My mind has been absolutely consumed with thoughts about schools for next year for my daughter.
I have been waking up at ridiculous o’clock mulling over the various options. We have been visiting and touring our local schools. In this day and age as parents we certainly do tend to over think every decision we make in regards to our children. We undoubtedly want the very best for them in every aspect of their life – and education is right up there as one of the utmost important decisions we will make for them.
Maybe we need to remember that we are in fact very lucky indeed that we have so many to choose from. For years prior families just simply went to their local Government school, and that my friends…was that! It was a no brainer.
But parenting has changed a lot since then. We tend to anaylase in great detail every decision we make in regards to our children as we want to believe that we have done everything we can for them.
I know being an experienced teacher who has taught in many educational settings is definitely not helping the situation in any way as my expectations are incredibly high. For many years I have been on the other side of the fence as an educator, not the mama looking for the best possible start for her first child to commence school.
The challenge for us you see is that we have a very reputable Catholic school nearby- the trouble is we are not Catholic. Although I have been getting advice from lovely local mums who say it doesn’t matter, I just can’t shake the feeling that it is not the right school for our family. We are not religious and we have never been to church – so it just doesn’t feel right asking our child to attend a school whose practises are not aligned with our family values.
Our other local Government option proudly shares the fact that a once famous Aussie rock icon was a student. Fair to say that a head banging, whiskey swilling musician is probably not the role model I am leaning towards for my daughter at this stage in her life.
So here I am in my conundrum and it got me thinking about what to look for when choosing a school for your child.
At the end of the day, I still keep coming back to a few simple things.
First and foremost: be true to your family values – even though educators are to become the second most trusted adults in our children’s lives, we have to absolutely believe in any of the messages that the school is promoting. What is right for your family, may not be the same as the family who live next door to you. Even though we entrust our little ones into educational settings, we are still their primary role models and they ones they will look to for guidance and teachings in all aspects of their lives. Good teachers will support this.
Meet the Principal – these are the leaders of the school that your child will attend. Are they somebody professional and approachable? Do they speak about their students respectfully and kindly? What do they look for when recruiting staff for their team?
Is there a mix of experienced and beginning teachers – yes graduate teachers are young, fresh and enthusiastic but schools also need experienced dynamic teachers with a wealth of knowledge to guide, lead and shape their teaching careers.
Naplan results and data are not the be all and end all – a standardised test result does not define a schools community or passionate staff and leaders. It does not represent how happy, connected and engaged their students are. And it certainly does not reflect a child’s true capabilities. They are a snapshot in time of student performance on that particular day.
Do not ever choose a school because other people tell you it is great – go and visit the school for yourself. Trust your gut. How do you feel when you walk around the school? Chances are your child will feel the same.
Request a school tour on a random day during the week– planned tour days and open days show schools on best performance levels, teachers on high alert and classrooms glistening for large numbers of visitors. Turn up on an average day to see the school operating as it would any day of the week, as this is how it will be once your child is attending.
Look at what the teachers are doing– are they engaged with their students? How do they speak to their students in the classroom? How are the rooms presented? Are they organised and not cluttered as classroom layouts can have a profound effect on children’s behaviour. Is the student’s work proudly displayed?
Ask about the schools social and emotional wellbeing policy– because if your child has any behaviour issues or is involved in any conflict or bullying, you need to know that the staff take it seriously and has protocols in place to support the children involved.
Even more importantly – do not ask your child which school they would like to go to. Chances are they will pick the one with the best playground….as that is high on the priority list for a four year old…well it is in my household anyway.
School is about SO much more than reading and writing. It is where our children learn to communicate, navigate friendships, understand rules and expectations and experience successes and disappointments.
Happy and connected children learn and thrive in schooling environments – even if they have challenges – and that is all we ever really want for our kids.
Love Chrissie xoxo
“Empowering families to create the right mix of chaos & love”