"How do they teach?" is a question which has to be in the back of your mind as you begin to consider sending your child to private school. It also is relevant at almost any stage of that process. Whether you are looking at your options for preschool, primary school, middle school or high school, how the teachers teach is just as important as what they teach. As you review the curriculum, you need to familiarize yourself with how it is taught. Make sure that aspect matches your requirements.
Let's look at three areas of concern which we as parents have faced outside the classroom as we have raised our children. We had control of what we taught and how we shaped our child's thinking up to the point where she went off to school. That changes once she is being taught by somebody else and interacting with other children. The following three areas are interdependent, are complementary and overlap. They have to form the backdrop for effective classroom teaching.
1. Developing critical thinking.
Writing teaches a child to document events, feelings, ideas and facts. Organizing materials and marshalling facts help a child make sense of huge amounts of information. Since writing is such an important skill, closely examine how the school teaches writing.
Reading is the other skill which needs to be taught early and effectively. Having your child taught reading by a skilled reading teacher is something you want to make sure is part of the preschool and primary grades experience. Remember: she needs to learn how to decode the letters and words, but more importantly she needs to develop a love of reading. A skilled reading teacher will help make that possible with your assistance and cooperation. That means you must turn off the TV, avoid video games, MP3 players, cellphones and the like. Those devices will encourage passivity, not critical thinking.
2. Developing problem solving skills
Math and science are all about solving problems. With the right guidance from her teachers, she will develop those problem solving skills which are so highly-prized in adult life.
Critical thinking and problem solving are skills which thrive in a classroom where the teacher guides the learning process. Rote learning is not effective.
3. Developing self-confidence.
As a child explores the world around her and tries to make sense of what she is learning, she needs teachers who will gently guide and shape that process. An overly-critical teacher who belittles her students' contributions to the work at hand
will damage self-confidence. The positive approach is what is needed.
As she learns how to read and write, she develops her critical thinking faculties. She may well come up with some ideas and approaches which are outside the box. This is why her teacher must be able to boost her ego when it needs boosting and gently guide her when she really gets off the rails.
How a teacher teaches is just as important as what she teaches. That's why it is so important for you to observe a class when you visit schools on your short list.