Why we pick the schools we pick
The challenge ensues
In our ever-changing world, where constant developments are being made, why is it that parents of today make decisions for their children based on what they lived when they were kids nearly two decades ago?
In today’s day and age, more and more parents are making decisions about their children’s education and activities based on what they personally enjoyed as children. Let’s talk elementary school—If Mama X loved her elementary school as a kid, the decision to send her daughter or son to that same school is a no-brainer. The problem? That same school no longer exists.
Yes, the building is still standing and the facilities might be the same (which is a con more than a pro, let’s face it), but what makes up the school is completely different. Staff, curriculum, teachers… it’s all gone. For whatever remains, like methodology or school governance, it’s best to say that even though it might have worked in the 90s, it’s a new dawn, it ain’t gonna work today.
While choosing your child’s elementary school based on your own personal experience isn’t the worst approach, it definitely isn’t a reliable one. What do I mean? I mean, what worked for you, oh, let’s say, 20 years ago, won’t necessarily work for your kid. First, as I mentioned earlier, the school isn’t the same as it was back then. Second, your child isn’t you. How can you pick the best suited school for your child? There is a general outline a parent can follow in order to pick the right school for their child.
Of course parents want to give their children everything they had in life and everything they didn’t have, and that begins with that which made them happy in life. If that memory for them is their childhood school, then mom and dad should start there. Go visit your alma mater and see what gives. What are the teachers like now? How big is the class size? What is the school mission statement? What kinds of after-school activities are offered? What’s the student body like? Other logistical questions to think about are: proximity to your home, common friends attending the school, tuition fees, support staff, English-to-French ratio, and so on.
What I’ve noticed is that parents don’t take the time to revisit their former school and learn about what it’s all about. When we were kids, safe to say, most of us loved our elementary school (I might be an exception, but I said most to err on the side of majority rules). When we were children running through the halls of school we didn’t notice if the water fountain was filtered or if the bathrooms were hygienic, we didn’t think about the level of education of our teachers or whether there was a school counsellor on campus during school hours. We thought about how recess was awesome, gym was the best class ever, and how fun it was to have all our favourite friends in one classroom. That’s it, that’s all. Also, come on, we don’t remember what a full day was like, morning to late afternoon. What we remember is what we want to remember.
As grown-ups, we can look at a school critically and think about what works and what doesn’t work both in terms of the school and in terms of our individual children—because that’s what they are, individuals.
Picking a school is not a science. However, there is an art to the decision-making process.
- You can visit a few schools, just to see what’s out there.
- Bring your kid with you so you can see how s/he reacts to the environment.
- Meet some teachers from the school and parents who send their kids to the school.
Elementary school is a time in a child’s life when they learn how to be people in the world. They start to become more responsible for their own daily needs (ie., eating snack at recess and lunch at lunchtime, doing their homework, studying, monitoring their health throughout the day…), they also learn how to live in a community—they learn how to share, how to be polite and respectful, how to be inclusive with other children, how to ask for what they want, how to be in touch with their needs, and so on. If the morals and values imparted at your school of choice reflects those taught at home, then that’s a good start. If you have multiple children, consider the pros and cons of sending your children to the same or different school. Drop off will be a pain, but each person is different and requires different things out of a school.
Elementary school nurtures a child’s inner being and teaches him/her how to exist in the world according to societal rules. Basing your decision off antiquated personal experience (unless you’re a teen mom, and then it’s not so antiquated I guess), might work against your child’s needs.
There is so much to consider when choosing the right school. Approach it like you would if it were a job you were considering applying for. Would you want to go there every day? Hang out with these people all the time? Learn from these bosses? Will it teach you what you set out to learn? Are you surrounded by people with similar core values? Will it get you to your next step in life (ie., high school)? If you can find a school that answers yes to most of these questions (and others you may consider important), then you’ve picked the right school for your child.