Have you ever wondered what teachers look for when considering a school for their own children?
Consistently, teachers agree it is important to visit a school on a typical school day when students are present. No surprise...these teachers also feel you should do your homework. Start with a list of questions that are relevant to your child’s development. After all, you know your child best. Here are some of the questions they suggest:
- Is the curriculum flexible, allowing teachers to customize it to student needs?
- Do you see happy children and teachers?
- Are the classrooms welcoming?
- Are the children engaged in active learning?
- Are the classrooms child-centered, creative, and organized?
- Is there appropriate use of technology, such as computers, smart boards, or tablets?
- Are the children interacting and having conversations with each other?
- Do the students interact with you?
- Does the curriculum have a solid research foundation for success?
- Is there a world language program? When does it start?
- How is technology integrated into the curriculum to enhance student learning?
- How frequently do the students attend special classes, such as art, music, PE, and technology?
- What is a typical amount of nightly homework? At what age does it begin?
- What is the level of faculty education?
- Are there professional development opportunities to keep faculty current in their fields?
- Do teachers have organized meeting times to collaborate with one another?
- What is the teacher turnover rate?
- What is the level of parental involvement?
- What is the cultural and ethnic diversity of the school?
- How does the school handle discipline?
- What opportunities do children have to spend time outdoors?
- Do the children have opportunities to apply what they are learning to real-world situations?
- How is the after-school program structured?
- What is the school doing to stay relevant to the changing world, ensuring that students are equipped to meet the expectations of colleges and future employers?
A school tour is a perfect opportunity to visit and observe classes in session. Talk to people who know the school the best: teachers, students, parents, and administrators. Be inquisitive. After visiting a school, some families make notes or charts and some go with their gut. Whatever strategy you choose to make a decision, enjoy the process. Having done your homework, you’ll be able to find a school for your child that feels like a great fit for your whole family.
Heidi McGregor is the former Assistant Director of Admission and early childhood educator at Sanford School, a preschool-grade 12 College Preparatory School in Hockessin, DE.