What are the Three Streams of Student Support

What are the Three Streams of Student Support?                                     

Urban Prairie Waldorf School is committed to providing a safe environment for students to learn and grow into healthy and responsible citizens. The Three Streams of Student Support provides a structure for creating this environment and enables us to assist students who are having difficulties educationally, socially, or behaviorally. Social and emotional health provides a sound foundation for academic learning. When a student is “disoriented,” their learning and perhaps the learning of their peers can be compromised. This “disorientation” can take many forms. Perhaps a student’s difficulty lies in the social realm (“They’re not playing with me.”), the behavior realm (frequently talking out of turn and at the wrong time), or in the education support realm (“I need more time to finish.”). No matter the form of disorientation, Urban Prairie Waldorf School is committed to supporting students to “reorient” and move towards greater social and emotional health. 

This work is based on the work of Kim John Payne, who is respected worldwide for helping children, parents, and teachers navigate challenges as well as conflict. This work is also rooted in the principles of restorative justice and non-violent communication. 


  • Accountability rather than blame. When things are going wrong we must set them right. Each person involved can take some responsibility. 
  • Empathy is the key to success in life. Our interventions seek to build empathy in the children so that they can learn to stand in one another’s shoes. 
  • A child who misbehaves is a disoriented child. If we realize that a child who is pushing the behavioral boundaries is disoriented, we approach the child differently— less punitively—than we do when we see their behaviors as intentionally naughty or disruptive. 

The Three Streams of Student Support 

  • Conflict is a necessary part of being human. If we expect that we can remove all conflict from our children’s lives we set ourselves up for frustration. Conflict is a given, and most of us have learned our greatest lessons from the conflicts we’ve experienced. Our task is to let children know that we are there, guiding them through their conflicts so that they may learn constructive lessons from them. 
  • Our task is to remove hindrances to learning. Children who experience learning challenges present us with a riddle: What is the key that unlocks their capacities? As educators and parents our work is to seek these keys and support the child to find areas of success. 
  • We begin with implicit approaches before moving to explicit approaches. You will often see the words “implicit” and “explicit” as you read through this handbook. Implicit means “not directly expressed.” In other words, it’s a process that is there, but the children are not necessarily aware of it. The Waldorf curriculum is rich in implicit approaches to social and emotional challenges. In fact, much of the Three Streams work is not apparent to the parent body or the students because it is implicit— embedded in the stories, pictures, artwork, speech, music, drama, and rhythms of the lessons. When the teacher tells the class a story about a character who could never forgive and describes the hardships this caused him in his working life, this is an example of using a pedagogical story to address the difficulties that one or more of the students is experiencing. 

On the other hand, an explicit approach directly addresses a situation in the class or with an individual child. Explicit approaches range from “light touch” (“Children, is this a raising our hands and taking turns time, or is it a speaking out time?”) to “heavy touch,” which might be a behavior change plan for an individual child. 

When we support a child, we begin with the lightest touch possible. If that doesn’t work, we move on to more explicit, heavier-touch approaches. 


The Code of Compassion is considered annually by the 8th grade Student Action Committee and represents the guiding principles of the school. 

C – Carefully consider yourself, and your surrounding when making a decision. O – Offer respect to yourself, your peers, and your teachers. M – Make an effort to be your best self. P – Participate in classes as best you can. A – Accept others as they are, and encourage them to grow. S – Speak with good intentions. S – Stand up for everyone, yourself included. I – Inspire others to do good work. O – Open yourself to others’ points of view. N – Never treat others in a way you wouldn’t want to be treated. 

The Code of Compassion is simple enough to be understood by a young child, yet it contains all the issues with which an eighth grader might wrestle. It informs our guidelines for working with the children and their interactions with each other. Teachers use the Code of Compassion throughout the grades to build the students’ awareness of appropriate conduct. In the upper grades, the Eighth Grade Student Action Committee has discussions about examples of responsibility, respect, kindness, and safety. They present their ideas to younger grades and at a school assembly. 

The Code of Compassion and the Conscious Communication Guidelines form the foundation of our adult communication as well. We have guidelines for faculty work, parent-teacher communication, and Board of Trustees’ work. Each set of guidelines includes specifics such as: 

  • Give each other the benefit of the doubt. 
  • Use respectful language. 
  • Don’t interrupt. We develop the guidelines by starting with the Code of Compassion. 


The student support work is organized into three “streams,” or committees, which address three categories of challenges students may experience. In addition, there is an executive committee (SSEG) that provides oversight. An eighth-grade student action committee (SAC) assists with Three Streams work. 


When a student is exhibiting challenges in the classroom or in campus social settings they are referred to the SSEG who will decide which of the groups (one or more) will best serve to support the student. 


The Care Group observes, gains understanding of, and provides support for students experiencing challenges to learning and academic success. This group offers suggestions for therapeutic support for students. This can include special education considerations. 


A student is directed to the G&D when faculty members and administrators observe that he or she is pushing the school’s behavioral boundaries. A student who misbehaves is a “disoriented” student. G&D helps teachers and administrators provide clear and firm guidance so that students can reorient themselves and find their footing at school. 


Students are brought to the SIG when they are having difficulties in the social realm. These difficulties may be noticed by teachers or family members at recess or in the classroom and may include (but are not limited to) non-inclusion, excluding/being excluded, and bullying/being bullied, teasing/being teased. 


Student participation is an important element of the Three Streams approach. The eighth-grade students meet weekly to train as student mentors and helpers in the Three Streams of Student Support. They learn conflict resolution skills and reflect upon their own experiences to bring understanding and empathy to their work with the younger students. The eighth graders take an active role in supporting the younger students at recess under the guidance and supervision of a teacher within the Three Streams committees. They are asked to lead by example and to take an active role in contributing to the healthy social life of the school and community. In addition to weekly meetings, they lead student training in the classroom, conduct assemblies, lead role-playing and skits in younger classes, mentor younger classes, and participate in Circles of Friendship or No 

Blame Meetings. (Please see the glossary for explanations of these terms.) Each year they work with the school’s Code of Compassion. 


The student support process aims to move the student’s experience from challenge to resolution. It is a transparent process. Though we cannot resolve all difficulties to the satisfaction of all parties, we strive to address them promptly as they arise and to keep parents informed of our progress through the process. Here’s how it works: 

  1. A student comes to our attention. 

The Three Streams process begins when someone notices that a child is “out of the flow” socially, behaviorally, or academically. Parents, teachers, and students each hold a valuable window into the child’s experience. Parents or guardians know better than anyone how the child is at home. Teachers have the most direct experience of the child at school. Often, a student sees things that the adults do not. Here are examples of how the process might work: 

  • A teacher brings the child to the attention of the faculty or the Student Support Executive Group after noticing that the child is experiencing persistent challenges that are not addressed by the various implicit strategies. 
  • A parent notices their child is experiencing social, learning, or behavioral challenges. The parent describes what he or she is seeing to the teacher. The teacher observes the child more closely with the parent’s perspective in mind and, after working with a range of implicit strategies, brings the child to the Student Support Executive Group if the challenges persist. 

In the case of a severe problem, the student moves immediately to the more explicit steps in the process. 

  1. Communication Point. The teacher reports to the parent (or back to the parent if the parent brought the matter to the teacher initially) to let them know what is happening at school and how the school is addressing the student’s needs. When a Three Streams group takes up work with a child, the parent is notified. 
  2. The child’s teacher(s) meets with the members of either the Care & Therapeutic, Guidance & Discipline, or Social Inclusion Group. When a student’s challenges are not alleviated by implicit approaches and the child is accepted into one of the streams, the teacher meets with the appropriate stream to develop a plan to support the child. A support circle may be scheduled for the child at this point. (Support circles are described in the glossary.)
  1. Communication Point. The teacher or a member of the Three Streams team notifies the parents of the plan: “Here’s what we are going to try.” 
  2. After two to three weeks, the teacher reports back to the Care & Therapeutic, Guidance & Discipline, or Social Inclusion Group. If the situation has been resolved, the process is complete. If it has not, the teacher meets again with the appropriate stream either to extend the plan or to create a new one. Parents are informed of the new plan by either the teacher or a member of the Three Streams team. 
  3. Communication. The teacher, or a member of the Three Streams Team, notifies the parent as to whether the child’s issue is resolved or not. If not, and there is a new response plan, the parents hear what new responses will be tried by the teacher. 

These steps are repeated until resolution has been reached. If the resolution is slow in coming, the original supporting group may call upon help from the other two “streams.” 


The Support Plan is key to moving a student toward resolution. Each stream of the Student Support work has a compendium of tools to draw upon throughout the Student Support process. 


There are many pro-active supports built into the curriculum. They are implicit—the student is not consciously aware of them. These are our “lightest touch” approaches. They are embedded in our stories, music, art, speech, drama, therapeutic movement, developmental aspects of the curriculum, and daily rhythms. 

Our curriculum begins by meeting children at their developmental stage. Classrooms are designed to keep social and sensory complexity low, with a high level of form and predictability. The various arts provide opportunities for learning through modalities other than the head. Each of the arts encourages a quality of listening to the other. Pedagogical stories tell of characters that experience struggles, and picture what works for them and what does not. Each day is rich in beneficial movement and a rhythm that moves in and out of focused work. The implicit strategies serve to diminish the need for explicit interventions. 


These approaches work with the whole class. Students are aware of them, but barely. They blend into the fabric of the day. Examples are (see the glossary for explanations of these terms): 

  • Buddy systems 
  • Politeness and courtesy 
  • Connected Classroom 
  • A calling out scale 
  • A timing orientation 
  • Preview and Review (whole class) 


If classroom strategies are not orienting a student to productive learning and relationships, the teacher begins to work directly with the individual student. When we work with the individual, we are truly in the explicit realm. These approaches still include a range from light to heavy touch. Examples are: 

  • Selective seating 
  • Support circle 
  • DADD (Disapprove, Affirm, Discover, Do-over) 
  • A visit to the quiet room for a “re-set” 
  • A visit to another classroom for a “re-set” 
  • Behavior Change Plan 
  • No blame meeting 
  • Circle of Friendship 
  • Support from the Student Action Committee 
  • Check In and Go/Stay 
  • Goals and Achievements plan 


A support circle is often included in a student’s response plan. It is a meeting of the adults in the child’s life. It is facilitated and is one hour and fifteen minutes long. It is attended by the child’s parents or guardian, the child’s teacher or teachers, and a member(s) of the supporting “stream.” The aim of the meeting is to find ways to build upon the child’s successes. A support circle may be requested by a teacher or a parent, and it is coordinated by a member of Student Support Executive Group. There is follow-up as needed. 


Buddy System. The use of predominantly eighth grade and on a case-by-case basis younger students to be friends to a class or a student. 

Calling Out Scale. Assigning a number (1, 2, or 3) to a call-out and using a hand signal to alert a child to their call-out. One is “the right thing at the right time,” two is “the right thing at the wrong time,” and three is “the wrong thing at the wrong time.” 

Change plan. A meeting with a child, an adult, and sometimes an eighth grade student to explore what isn’t working and how we might make it better. 

Check-in and go. A student who is having difficulty during a transition to another class, the bathroom, or recess is asked to check in with the teacher before proceeding to the destination. During this brief check-in the student reviews the agreed-upon goals for the transition. 

Circle of Friendship. A small group of people who are on the lookout for a child in need. It may include an empathetic classmate, teachers, and eighth grade students. 

Connected Classroom. An approach to the lesson by the teacher that begins with warm connection, moves to direction, and ends with review and closing. 

DADD. An approach to behavior that is out of line. It begins with disapproval (D) of the behavior and affirmation (A) of the person, followed by discovery (D—“What’s going on today?”), and a do-over (D—“Let’s try that again.”) 

Eighth-Grade proactive support. Eighth-graders proactively work with some classes or small groups in order to build relationships. These relationships may come into play if there is a child or group of children who need social support. 

Explicit strategies. Strategies that are directly expressed and apparent to students, like a “No Blame meeting.” 

Goals and Achievements Plan. An agreement between a student and teacher to work on a particular behavior. It assigns a numeric value to how well a student has done. Both teacher and student set a goal and both track progress. 

Implicit strategies: Strategies that are not directly expressed or apparent to the student. 

No Blame meeting: Based on a restorative justice model, this is a facilitated meeting among all parties involved in a social conflict or discipline issue. Each student has an assigned eighth grade helper. 

Preview and Review: A description of what is coming (preview) or a look at what just happened (review). A preview reduces anxiety, and a review helps a child to understand the effects of their actions. Previews and reviews can consider long or short periods of time (the coming school day, what just happened) depending upon the age of the child. 

Quiet room: A place for a disoriented child to go for a “re-set.” 

Support Plan: A teacher’s plan for meeting a child’s needs. 

Selective seating: This can refer to the child’s position in the room in relation to the teacher, to the teacher’s choice of desk partners for the child, or to a seating location with fewer possibilities for distraction. 

Support Circle: A facilitated meeting of adults to focus on the needs of a child. 

Rainbow Volume: A visual scale in the classroom that demonstrates for students what type of classroom activity is occurring and what the appropriate noise level is. 

Work with the Code of Compassion: Explicit instruction in the meaning of the Code of Compassion. May be done by the teacher or the eighth grade students.

*Thank you to Kim John Payne and the Sebastopol School for their help in developing this guide.