The guiding principle in the Upper School is to lead the student, through the specific nature of the curriculum, to the understanding that “the world is true”. One urges the student, by modelling reverence and responsibility for the world around, training the feeling life through the artistic method, and strengthening the will through moral action, to engage in a living knowledge of the world.
It is not in the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner schools to pressure young people to hurry through childhood, but to bring those youthful qualities into adulthood that characterise the human being as a creative individual. The young adult is led to an understanding of nature that is valid for the whole human being. In the whole curriculum, arts and science complement: in the creative and self-active practical work, the elements of knowledge and understanding arise.
Main Lessons in the Upper School
The Main Lesson is given by specialist teachers in the Upper School, with the exception of Class 8 where the Transition Teacher takes approximately half of the main lessons . It takes place over the first hour and 40 minutes of every day, for a three to four week period. This in-depth study fosters in the young person a deep appreciation of the subject and is structured by the teacher in such a way as to harmonise their thinking, feeling and willing capacities.
One of the central aims in a Steiner school is that children experience all the subjects which form the curriculum, which is an organically interrelating whole. This breadth is represented in the very wide range of subjects covered in the main lessons, which include English, mathematics, geography, history, art and art history, biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy and personal development.
The structure of the main lesson block, and each lesson itself, is a significant aspect of the teaching approach in Rudolf Steiner schools and can be characterized in the following stages:
In the first instance new phenomena or material is introduced– for example a series of experiments, a mathematics task or an historical, literary or scientific representation. The object is to engage the student to observe, contemplate, listen carefully, and to find an inner relationship to the topic presented.
Following this, in the second stage, the experience is revisited with the class, and new or surprising observations are shared. The conceptual or theoretical penetration of the topic is consciously held back for the time being, so that students may begin to formulate questions and to discuss possible connections.
The third stage of the approach then explores the theoretical possibilities, and the formulation of concepts, from which wider interconnections and new questions arise.
In this sequencing, the most important aspect is that there is a so-called ‘resting time’ between each stage of the process. Between stage one and two it is usual that a day elapses, with the third stage sometimes following the second on the same day or alternatively on subsequent days, as concepts are developed progressively as more observations and sharing of those observations proceeds. Crucial at the beginning of each new day is the recapitulation of the previous lesson experiences.
The fourth stage of this process is the students, through their own activity, working to deepen their understanding. For this reason, tasks will often be solved independently in this stage.
In the lessons after main lesson, known as practice lessons, the students further their skills and understanding in English, mathematics, the sciences, German or Te Reo, art, woodwork, pottery, handcraft, horticulture, computing, music, drama and physical education.
In classes 9 to 12 all the subjects, in main lessons and practice lessons, are taught by specialist teachers. Each class has two kaiarataki who provide the pastoral care for the class and are there for students and parents to turn to as the need arises. Adolescence is a time when young people must progressively face challenges on their own – the class sponsors role is to provide support for the students as they make this journey.
Although specialist teachers teach all subjects, the students themselves do not start to specialise in subjects until Class 11. All students in the Upper School take classes in English, mathematics, history, physics, chemistry, biology, geography, art, art history, languages, music, eurythmy, drama, physical education, handcrafts, horticulture, woodwork and metalwork. From Class 8 students are able to choose to study either German or Japanese.
In Class 11 students are able to choose three of their subjects, which together constitute approximately a third of their school lesson time. Four subjects are chosen by the students in Class 12, making up about half of their school studies