Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Importance of the Personality of a School

I recently read an article about schooling that hit a chord with me. Well, actually it went right for my jugular. It gave advice about finding the right school for your child. Although it was specifically written to help expat families there was one particular element that jumped out at me which is also relevant wherever and however you choose to school your child. Personality. That of the school and of your child.

There's more to choosing a school than meets the eye
When we chose a school for my eldest we looked at the method of instruction, faith, location, school results and the school building and facilities. The school seemed like a good choice.

However, it turns out that it was not the right choice. It was far from the right choice. It is like my son is walking around in shoes that are a complete misfit. The shoes are not letting him walk the way he naturally walks, and they are seriously hindering his growth. It's been a painful process to get to this point where we admit defeat and need to find an alternative school for my son. But my children must be able to be who they really are, not just at home but also in school, and not forced to fit in an ill-fitting square peg. Children are not standard. They come in all shapes and sizes, all with their own instruction booklets. One method does not fit all. And I believe that any school that refuses to acknowledge that basic fact is in the wrong business.

However, the journey we have been on over the last eighteen months has not been in vain. We've learnt a lot. It's not faith, teaching methods, school policies or aesthetically pleasing school buildings that make a school the right place to be; it's a school's personality that matters. Does the school personality match the personality of your child? A scientific, rational, evidence based school is not the place for an emotionally sensitive child.

Before we enrolled in school, we didn't know what type of personality we were dealing with. It's like looking forward to a quiet dinner party with good friends and ending up sitting next to an outspoken, boorish man who chews your ear off for the duration of the party and couldn't care less about who you are and what interests you. It's not a place you want to sit for long. After attempting to make polite conversation, getting nowhere and trying a strategy of telling it like it is and still not getting any message through, it really is time to make an exit. Time to down cutlery down and abandon dinner. And so time for a change of school.

This time around the priority is whether a school's personality will fit with my son's. The rest we'll work around because without that basic fit in place it's a lost cause, and a miserable education experience for a child. Thankfully, my son is early on in his school career and he'll bounce back from this setback. And we've learned that we won't always get it right first time but I'm glad we figured out why it wasn't working and were then brave enough to make it right. Personalities matter, even when it comes to school. Important parenting lesson number 342 learnt........

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