Many parents tend to dismiss the idea of sending their children to private school without exploring it in depth. Similarly, many teachers flirt with the idea of teaching in a private school without delving into the matter deeply. Supporting your alma mater financially is another concept many alumni figure is somebody else's job. Of course, it isn't.
Send my child to private school?
You would want to send your child to private school for several reasons. The public schools in your area may not offer all the academic programs you want your child to have as she prepares for college a couple of years from now. The local public schools may have had to cut extracurricular activities because of financial constraints. You want your child to participate in a variety of extracurricular activities. Sports programs may have been cut as well. Many school districts are struggling with their budgets and that impacts academics, extracurricular activities, and athletic programs across the board. Those kinds of fiscal pressures make the extras problematic at best. Who wouldn't want their child to be in academic surroundings where anything is possible as this short video suggests.
In this video, a student explains his math project.
Making the decision to send your child to private school requires some serious analysis and discussion of your aims and objectives. When we were having that discussion, we had two concerns: 1) stretching out children academically as well as providing a range of extracurricular activities and sports and 2) providing adequate supervision after school and at other times. We both had busy professional careers which meant that we could not be at home when the children got off the bus. Living where we did at the time, we had no viable child care options. Our solution was to send our daughters off to boarding school.
Teach in a private school?
Why would I want to teach in a private school? Well, to tell the truth, I have taught in private schools. Frankly, looking back, it was one of the high-points of my career. Why was that? Because I actually got to teach. That is all I did. Day in and day out. I didn't worry very much about discipline. If one of my students had an issue, a conference with the head of school and/or the parents resolved that very quickly. The other thing which made my years as a teacher in private schools so enjoyable was that the students wanted to learn. Their parents were paying good money to send them to school to learn. As a result, you felt the strength of the partnership of school, parent, and child at work every day. That commonality of purpose made all the difference for me. This brief video illustrates my point.
In this video, a student describes a day in her life at Emma Willard School in Troy, New York.
I enjoyed teaching small classes of students I typically had 13 to 15 students in a class. We covered a lot of ground because I could see at a glance who understood what I was teaching and who did not. It was relatively easy to circle back and fill in the gaps as needed. Most of my students met or exceeded our admission requirements. That meant that you could enrich the syllabus as needed with special projects or sidebars which would have been strictly optional in any other academic setting.
Contribute to my alma mater?
Why would you want to contribute to the private school you attended? First of all, let's deal with the common excuses why you wouldn't want to contribute to your alma mater.
#1 Your classmates make much more money than you do.
So what if your classmates make much more money than you do. Ask yourself what the school did for you. It gave you a solid grounding in so many things besides academics, didn't it? Singing in the glee club and winning the state rowing championship nurtured skills and habits like teamwork you had but had never used, right? And you got into a good college, didn't you? Those are just some of the things your school did for you. When you really stop and examine the influence it had on you, you will find many more things your school did for you that perhaps you took for granted. So, go ahead and support the annual fund with a gift of $25 a month. That won't kill you. Then increase your gift as time goes on. Think of your school's annual fund as an appreciation club. That's really all it is. This short video illustrates my point.
This video offers a student's reasons why he likes Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts.
#2 Most of them had trust funds and inheritances anyway.
So, most of your classmates had trust funds and inheritances? Let me have a word with them. You have a unique and special responsibility to your school. Support it with planned giving. Endow a department chair. Have a building named after your beloved grandmother. The only thing I ask is that you involve the school's development office and your financial advisers from the beginning. That way there will be no misunderstandings and you will accomplish something meaningful and lasting for your school. Remember: many people at home and at school have looked after your well-being since you were born. Now is the time to repay all that kindness with some serious munificence.
#3 The school doesn't need my small contribution. It has large endowment funds.
So, the school doesn't need your contribution because it has a large endowment fund? The reason it has a large endowment fund is that many graduates before you appreciated what the school had done for them. They expressed their gratitude with tangible gifts or property and money. Now it's your turn. There are so many things you can do. If you have the resources, offer to host an alumnae gathering at your club. Offer a week at your home in Aspen for the school auction. Every alumna no matter what her financial circumstances can speak with members of her network and support the school's efforts in so many ways. Getting the word out is a very practical way to support your school.
Start a private school?
You would want to start a private school because no other school in your area is offering the programs you feel are necessary for a good education. That's how the idea gets legs. Before you plunge headlong into what is a major project do your homework thoroughly. Confirm that no other school offers the kind of programs you want to offer. Confirm that the local demographics will support your school. The key ingredient here is a growing population with lots of new families moving into the area every day. I live in Raleigh, North Carolina. The growth here is very real and very strong. If I were inclined to start another private school, this area would be worth exploring in detail. I would only want to start another private school if I had strong financial backing and a workable business plan. But with those essentials in place, I would start a private school in a heartbeat.
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