"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...
1. Consultants know their schools.
Why is this important? After all, the internet gives you everything you need to know about schools, right? Not exactly. Don't forget that a school's web site presents its story as the school wants it told. The videos are compelling. The photos are gorgeous. And the testimonials are glowing. As they should be. However, an educational consultant works for you. Not the school. She is paid by you. Not the school. She will point out features and aspects to a school's program which you perhaps have not thought of. Why is that? Because she is a professional. Just like an attorney will point out the pluses and minuses in a contract, an educational consultant can and will point out the advantages and disadvantages of a particular school as they relate to your child.
2. Consultants have contacts at schools.
Educational consultants visit schools. They make a point of keeping their networks current. As a result they can get answers to questions which you may or may not think about asking. They will know that a certain school has just been made an IB school and what that means and says about the school's programs. They will know that the long time English department head has retired and that some exciting, new programs are in the works. That means that an educational consultant can get answers to your questions because...
With this as a backdrop you want to take time to review the courses offered in the schools on your short list. Do they match your objectives and requirements? Do they offer the depth and intensity which you want your child to have? For example, Shakespeare is taught in many public high school English courses. Typically one play will be covered. By contrast a private school English class will read two or three Shakespeare plays. Because private school classes are small and the students focused on their academic work, much more can be accomplished.
About thirty private schools offer a curriculum known as the International Baccalaureate. It is a comprehensive program which covers kindergarten through 12th grade. The diploma program is offered in high school. Like any other international diploma the IB offers consistency and a high standard. As a result...
How long has the headmaster/principal been in office?
This question speaks to the stability of the school. If the headmaster or headmistress (also called head and occasionally director) has been there for a couple of years, that's a good sign. Private school heads will stay forever if they are doing a good job and the trustees are satisfied with his job performance. Nowadays a private school head is the de facto CEO of the school. But his major responsibility is going to be in the area of fundraising. Public relations is another part of his brief.
If the door to the headmaster's office has become a revolving one with several heads coming and going over a period of a few years, you might want to find out why they didn't stay. Most private schools conduct national searches for a head of school and involve the school community in the process. So it would be unusual for a school to get the fit wrong.
How large is the endowment? ...
2. Is it true that the school is having financial difficulties?