I appreciate how this parent acknowledges that it took the process of applying to schools to become more aware of her child’s individual personality and her own parenting choices. And I question why getting into school has to be such a stressful process for all involved.
As parents we want what is best for our child. We want him to be happy and thrive in a stimulating environment. We want to know the time he is away from us is productive, engaging, fun, and frankly—for private schools—worth the tuition.
School administrators want to know that parents are committed to the community. They understand this is an important choice for each family, but the school must remember the whole of the community. It is important that they welcome new families who understand the philosophy of the school and are willing to be an active part of that community. I have worked in too many situations where families come into a school hoping to change the school’s philosophy. Of course there are always small changes that are made to a school culture throughout the years and it is essential that parents understand it is not their place to come in and try to re-form a community into what they think it should be. Please remember these are professionals and they are working to create and maintain the best community for all of its members.
For teachers, we want them all—all the families—the children and the parents. Some children are more challenging than others and some parents are more challenging than others (and some teachers are more challenging than others!). This is why we do what we do. We love to help people learn about the best in themselves and meld into a strong and functional community. We know there are not spaces for all of the children. There is a finite number of places. This is something we can not control. So with that in mind, we try to make sure our classrooms are balanced: ages, gender, personalities…. It is difficult to predict what combination of children will create the best experience for everyone and actually there is no right answer. Because whatever the combination, it is the right mix. It is from this melting pot of children (as well as parents) that the children form themselves and build their understanding of the world. They learn to be the leader, the follower, the individual, the participant, the friend…generally, a functioning member of society.
So it is unfortunate that finding the right school can be a difficult experience. I don’t know if there is a solution to this. It only highlights the need for more quality schools for the youngest in our society. So for parents who are getting ready for the ‘interview process’, my advice is that you go into it hoping to learn more—more about the school community, more about your own child, and more about the parent you want to be. Choosing a ‘pre-school’ is just the first step. Once you sign the contract, you have taken on a partner in watching over the development of your child. Remember, the school where you end up is the right place, because both you and your child have an important role to fill in that community…an active one.
Next up…”What is the Positive, Active Role For Parents in Schools?”