2017 Conference

A view of the plenum at the Alliance National Conference in January 2017 in Fair Oaks, CA over MLKing Jr. weekend.

by Liz Beaven

Dear Colleagues:  Spring has officially sprung—and, wherever you are located across the country, the chances are high that you are navigating unpredictable, unexpected, and changeable weather and its impact on school routines and student energy. It seems that our weather is a good metaphor for today’s generally mercurial conditions.

We are excited to share this newest edition of Confluence, with news from schools and reflections on our work. You will see that we continue to ponder the theme of our January conference, Widening the Circle, and some of the provocative thoughts and questions that were posed. Is a circle an appropriate metaphor for inclusion, equity, and access? Can a circle face outwards or is it by nature an inward-facing form? When we look around our existing circle of students, families, and colleagues, what do we see reflected back? Are we satisfied with what we see? If we are in a circle, how can we ensure that it is welcoming to all, with the support of hands clasped in colleagueship yet readily able to unclasp and fully welcome and include newcomers?

We were grateful to hear from so many of you throughout the conference: in many conversations; in Friday evening’s working groups focused on our Core Principles; through your comments on conference evaluation forms; and from those who were able to stay on Sunday afternoon to attend our Annual General Meeting. We hope to make opportunities for participation and engagement regular features of the conference as our work grows and spreads, to ensure that we can be as informed as possible in our work on behalf of Public Waldorf education, and to continue to build our circle to be a welcoming, safe, and inclusive place for all.

With your input, our Board is working hard on implementation of the seven Core Principles as the foundation of a revised membership process that emphasizes an essential, continuous cycle of self-study, collaboration, and peer review. As a reminder, historically, membership of the Alliance has had few requirements; schools have asked to join, selected what they believe to be the appropriate membership category, paid dues, and have then become members of the Alliance.

We recognize that, as our work grows and diversifies, our collective work will benefit from membership that signifies common ideals and integrity of purpose. We also recognize that our schools need support in their ongoing development and that we need to provide flexible structures that are able to respond to emerging needs and innovation in service of the widest possible range of students. We believe that our emerging membership process will meet these needs, as schools begin to examine their alignment with our Core Principles through a process of guided self-study, discussion with other schools, and a peer site visit. We have been excited to receive reports that many schools are already engaging in initial discussion of the Principles.

Our revised membership process, now underway and to be fully rolled out in phases over the next 18 months, will allow a school to reflect deeply on its standing in key areas such as child development, relationships, ongoing learning for all community members, and school leadership. How do these principles manifest in practice? Where do we encounter successes and challenges? Crucially for Public Waldorf schools, it will also invite us to reflect on our approach to education as an agent for social change, diversity, equity, and inclusion. How is our work adapting and innovating to meet the needs of our students and families in our ever-widening circle of schools?

This approach is mindful of our limited resources—within a school and within the Alliance. We believe that it will strengthen our collective work and allow us to engage with and learn from one another. It is also timely: we are very aware that many of you are working daily with anxious, insecure families and are providing essential reassurance and support in the face of uncertainty and fear for so many. On behalf of our Board and Advisors, thank you for the work you are doing to ensure that Public Waldorf schools stand as beacons of acceptance and inclusion and remain welcoming, nurturing, and supportive places of learning and community life for all children and families.

With warm wishes and fervent hopes for calmer days ahead.

Liz Beaven, Ed.D., has over 30 years experience in Waldorf education in a range of roles that include class teacher, school administrator, board member, adult educator, and researcher and writer.  She was an advisory board member of the Alliance for Public Waldorf Education and has served as the President of the Board since March 2016. Liz is a core faculty member of the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, where she is working to develop a graduate program in integral teacher education. She enjoys working directly with schools on a rage of topics.

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