We offer not a band-aid nor a reliance on one individual’s response, but a seed actually, non-GMO if you will, and good soil in which the child can learn on his or her own how to develop their own consciousness.

We’ve all heard the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child.” A similar proverb is spoke by the Wajita, an African sub-tribe, which says ‘Omwana ni wa bhone,’ when translated means “regardless of a child’s biological parent(s) its upbringing belongs to the community.”

Here within the Waldorf School of Philadelphia community, we take a similar approach. Known as the Social Inclusion Model engineered by Kim John Payne, it includes the Social Health Group which has become an integral part of the fabric of our community; a small group of trained professionals, teachers and parents, who strive to address, explore, and resolve issues relating to relationships and patterns in relationships that affect the environment within the school community and around each child. It is an innovative yet well-seasoned approach to social health with its roots in ‘Omwana ni wa bone.’

Central to the specifics of the program is the No Blame Approach, in which a child is never labeled, stigmatized, or isolated. Rather than viewing a social difficulty as an isolated issue between the parties and placing blame, the community diffuses the stress on the individual by embracing the problem with a full shoulder of support. None of us could argue the need for support, whether we ask for it or not, and no matter what our child’s needs are or how our family is structured.

It takes confidence and a real understanding of one’s self to feel and grasp how we personally affect others
and how we respond to others, our level of response, and children do need support in this. 

Recently, a close friend of mine whose child attends a public school asked me, “How do the children feel safe and heard, free to express and resolve problems, especially related to school, navigating relationships, and of course the physical changes they are going through? Great question. I could have spent all day answering it, because Waldorf education and the choices we embrace to bring the Social Inclusion Model here on campus are steeped in more than an individual approach.

Through the Social Inclusion model, we offer not a band-aid nor a reliance on one individual’s response, but a seed actually, non-GMO if you will, and good soil in which the child can learn on his or her own how to develop their own consciousness which allows them to grow emotionally and develop strength of character, heart, and integrity. I want my child to learn from a healthy community how to be in community, and what is “healthy.” And then, to shower that on their own community throughout their whole life.

The first step to navigating issues that arise is to observe it and to be heard. Be it observed by parent, administrator, teacher, Social Health Group, community member, or a student, the first step is recognition and appropriate action. An issue can be presented by any of these individuals to an Social Health Group member, the child’s teacher, or a leadership team member.

The Social Health Group holds four tenets, which are fundamental to the practice.

  1. Provide a safe and sensitive structure to bring concerns to the attention of the school. All of the group’s work with the children and adults is held in complete confidentiality, which means a great deal of our work is to create and sustain a safe space. The belief being that where there is safety in being heard, the space for resolve is present.
  2. Ensure good communication and follow through from the school. The community hears and shoulders the problem and decides on the best initial course of action as confidentially and fluidly as possible.
  3. Foster a strong spirit of collaboration, “village spirit’, when our children are in need.
  4. Foster respectful engagement within the faculty.

The Social Inclusion Model is comprised of three streams; the Disciplinary Group, the Care Group, and the Social Health Group.

  • Disciplinary Group – If a child is encountering or engaging in a harmful behavior it is addressed here, where the child’s teacher and the school leadership provide ongoing support and structure through a plan which includes expectations and consequences – all done through the no blame approach of “re-humanizing” the situation.
  • Care Group – When a child encounters an individual or specific difficulty in functioning, ongoing support is offered here through faculty members.
  • Social Health Group – A group of teachers and parents respond to the environment that surrounds the child; how the child affects it and what ripple effects are created from this.

Faculty member, Mandy Rogers-Petro coordinates the Social Health Group at the Waldorf School of Philadelphia. Ms. Roger-Petro also leads the student’s Social Inclusion Program. This program includes the 7th & 8th grade middle school students as mentors who are an integral part of the student’s Social Inclusion Program and work directly with the younger students through discussions, creative projects and skits, and when needed – as one-on-one mentors that act as buddies for the younger children.

In each of these three streams, as well as the Social Inclusion Program, the goals are always to promote awareness, kindness, and respect.

If you are interested in learning more, we welcome your interest and your feedback. In the first instance, reach out to Mandy Rogers-Petro at rogerspetroa@phillywaldorf.com