The goal of Waldorf education is to accompany children in such a manner that they can experience healthy development and, in doing so, develop their individual potential in the best possible way.
To support teachers in this salutogenic process, it has been in the concept of Waldorf schools from the very beginning that the teacher’s perception of the individual child should be complemented by the perception of a doctor. Whereas the teacher primarily looks at the soul and spirit of the child, the school physician primarily focuses on the child’s physical body and constitution. Such shared reflection can lead to a deeper understanding of each individual pupil’s nature and development. If necessary, educational or therapeutic measures can be derived from this. Given the ever-increasing number of children with chronic illness and developmental disabilities, this aspect has become more relevant than ever.
A child’s individual developmental particularities, as well as learning difficulties, can be recognized as early as possible and appropriate help can be offered to overcome them, based on an anthroposophic understanding of the human being. The school doctor is an advisor to the teachers regarding all therapeutic measures that may be offered within the framework of their pedagogical work in everyday school life. The doctor also maintains close communication with parents.
At some Waldorf schools, in addition to the school doctor, there is a therapy and support group which can offer remedial teaching, eurythmy therapy, speech therapy, Bothmer gymnastics and/or rhythmical embrocation. The school doctor, special education teacher and therapists work closely together in the therapy group. The group offers holistic therapy and support measures to improve the conditions for all learning. The goal is to find suitable forms of practice that help to overcome learning obstacles and enable the children to participate in regular classes, as well as having a positive influence on their self-esteem.
At many schools, there has been little awareness of the possibilities of pedagogical-medical cooperation, so they have set other priorities, especially when finances are strained. On the other hand, there are too few anthroposophic doctors who can imagine working with a Waldorf school in terms of the time required and the content involved. Great potential lies in the parent bodies of our schools. Often, parents who are physicians become interested in school doctor duties and then work their way into this task. A part-time training program for school and kindergarten doctors has been designed in recent years to support them in the familiarization process, where physicians can acquire basic knowledge of Anthroposophic Medicine, developmental physiology and Waldorf education. The training includes discussions with experienced educators and insight into eurythmy therapy and art therapy. It is a broad spectrum of understanding that school doctors must acquire as practitioners of preventive medicine.
Tasks of kindergarten doctors:
Since the introduction of obligatory school enrollment examinations, especially in Baden-Württemberg (Germany), anthroposophic kindergarten doctors have been responsible for school enrollment examinations (ESU 1) in the last year of kindergarten at their institutions. But even without this external necessity, doctors in Waldorf kindergartens are committed to advising educators in terms of prevention and developmental support by considering the bodily constitution of the children, which is often still unstable, especially at this age, and requires special care (e.g. nutrition, development of the lower senses, sleep). It is not uncommon for school doctors to observe and support children in their transition from kindergarten to school.
Tasks of school doctors:
- School entrance screening
- Examinations in the 2nd and 4th grade as developmental status examinations
- Parent evenings on medical topics (e.g., 9th year of life, puberty)
- Consultation hours for teachers and parents on pupil issues
- Examinations of pupils at the request of parents
- Consultation hours for students, especially high school students
- Conference work with teachers
- First aid
- Observation in lessons and therapies
- Cooperation with therapists / collaboration in the school’s therapy and support group
- Possibly teaching classes on knowledge of the human being, first aid, sex education
The activities of kindergarten and school doctors thus include developmental diagnostics, monitoring, support and therapy from infancy to the end of the school years. The task requires basic knowledge in the field of prevention and salutogenesis, as well as the willingness to develop an understanding of the basics of Waldorf education as an essential part of this profession.