in their teens and twenties after having schedules and social situations managed so intensely by well-meaning adults? What can the new generation teach us about the important changes we are witnessing as a society? These are questions that the Social Health Group at The Waldorf School of Philadelphia look at as we consider how best to serve the students of our school, and in particular our middle school students. The Waldorf School of Philadelphia works proactively to prepare students for adolescence with knowledge and self-awareness. The Social Health Group this year developed a program that was approved by the Faculty to begin in the 2015-2016 school year. The annual three-day program introduces a topic of concern to teens and preteens – the topic will vary from year to year. The program includes a lecture from an outside professional, a workshop of skits led by a teacher, and an artistic activity to support the integration of the topic discussed, also led by a teacher. This year, the topic of Gender Identity and Sexuality was explored with sixth through eighth graders. For this work The Waldorf School of Philadelphia, chose to partner Lisa Romero, complementary health practitioner and adult educator. Lisa Romero worked with our middle school students introducing the topic of gender identity and sexuality, and gave a well-received parent lecture on the same topic. The topic was introduced separately to the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades with a developmentally appropriate approach for each class. With humor and insight, Ms. Romero described the physical, emotional, and social changes the children are experiencing or soon will. She affirmed the challenges that come with the changes of adolescence are real, confusing, and a very normal part of the necessary, exciting process of becoming a free adult. In her work with our students, Lisa Romero explained that the development of the inner, true self, the sense of “I” that can freely and wisely choose, lags behind the physical and emotional changes, which leads to the feeling of emotional tumult, loneliness, and edginess that can be part of the teen years. She assured the middle school students that inner self does eventually catch up with the other levels of development, and equilibrium is restored. Students responded positively to her message and the respectful, matter-of-fact way she presented the information. During the evening parent lecture Ms. Romero discussed the foundations needed for healthy adolescent development and how parents can support their children as they develop in this trying but exciting time. Ms. Romero shared the same ideas and information as she had with the middle-schoolers, only adapted for an adult audience. She shared the same reassuring message – the challenges you face as parents of adolescents are real, normal, and part of a necessary process. Emphasizing the resilience of children and assuring parents that adolescent moodiness and acting out will eventually give way to balanced adulthood, Ms. Romero encouraged parents to take the long-view and understand why teens and preteens sometimes talk and behave in confusing or distressing ways. Parents lingered to talk about the ideas presented, even after Ms. Romero left, inspired, uplifted and ready to face the challenges of parenting teens with new energy and insight."

Mandy Rogers-Petro for the Social Health Group Published as a school article March 2015

Chrysalis School for Rudolf Steiner Education, Australia

"The gender and sexuality program delivered at our school by James Deefholts over the past few years fulfilled a unique and critical role for the education of our adolescent students at Chrysalis. His depth of knowledge and presentation style engendered a keen interest from the students, allowing them to feel safe to ask pertinent questions about their budding curiosity regarding their own bodies as well as gender and sexuality related matters in general. These talks were not contrived or overtly ‘sexual’ in any way, but rather painted the picture of the phases that most males and females go through in their 12th, 13th, and 14th year (our school currently goes to year 8). He discussed bodily changes such as hair growth, smell, development of the sexual organs, breasts, etc, but also discussed feelings of desire and, especially, the longing for the ‘other’, which is such a feature of this stage of development. As a class teacher I found his sessions incredibly insightful and helpful, not only for the students themselves during the sessions, but also as a catalyst for further discussions during social values classes and whenever matters of the heart and soul arose over the course of the year. These sessions broke the ice, so to speak, about this challenging, but perfectly normal, aspect of human development and created a language with which both the class teacher and students could use to converse."
Sean Daniel, Class 7 teacher (2017)

Cape Byron Rudolf Steiner School, Australia

Lisa Romero has been working at Cape Byron Steiner School for 10 years, bringing age appropriate guidance to every High School student through class lessons, and individual and small group sessions. Lisa expertly covers all areas of gender and sexuality from an anthroposophical perspective, strongly meeting the current world of the teenager in navigating the sensitive issues of gender and sexuality in an increasingly complex world of social media. Lisa's work is of enormous benefit to our school, complementing educative practices included in Main Lessons and our Student Wellbeing program. As well as meeting with students, Lisa holds parent nights covering the gender and sexuality content and works continually with teaching staff so that the understanding and messages are consistently conveyed at home and at school. Students feel supported and empowered by her time with them and there is no doubt they make better decisions and are healthier for her work with them."
Katie Biggin, Deputy Principal (2017)

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