Recently a girl in the seventh-grade asked her parents if she could switch schools. She went to an excellent junior hi, but was not happy. Her reasons made sense and reflected the thinking of a girl who was mature for her age. She did indeed move to the school of her choice, and the change proved to be right for her. Selecting a school for a child is not a simple matter, for no matter how good the school is, if it is not good for your child, he may not be able to progress and grow in that environment.
While there are many things to consider such as the school’s ideology, curriculum, methods of discipline, location and tuition costs, the most important factor is whether or not the school provides an environment that allows your child’s growth to unfold. It takes many years for children to develop emotional maturity, self-discipline, a balanced perspective, and the ability to mix with others without losing a sense of one’s own identity. These human qualities are the most important fruits of development which we want to see in our children. All children possess the potential for these qualities to be realized, and school needs to be a place where the right environment is created for this to happen. If these developmental processes get stuck, we will see children who are frustrated, object to authority, aggressive, bored, unmotivated, restless and unable to concentrate – problems with which we are all too familiar.
What characterizes a school that has an environment that nurtures growth? Most importantly, the teachers care about each student. This is expressed in the way they greet each student every day with a warm smile and genuine interest in the child’s welfare. They are truly happy to see each student. Teachers give their students a sense of security in their relationship with them so that children feel safe to ask questions, express their ideas, opinions and interpretations, and confide in the teacher about personal matters. Teachers know how to make each student feel significant and that his presence adds something important to the class. When a student is absent, his teacher calls him to make sure he is okay and to wish him good health. If a student has to be away from school for an extended time, his teacher stays in touch with him, informs him of what’s going on in class, and helps him keep up with his studies. The teacher intuitively connects his students to him and then maintains this relationship. He also finds ways to build a connection with the parents of his students. Research has shown that this factor alone – the teacher taking responsibility to build a secure, caring connection to his students – contributes greatly to the success and achievement of students.
Rather than using academic achievement as the measure of success, teachers know what is most important to look for in their students — signs of increasing maturity and capacity to accept more responsibility as time goes on. Teachers would be creating an environment in which students can be actively engaged in learning, feeling a sense of direction, vitality and fulfillment in learning. Instead of using a punishment and reward system to motivate students, teachers would be aware of how the inner motivation of students can be cultivated.
You can learn much about a school through talking to the principal, teachers and other staff members, asking the right questions, observing the way teachers and students relate to each other, and sensing if the school environment is calm, positive and productive. Finding the right school is well worth the effort.