So, you are considering sending your child to private school. As the idea gels and your selection process gets underway, think about these five factors which will make for a successful private school experience. After all, you want the best possible outcome for your child. You want her to benefit from the enriched academic experience which a private school can offer. But most of all, you want her to be happy in her new private school environment. You also want the peace of mind which comes from knowing that you have made all the right decisions.
The right school
So, with dozens of private schools to choose from, choosing the right one is probably the most crucial item on this list of factors for a successful private school education. Which is the right school? You'll know it when you visit it and speak with the admissions staff. It will be the school which best meets both your requirements as a parent, and the requirements of that precious cargo which you are about to entrust to the school. You can review the statistics and data about the school. You can determine that its philosophy and educational mission align with your goals and objectives. But the real question for which you need to find the answer is how will your child fit in. If you feel comfortable about your answer to that question, you are all set. You will have chosen the right school.
The right sports
As you review private schools, you will begin to realize that each school is unique. Private schools are independent corporations, as a rule. Most are not for profit organizations. However, unless the school is owned and operated by a company which owns and operates several schools, it will manage its affairs independently and under the oversight of a board of directors. Consequently, the facilities and programs are different at each private school. Yes, there will be similarities. Each school may have a hockey team, for example, but, the question you need to ask, if that is important to you, is at what level is the hockey actually being played? What is the coaching staff like? Sports are an integral part of most private school programs. But, as with everything else in this process, assume nothing. Investigate the sports offered, the level of the programs offered and the facilities. Your child will spend from six to twelve hours a week playing sports. Make it the best experience possible so that you set healthy habits in place for her adult life. Apply the same kind of thoughtful due diligence to all the programs which matter to you and your child. If the equestrian program or the arts program are high on your list of things which you expect, then ask questions. Understand the depth and scope of the programs each school offers.
The right extracurriculars
By now you are beginning to understand that a private school is a complete package: academics, sports, and extracurricular activities. Your child deserves as well-rounded approach and balance in her young life. And that is what most private schools endeavor to provide to their students. Why are extracurriculars important? After all, it seems that extracurriculars are among the first things to go by the boards in public schools when the money dries up. The truth is that extracurriculars such as forensics, drama, chess and so many more activities, stimulate young minds. They expose your child to options which she perhaps hasn't thought about before. Who knows! She may even have one of those 'Eureka!' moments when she discovers her true calling in life. In any case, the depth and breadth of a school's extracurricular activities are part of what make it the right school. Examine extracurriculars carefully. Know how they are managed, and they have performed historically at any school you are investigating.
Doesn't every teacher care? Not always. Caring for their students and being answerable to their parents is simply part of how private school teachers have to operate. Private schools nurture caring teachers. That is because caring teachers are one of the main reasons parents decide to send their children to private school. If teachers don't care or have a bad attitude, their contracts will most likely not be renewed. Private school teachers are not unionized, and, as a result, can be dismissed for reasons and conditions which are spelled out very clearly in their letters of agreement with the school.
Now, caring is not the same thing as hovering. You won't find a private school teacher smothering your child. Instead, your child's teacher will be direct and guide her so that she can blossom into the confident, articulate young adult you always knew she could be. Private school teachers have another responsibility which their public school colleagues do not have. They are responsible for coaching a sport or directing an extracurricular activity. So your child has the advantage of seeing her social studies teacher in a whole different light when she sees him coaching her field hockey team. This is one more example of how private schools put into practice their philosophy of educating the whole child.
Teaching the whole child
An education is for life. Yes, test scores can be important. The same is true with getting into a good college. But what a private school is intrinsically all about is getting an education for life. What do we mean? Your child will face challenges and situations in her adult life which you and I cannot even begin to imagine. Just look at all we have faced in the past thirty or forty years or so. The world seems to be morphing at warp speed. Your child will hopefully emerge from her private school experience with that wonderful combination of creativity, confidence, and accomplishment which will allow her to face whatever comes her way with equanimity, grace, and aplomb.
The objective of this article is to point out that there are some very basic components to your evaluation of private schools on your short list. In my opinion, these components trump metrics such as how selective a school is.
Questions? Contact me via Twitter. @privateschool