5 Questions Parents Should Ask Schools
At this time of year, many parents are deep in conversation about where to send their children to school next year. As application deadlines grow closer (ours is January 31st), the decision can feel understandably overwhelming – after all, what is more emotionally loaded than where your children spend their whole day? I’ve spent a fair amount of time on admissions tours both here at Gesher and at a number of other schools, and have also spent plenty of time looking around the web at what guidance is offered to parents in blog posts like, “12 questions you need to ask to choose the perfect school.” I have to say, I think a lot of these conversations circle around the most important factors, but rarely dive directly into the core of the decision – who do you want to partner with to raise your child?
I’m not trying to downplay the importance of teacher-student ratios, extra-curricular classes, test scores, or anything else people tend to think about in these decisions – those things matter, and sometimes they can be make-or-break factors in where you end up. But the core issue for determining the right fit doesn’t lie in how many advanced degrees our faculty has or how often our students win basketball games.
I’d like to offer my own list of questions for parents to ask as they tour or inquire, and I sincerely hope that these questions spark the kinds of conversations that allow you to cut beneath the surface and get a deep understanding of a school’s identity.
- What are your hopes and dreams for students who graduate from your school?
- What do you believe about children and childhood?
- What are some specific examples of ways in which children in your school learn to care for themselves and others?
- What skills do you think are the most important for children to acquire during their Elementary (or Middle) School years?
- How do you partner with parents to raise children?
If the school you are considering answers these questions in ways that you find resonate meaningfully for you, then you can move on to asking questions about how many minutes of recess the kids get, etc. However, if they can’t answer these questions, or if they answer them in ways that don’t jibe with your core beliefs and values, then you have all the information you need.
This year at Gesher we’ve spent significant time with our faculty and staff refining our own individual responses to these questions, and each member of our team created their own piece of art that hangs outside their office or classroom depicting their “why.” Their statements describe their own core beliefs, and even though each is individual, they collectively create the mission and culture in the school (I’ve included a few as images here – you can click on them to read the quotes). These are the adults our children spend their days with, and we want everyone in the building to understand what partnership with us means.
Try picking one of the questions above to answer yourself or together with your loved ones – that way you will know what you are looking for when you ask around at schools.
Kol tuv (all the best),