On Aug. 8, 2011 I started a new job at a school called Garden House Pre-school and Kindergarten. Garden House is a Waldorf inspired school. Waldorf is an education philosophy developed by a guy named Rudolph Steiner in Germany. This philosophy/school is completely different than most schools in Hong Kong. Education in Hong Kong is high pressured. The kids start going to school really young and start learning concepts super young. At my previous school I was teaching phonics to 2-4 year olds. Stuff that in the US you normally start teaching at 4. But at Garden House the learning is play based. They don't learn through traditional teaching/learning methods. Activities we did at school were: Baking, Singing, Dramatic play, Puppet show story telling, Outdoor play, and SEWING. Yes we taught our 3-5 year olds how to sew. With real medal needles. They do such a good job doing it too!
So I find a lot of the Waldorf philosophy to be strangle. Some of the ideas I really like, but some not so much. In the Waldorf philosophy they don't start teaching kids to read and write until age 7. I think that is a little too old to start. I agree that 2 or 3 is young but 7 is a little too long to wait. Also in Waldorf they sing a lot. They sing instructions to the kids sometimes like... "Quiet voices." In a sing song voice. I found all the singing a little strange but I kind of liked it as well.
Another thing that I got frustrated with was I felt the kids weren't being challenged enough. Since I wasn't allowed to do traditional activities like centers, I felt the kids got bored. The free play time during the day lasted between 25-40 minutes. During this time the kids are free to roam around the classroom and choose what they want to do. There is a kitchen play area, quiet reading corner, toys they can use to create their own puppet show stories, blocks, materials for creating houses, and other toys. During this time we also had crafts and baking activities available. Later in the school year the kids started to get bored during this time. Some kids were able to keep busy for the whole time. Other kids would start to get crazy. I believe that the Waldorf philosophy weren't good for these kids. I think some of these kids would benefit more from a school that had more structure. One of my students named Xavier was so clever. He was already learning to read, write, and do math. He would get a little bored during the free play time but if I kept him busy drawing, writing, sewing, or playing phonics games he was so well behaved. So I think the Waldorf philosophy is good in some ways but its definitely not best for all kids.
But anyways, I was immediately in love with the environment at Garden House. Most things were made out of wood. The walls were a soft pink color. When you walk into the school there is a kitchen where stuff is frequently baking, making it smell really good. I also liked that it wasn't a high pressure school. At Greenville there was a lot of pressure to make sure the kids were learning everything and that all the work was getting done. At Garden House it isn't rushed. The kids are free to learn at their own pace. I also liked that the school had a small farm where we would take the kids.
I also worked with a lot of cool people. The other teachers, housekeepers, and office staff were all very nice. I taught some great kids. Here is a link to Garden House's website if you wanna take a look at what the school is all about. There is a picture gallery. I'm in one or more of the pics:www.gardenhouse.hk