Don't forget to visit The Waldorf Review for more up-to-date school reviews and news stories.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Working with Highland Hall - Pete gets ambushed

Dear Seventh Grade Parents,

I have been warned not to post messages here or I will continue to be isolated from your class. Threats don't work on me.

Those of you who were at the class meeting last week had the opportunity to see our school at its worst. Here was a case of the school isolating a single parent for discrediting, gossip, slander and isolation. If it could happen to me, it could happen to you. For anyone who is puzzled at what happened at the class meeting, here it is - plain and simple.

The leadership team consists of 5 people. Three are parents in our class - the remaining two are kindergarten/nursery teachers. Those who know me know that I am connected by marriage to the kindergarten. Also, reading through my previous posts on OpenWaldorf, you will see I have had a very difficult time with at least one member of the leadership team - and one of our teacher's mentors, and that I have criticized the leadership team in general since its formation. This sets the stage for me to be silenced.

When the leadership team decided to take over the 7th grade, I made a fuss about the mechanics class I had planned. Parents are allowed to provide expertise in classes - this helps the children considerably. When the kids were learning about electricity, I planned field trips for them to an electric lamp factory and an electric guitar factory. Other parents are providing expertise in the class play and so on. But, for some reason, I was excluded from the mechanics class. I had a sense of why that was, but wasn't sure.

Next came the camping trip. I have been taking this class (as have many other parents) on camping trips since the 2nd grade. I missed last year and many kids complained - making me promise to take them this year. Not only do I cook for them, I lead them on hikes and lead them in activities, and in some cases, I've planned the entire trip. When a child wakes up in the middle of the night and needs to use the restroom, they are more likely to wake me to take them than their own teacher. That's the way it is - your kids love me and trust me - and I love every one of them. Yet, the leadership team, in its wisdom, decided to intercede and take over the camping trip - apparently, now, for the sole purpose of excluding me from the trip. I alerted our teacher and one of his mentors that I would be asking why I was excluded from the trip at the class meeting. This set up what you saw that night.

When I posed the question to our teacher, he passed the question to his mentor - this one is my daughter's godmother (I mention this because not knowing this, one would have a difficult time understanding exactly how painful this was for me). It was explained in front of all the parents that because of my participation on OpenWaldorf, I have been excluded from the camping trip. There it is - plain and simple. Some parents don't trust me and won't send their children on the trip if I go - because I criticize the school. And, having made that accusation in front of all the parents, the mentor and other leadership team members invited me to take the discussion outside. I did. What ensued was a horrible outpouring of emotions. I'm not at all surprised that the leadership team would do this - Waldorf critics have a name for this behavior, it is called "love bombing" and happens all the time.

That parents would support this, however, is astonishing to me. In our discussions outside the classroom, I really couldn't understand what I had done wrong - or what I could change about my behavior that would make me a better person. No parent has supported this class more than I have. My criticism is of the school. That the leadership team would interfere in a class trip that was already planned, in order to remove one parent for political reasons is exactly why I criticize Highland Hall. I was told that this action had the support of some of the parents. Despite my problems with Highland Hall, I have opened my heart to this class - and it's a big heart, unfortunately, a big heart is an easy target and Highland Hall has hit it right on the mark. Frankly, I wouldn't want my children around parents who are so underhanded and dishonest - and don't have the courage to even identify themselves (not that I don't know who they are). Parents who would support the school in this type of activity are just as much a part of what's wrong with Highland Hall as the Leadership Team that sits around thinking up ways to exclude a good parent from a particular activity. Shame on you.

Last week was the May faire, and I attended with a bit of a heavy heart. Then I saw the smiling face of one of our teachers. A teacher who *struck a child*. No guilt, no heavy heart - the teacher could mingle around the faire without a care in the world. I'm watching this teacher and I'm thinking to myself - what's wrong with this picture? And the answer came to me. Only in the warped lenses of Highland Hall, would this paradox exist - a good parent who has never uttered a hurtful word to anyone's child should have a heavy heart while a teacher who struck a child has a light one. This absurdity gave me renewed courage to take up my pen and continue my efforts to bring Highland Hall to reality. Highland Hall's behavior is absurd, their leaders are dysfunctional and parents who support this type of nonsense are ridiculous caricatures of the decent people they pretend to be.

I have done nothing to be ashamed of - and I have done much that I am proud of, in this school and especially with this class. If my freedom to criticize things I see are wrong at our school must be sacrificed in order for me to accepted by certain parents, believe me, I can do without the acceptance of such people. To the parent that came to me in honest love, know that I love you. For those who haven't figured it out yet - and want to shuffle me out the door before I can speak, please know that my voice WILL be heard. To those who have pleaded with me to change my ways I say - you first.

Pete Karaiskos