How did you choose your child’s school? Are there any lessons to be learnt? Shared?
It’s that time of the year when the nation is not only caught up in the elections and seats, but where its citizens are scrambling for seats of another kind – school admissions for their kids. If you are a newly married couple or someone who has nothing to do with school-ready kids, you may ask – so what is the big deal? Well, ask your dear friends who have or who are trying to gain admission for their precious cherubs – their decision awkwardly balancing between their idea of fine schooling and the devil in this case, affordability. Yes, newbies, marching your child off to the “perfect” school is a milestone and ordeal by itself. One wrong turn and you end up failing the society, your all knowing parents, parenting and lastly maybe your child even. Or so it seems.
So this piece is dedicated to the majority of the parents who feel lost, confused and burdened by a such a mammoth rite of passage. What should you consider while deciding your child’s school? Is there room for error? A fair amount of reading up, asking around and visiting around certainly helps. At the very least, we should strive to understand a school’s heart and soul by asking the right questions and picking up the right signals, whilst we choose, evaluate and finally zero-in on the right school.
Meeting with the different members of the school is like meeting with your future in-laws. It is meant to be hunky dory on the outside, but a lot of awkward questions and doubts lurk inside. Don’t be fooled by the flash and flutter of honeyed words, pompous attitude and astronomical numbers. Just like a good match is made by understanding each other completely, no matter how awkward the questions, it is better to get it out of the way first. So here’s what you should know about your child’s school:
Going the Distance: Some people really feel their child must ‘go the distance’ for the best schooling experience. If you ask me, no! Choose schools not beyond a 4 – 5 km radius,lesser if possible. Initially this may not matter, but in the long run, it will save you a lot of worry and energy. And trust me, with sick people out in the world, it is stomach churning till, your child gets home safe and sound especially if travelling by school, public or private transport. Travelling miles back and forth at such a tender age is not going to win them any extra points. Life is tough – don’t give them a taste of it already!
Play, Plays and Place: Though there is a paradigm shift in parents’ expectation of what a school should offer – some schools are still stuck in the previous generation. And mind you, that includes some so-called top schools too. That doesn’t matter – we needn’t to follow the crowd, if at the end of the day, we are hoping for balanced, well rounded kids who have the freedom to explore and choose. That is where a school environment becomes pertinent – otherwise I know of many capable parents who can really homeschool their kids. So if a school doesn’t offer play, enough place to play, enough opportunities to play and be part of events, plays, programs and meets, don’t even think about it.
Middle class approach: Yes class is preferable, the middle-class is mandatory. Suffice to say, it’s always better to choose a school that understands parents being anxious about their kids, that is quite frugal when it comes to demanding money, that believes in courtesy, heritage, patriotism and lastly treats children as children – neither as demigods nor as guinea pigs. Schools that begin and end their conversations with their pass percentage, what they have achieved in the ‘past’, strict admission procedure or about how many branches they have across the city, country and the world will fail miserably here.
Communication & Platforms: Many people omit to evaluate these aspects. Remember the first few years, you will never know how your child is faring or even what is s/he is doing at school. And they are also too small to tell you what happens at school. In such a scenario, a school needs to provide enough open house sessions, events and parent teacher platforms to help you understand what is happening at school. Also, no school is big enough to NOT listen to a student or a parent. So no matter how small or grown up your child is, you just should not have a problem meeting the right people. A good school understands that its most important foundation is its students and parents.
Approach to Outliers: You can never hope to educate your child in a place which does not believe in equality. And that means, a school that does not differentiate between abilities, background, potential and nature of children. Do understand their approach to children from underprivileged backgrounds and children with challenges, not to mention children with a learning disability as well as difficult children. If you feel this matter doesn’t concern you, then just pray your child does not turn out to be aggressive, hyperactive, attention-deficit or even a laggard now or in the future. Schools that don’t accommodate outliers, are sure to be intolerant to anything but the best, unless you are affluent and powerful.
Remember the heart of any schooling experience are the teachers and even in a great school, the schooling year is shadowed by the kind of teacher/s that your child is destined to be with. If you ask me, the quality of teachers is the deal clincher in any school and since teachers keep rotating in and around neighboring schools, every school has its list of good, bad and great teachers. So if you feel you are hearing the right things as far as the above aspects are concerned, don’t be too worried about academics – definitely a school that gets these things right can pack a punch when it comes to academics and numbers.
Essentially, it means that the most popular school is necessarily not the best one. Any school that knows the art of academics and the pulse of children ought to get these right. Look for goodness, not greatness in a school. Don’t dismiss a school because it is new – being in the first batches of a good school is very rewarding. Avoiding the pitfalls of hearsay and popular opinion, ask your questions, form your opinions and make an informed choice. And finally, when you do decide, remember the only person you ought not to fail is your child. It sure is an exciting journey ahead!
– Written by Aparna Dheepak
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