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Q&A with Janela Harris ’06

Describe what first comes to mind when you think back on your years at the Cincinnati Waldorf School (CWS).

The first thing I think of is the close sense of community. I remember having the sense that I knew everyone involved with CWS, or if not “knew,” that I’d at least recognize their faces or names. After that, I think of our Main Lesson Books, and how involved I was with my own learning.

How did CWS prepare you for high school?

CWS prepared me especially well for general class work. I was intimidated by the magnitude of the change in the social setting from Waldorf to Walnut Hills, but overall I was very well prepared.

How could CWS have better prepared you for high school?

After being at CWS, my biggest issue in high school was lack of knowledge surrounding tests. I didn’t know how to study very well, and I had anxiety about actually taking tests. I think part of this is probably just my personality, but I do believe CWS could have better taught me methods for studying for tests, and a little more about test-taking strategies.

What do you feel was unique about your Waldorf education?

I think the structure of days at Waldorf was very unique; the combination of block main lesson periods, and shorter special subject classes. Making main lesson books is something I’ve never heard of anyone else doing, but which I thought was very useful. Simply… how integrated my ‘normal’ learning was with creative and artistic expression.

How was your imagination and curiosity affected by your time spent at CWS?

I have held on to my imagination and curiosity much longer, and value it much more, because of being at CWS. I think that many other styles of education don’t give students a chance to explore their creativity as CWS does. As a result, students mature, and

lose some of their imagination and curios- ity without ever really appreciating it. At Waldorf, I not only continued to exercise my imagination and curiosity longer than most children, but I also learned to appreciate things which are sometimes seen as childish.

What have you gained from your Waldorf education (emotionally, intellectually, spiritually)?

Emotionally, I have gained a true appreciation of community. I am well aware of the fact that I am most comfortable when I have a sense of being included in a small and close-knit community, and I definitely credit Waldorf with that comfort and my awareness of it.

Intellectually, I am very interested in learning. I am also in love with the idea of learning simply for the sake of learning. The more I interact with people with different educational backgrounds than mine, the more apparent it becomes that Waldorf has instilled in me the idea that the point of learning is to know more, as opposed to the attitude that learning should be molded around another goal, like passing a test or getting a decent job. I’m very grateful for the fact that CWS has instilled in me such a value of knowledge.

CWS gave me a great awareness of flexibility in spirituality. I am very open to and aware of variations in spirituality between different people, and I believe Waldorf taught me about some less common or mainstream ideas about spirituality (or, if not an understanding of the ideas, at least of the fact that they exist), where my peers have basic understandings of major world religions, but seem to be somewhat narrow-minded about what counts as religious or spiritual beliefs.

Have you maintained any important relationships made through CWS? Please tell us about them.

I have maintained some relationships from CWS, but most of my CWS relationships have petered away as I’ve grown apart from people who either left Waldorf before I did, or remained a larger part of the community longer than I did.

One of my favorite friendships, however, is with Erica Patterson. We were both in Miss Susan’s kindergarten class in 1996, and according to Erica, we played kittens together all the time. I don’t remember that, but I do know that we always got along, and even after our graduation from 8th grade, we’ve remained close. Erica and I went to France and Iceland this past summer, which was my high school graduation gift, and in addition to commenting on each other’s Facebook pages, we have been sending each other postcards since college started this year. I think my relationship with Erica is so close not only because our personalities are compatible, but also because we went through so much of the CWS experience together and that naturally creates a common background.

Do you feel CWS cultivated a love of learning? If so, how?

CWS has definitely cultivated a love of learning, for me. It’s hard to say if this is a personality trait I’d have without Waldorf, but I definitely love all kinds of learning. Throughout high school and my first semester of college, I’ve never disliked all aspects of a class, and I think that as long as some- thing is being taught, I’m pretty interested. CWS contributed to this by allowing for so much personal specificity in each class that I’ve developed the idea that any given class is what I make it.

Tell us what you’re doing now.

I am attending Haverford College, a liberal arts college of about 1200 students, located about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia. I’m undecided on my major, but as of now I am leaning toward majoring in psychology, with a career as a clinical child psychologist, or anthropology. Here at Haverford, I was selected as an outstanding member of the class of 2014. I gave an interview, took pictures, and there is now a profile of me on the Haverford College web site on a page designed to give prospective students an idea of the Haverford student body. You can view my profile at the following link: http://www.haverford.edu/admission/profiles/ freshmen/harris.php

Teacher’s Response:

As our 8th grade classes grow larger and the Cincinnati Waldorf School sends more students off to high school each year, we have refined our curriculum as necessary to be certain our students are well prepared for high school. Study skills and test-taking strategies are now part of our Upper Grades curriculum. CWS has incorporated an introduction to the scientific method, lab equipment and reports into its 8th grade science blocks. The vocabulary of expository essays is also used much more frequently now.  ~Jodi Harris, CWS Upper Grades Teacher

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