Temperaments in a Waldorf School

The four temperaments are utilized in Waldorf schools to guide the instruction of each child. Accurately diagnosing these temperaments fosters trust between the teacher and student and between the teacher and the entire class. Teachers frequently arrange seating based on temperaments, grouping students with similar ones together. This creates a subtle “homoeopathic” experience, mirroring the child’s own temperament and
assisting in fostering balance within their character.
Teachers in Waldorf schools exercise caution to avoid over-relying on temperaments. Overuse of this evaluative tool risks inappropriately labelling a child. Moreover, a child’s temperament can evolve as they grow. Therefore, ongoing observation and adaptability regarding temperaments are essential, rather than making fixed determinations about them. Recognising these temperaments allows teachers to connect
compassionately with students, understanding their unique dispositions.

The four temperaments are: choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, and melancholic.
1) Choleric individuals thrive on action. They possess a fiery temperament and engage deeply in all activities. They are natural leaders, efficient in group work, and have a keen sense of fairness. Teachers can assign them challenging tasks and set clear rules. Cholerics are often impatient with slow or weaker peers. They’re typically drawn to the colour red and prefer division in arithmetic. Without them, little might be
accomplished in a class.
2) Sanguine individuals are the most social of the temperaments. Classes without Sanguines might feel dull. These students are easily distracted and are drawn to the colour yellow. They appreciate variety and are often the hub of classroom news. Teachers seeking information can turn to a sanguine student for the full story. When seated together, they might recognise their tendency to overtalk and reduce their chatter. In terms of physical activities, they prefer activities like jumping rope and skipping.
3) Phlegmatic individuals prefer calm and consistency. They often have a keen interest in food and mealtimes and are drawn to water-based activities. Teachers need to find what truly motivates these students; otherwise, they might remain passive. Disturbing their calm or forcing frequent changes might provoke an intense, choleric-like reaction. The arithmetic operation they prefer is addition, and they often favour the colour green. When seated together, they might become more proactive, recognizing their collective tendency towards inactivity.
4) Melancholic individuals are reflective and emotionally attuned. They can easily feel overwhelmed by tasks and often see situations pessimistically. In lessons, they empathise deeply with the struggles of historical figures. They tend to prefer subtraction in arithmetic and are often drawn to the colour blue. Teachers and parents must approach melancholics with deep empathy to ensure they feel seen and

Temperaments, as a manifestation of life, enrich our individual existence and give expression to our physiognomy, characterize our personal value. They account for the diversity of professions, languages, nations and races. Obviously, each temperament represents only one side of human nature, and so when it is allowed to grow into an extreme one-sidedness, it produces a caricature of ideal person. Seeing so many such caricatures of people in present-day life, few can doubt that an imbalance of temperaments has contributed largely to the chaos in which the world struggles today.
So far, it is only in Waldorf schools that temperaments are recognized and worked with. Such recognition, together with the knowledge necessary to achieve temperamental balance, forms a basic part of the teaching methods. No effort is made to extinguish any one temperament. On the contrary, it is so directed as to make it valuable in all its inborn vitality. The teacher tries to make every child have a predominant temperament, some of the lacking and necessary attributes of the other three. By adulthood, most individuals exhibit a blend of two temperaments, with one usually dominant. And with this knowledge comes the possibility of bringing balance to oneself and, thus, to the structure of society itself.