What do you look for in a school? As I parent, and an Educational Consultant, I think about this as much as you do. When my kids were in school, I kept a notebook of things my children liked and did not like about their school experience. I watched their anxiety level, and their stress levels, and I wrote it all done. That’s how I discovered my daughter had severe test anxiety. In understanding this I was able to work with her teachers and ease that anxiety during assessments. For my son, it was socialization, learning proper responses and being able to read facial queues and body language.
From all of that, I go back to my question of what do you look for in a school? For me it was the following:
● Dedication of Staff – I will take a dedicated staff member over a certified teacher with a Master’s Degree any day; and in the past I have been lucky enough to have both. A dedicated staff member will go above and beyond to find a method of teaching that works for your child. A dedicated staff member will answer your 101 emails and put you at ease. A dedicated staff member has the same goals as you do. My biggest sense of pride when I owned and ran Hayden’s Way is that we had a dedicated staff. Those women added, searched, and gave more than any other teachers I knew. They were creative, intuitive, knowledgeable, and above all dedicated. They were dedicated to the school, the students, and the parents.
● Curriculum – I want a mixture of curriculum that guides the students through their learning, and I want a variety of choices, because not every curriculum works for every child. A school needs to be able to give your child options, and I don’t care if it’s written by the Mennonites, who by the way have the best grammar book out there, or the Director of the DOE herself. I just want it clear, concise and thorough, and I want it to work for my child.
● Socialization – Let’s be honest – we all want our kids to have friends, go to parties, and have a social life. The one thing we had at Hayden’s Way was a code of conduct. This code of conduct gave ownership to the students and created empathy and responsibility. We helped our students understand that we are all different, and to respect those differences in one another. Socialization is another reason that field trips are so important. Field trips offer an educational and fun social outing for students. It creates opportunities to impart to them proper social skills. I know as parents we all try and teach this social understanding to our children, but sometimes we can start to sound like the teacher in a Charlie Brown cartoon. It’s good to have outside reinforcements to explain how their actions affect others, and to teach them how to approach a new friend. So look for a school that has a good set of ethics code and will work with you and your child to heighten their social ability.
Get in the habit of journaling what did and did not work for your child this year. Take notes on their anxiety and stresses, and work with your teachers and administrators to setup an environment to succeed for your child.
And if you need help finding the right school for your child contact me. It’s what I do!
Lei Rhyne, M.Ed.
I am a labeler. I love a label. I like all kind of labels (colored labels, hello my name is label, large labels, labels like Flo’s tricked out label). I own 3 label machines. 3! Many people however hate labels. They worry about them, they worry about what other people will think if their children are labeled. They worry about how their children will be perceived. Well, you don’t have to; you just need to change your paradigm. You see many people see labels as a negative. Well, I don’t. To me it’s not a label, it’s a diagnosis, and a diagnosis simply helps you to understand yourself, and it helps others understand you too. Let’s take a child who has dyslexia. That child struggles with reading because his mind does not work the same way as ours. So for a child who is struggling with reading, he will constantly be comparing himself to his peers and wondering why he cannot perform the same task at the same rate. And do you know what that could lead to? Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and low self-confidence. Same for a child who has ADHD. As a mother of a child with ADHD I remember constantly telling my daughter, “Stop bouncing, sit down, focus, focus, focus.” At first, I admit I thought she was being stubborn or defiant. After her diagnosis, I was able to understand it wasn’t her being defiant that made her bounce around the room like crazy, it was her little brain. Those neurotransmitters are bouncing from one neuron to another at a rate that even she couldn’t keep up with it, and sometimes they wouldn’t even make it to their destination. So she would start something and get distracted and then she was off doing something else; that is/was those neurotransmitters not making that connection, not making it to their final destination, and her not completing her task. After the initial diagnosis, I sat her down and explained it all to her, do you know what her response was to me? “Oh, so that’s why I have the party going on in my head.” I thought that was a brilliant way to explain it for a child with ADHD; it is like being at a New Year’s Eve Party. There is music and groups of people talking, and laughing, and noise makers, and a band. You have people serving food, and people dancing, and everything is loud; and you can’t keep your eyes from jumping from group to group to group and be distracted by everything going on, and wanting to move from group to group to group and talk and dance, and look at the decorations, etc. It’s a lot for a little one to take in. So a label diagnosis helps your child understand why their brain/body does what it does. The other thing it does is help others understand why they do the things they do.
Still worried about people putting a label on your child and how your child will be perceived? I get it, I’ve been there. I use to own a school for children with learning difference, everyone who knows me, knows my children and their diagnoses, so I remember being worried about the same thing. I remember having this exact conversation with my children’s godmother and her response to me was “Lei-Lei (that’s my family name, don’t laugh) if someone is not wanting to include you or your children based on their diagnoses and what they have gone through, then those are not the type of people you want to hang out with.” Truer words have never spoken. So educate those people, explain the difference between a “label” and a diagnosis, explain how it is to help your child understand themselves, and to help others understand them as well, and don’t let the word “label” stop you.
Do you ever ask your teenager a question and you get the “eh..” response? What’s up with that? Is it defiance? Do they not want to share? Do they not know? Do they not have an opinion? No, it’s not any of those things. Let me explain something about communication and a teenager… at the end of the day when your child comes home from school and you say, “How was your day?” you will probably get, “eh.. I guess it was okay.” This is perfectly normal and there is a good reason for that response. During middle and high school, our children’s brains are taking in a lot of information along with trying to socialize, and learning to navigate their emotions, other people’s responses and emotions, and their schedules. The testosterone and hormones are moving up and down like a roller coaster and when your child gets asked the question, “How was your day?” in all honesty they’re not even sure. They are still processing the day and making sense of everything that happened throughout the day. So don’t take it personally. The best thing to do is to let them have their time, let them process their thoughts and their feelings. This is how we form our own thoughts and opinions, with peace and quiet and time. After school my children have down time where they decompress, by either reading quietly or resting. There is no television, no computer, and no phone. They will rest their eyes, their brain, and their emotions. Later at night, in their own time, their day will come out; they will share their experiences with me. And, being the note-taker that I am, I will write it all down in my notebook, documentation is everything to an educator. This gives them time to process the frustrations or the excitement of the day and to figure out why they feel and responded the way they did about each and every thing that had occurred. So if you get an “eh” after asking about your child’s day, just sit back and wait – give him or her some time. The answer will come.