PARENTS PARTNERING WITH PETAGOGUES
In the Picky Parent Guide, authors Bryan C. Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel submit that: “Deciding what your child needs and what matters most are key steps in choosing a school with the best fit for your child.”
Schools have evolved into much more than a place for children to learn the Three R’s. Schools are expected to teach social skills, instill proper moral ethics, impart community expectations, imbue religious principles, and all the while provide a safe emotional haven for children. While this is a tall order for any educational institution, it also presents a formidable challenge to parents who must choose the school that can provide a balanced program that will best fit both their values and the individual needs of their child.
As if that weren’t enough, choosing the right school is only part of a parent’s assignment. James P. Comer and Norris M. Haynes, authors of, Parent Involvement in Schools, opine that the parents’ meaningful involvement in children’s schooling can enhance the educational process. However, parents should not supersede or challenge the authority of principals and their staff.
Together, these two principles – choosing a school and remaining engaged in the educational process – represent the most important ways that parents can positively impact their child’s education. But how exactly should parents go about selecting the right school and how can they then strike a balance to fuse a productive bond with their children’s school to ensure optimum success?
The process is broken down here into four basic steps.
Establish your priorities
|Give some thought as to what you want the school to accomplish.
- Education: What do you see as your child’s academic needs and career options? How much pressure do you feel is right? Are you looking for a competitive environment where high grades are most important, or do you prefer teaching methods geared toward developing skills that enable students to become lifelong learners?
- Social Skills and Character Development: What kind of relationships will your child form at school? Consider the behaviors you would want modeled in your child’s interaction with peers and adults. Will your child feel comfortable with their peers and have appropriate respect for authority?
- Proper Manners and Good Work Ethics: What skills do you feel are needed to help your child navigate through different situations in life?
- Religious Principles and Ethics: What level of moral and religious decency do you aspire for your child? Does the leadership of the school reflect this ideal?
- Community: Do you expect your child to be encouraged and taught to be productive and honorable members in the community and the world at large?
- Emotional Support: Priscilla Vail summarizes the significance of feelings in the title of her book, Emotions: The On/Off Switch of Learning. Do you expect the school to provide a loving and nurturing environment?
Does your school reflect your standards?
|To find out the standards and long term goals of the school, parents need to take a multilevel approach.
- Talk to parents.Ask them what they like about the school. Ask what they feel can be improved. Listen to their choice of words. When many people repeat the same thing, it may indicate the school’s strength or weakness.
- Observe the childrenout of school.Are they respectful and kind? Are they self assured and confident? Do most of the students display your level of religious observance?
- Visit the school. Are you comfortable with the physical attributes of the classrooms, play yard, and, yes, bathrooms? Is it run by a professional and caring staff? Are the children relaxed and happy? Do you get a sense that the students are enthusiastic learners? Are you comfortable with the emotional vibes you pick up?
- Meet with the principal. Is the principal passionate about the hinuch and education of each child? When all is said and done, the principal is the one you will turn to when there is an issue that needs addressing. Do you feel comfortable expressing your concerns? Can you collaborate together to find solutions?
- Trust your instinct.Do you have a sense that this school is a good place for your child?
Form the bond
|Once you’ve chosen the right school, stay involved.
- Attend all school functions and come on time.
- Keep in touch with teachers.
- Provide positive feedback.
- Inform the school of situations that may escalate into problems.
Show your support
|Your attitude is a powerful tool. Use it to benefit your children.
- Be sure to back the school in front of your children. Although there may be some areas of disagreement with any establishment, never speak disparagingly of the school, the staff, or its policies.
- By carefully assessing the school, you will have the facts and feelings needed to appreciate and support your children’s school. It is your passion and enthusiasm that will give your children their much needed sense of pride in their school.
Mrs. Miriam Zukerman is the Principal of the Sarah Dabah Elementary School (formerly Mikdash Melech Girls School). She has over 25 years of professional and personal experience in hinuch and education.