Choosing the Right School for Your Child Part 1: Matchmaking vs. Prize-winning

Education and access to knowledge hold a sacred place for Black Americans. From the time when it was inaccessible to us, the risks that we took to acquire it, and the opportunities that have arisen for us from its acquisition, we have always valued learning and education.

Our demographic – the Black members of generations X and Y – have become the caretakers of that tradition. Now in our prime parenting years, we are faced with difficult choices as we consider the scholastic portion of our children’s education.

This series of articles chronicles five aspects to consider as you choose the right school for your child. There is no one strategy that will help you to find that “best fit”, but these basic guidelines will be beneficial to you on your search.

1.Choosing the right school is a match to be made, not a prize to be won.

The above quote was a mantra repeated by the Director of College Counseling for a school in Minneapolis at which I taught, but it applies to any school choice.   There are so many different types of schools: public, independent (private), parochial, Montessori, exceptional student education (a general term which includes gifted & talented as well as learning-disabled students), arts-based, sports academies… the list can daunting.
Tactics like pre-school testing can be beneficial when done properly, but is not ultimately necessary. Consider foremost your child’s personality, their likes and dislikes, their academic acumen, and how they socialize with children and adults. It may be best to do this before you even start to investigate schools. I’ve met parents who have had “the school” in mind for their child, and have distorted the reality of their child’s personality traits or abilities to convince themselves that their child belonged there.  While it may be your heart’s desire for your child to attend “Cornel West Gifted & Talented Preparatory” or “NBA First-Round Pick Vocational High”, your child may be much better off at a school unlike either one.  The ideal school will your nurture your child’s talents, challenge his or her weaknesses, welcome your family as important members of its community, and constantly help you all through every step of that process.

Another consideration is the fact that many of you are raising school-independent children.  These are kids who will be able to do well academically in almost any environment, largely due to their parents’ educational background and sensibilities.  (Conversely, school-dependent children do not have these types of resources, and their home life may even be detrimental to their academic well-being.  They rely then, upon the adults within a school to supplement or even usurp this lack of support from their given resources outside of the school.)  This doesn’t mean, however, that school-independent children don’t need the extra care taken to consider the proper school choice for them as well. This is of particular note for parents of children who are very different from each other. I have taught siblings who were placed at a school together, one who belonged and one who was clearly out of their element. Because the latter child could perform well at the school academically her parent kept her there, even though she was miserable otherwise.  Keep in mind that while some children can survive despite a school’s environment, it is better that they thrive because of their school’s environment.

Overall, make sure that you determine your child’s needs before determining the school you think is best for them. I have seen the stars for a particular school that have developed in many a parent’s eyes cloud their otherwise clear vision of what would be the best educational experience for their children.  Making the right match is in reality the prize itself.

Check back in to alumniroundup.com for Part 2 of this series:  Diversity and Overall School Health

Part 1 · Part 2 · Part 3 · Part 4 · Part 5

PreachMoSqrMaurice “Mo the Educator” Dolberry has been a science teacher, a math teacher, a Dean of Students, and a Director of Diversity over the past 12 years. He has worked at both public and independent schools from Minnesota to Florida, and is a long time coach as well. Maurice has won a few awards, including Who’s Who Among American High School Teachers in 2006, and is currently back in school full-time completing a master’s degree in multicultural education. Growing up, Maurice attended both public and independent schools, and he uses his variety of experiences to help others in their scholastic endeavors.

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0 Comments

  • Ayah

    Reply Reply August 19, 2009

    Wow – matchmaking! This is an idea that we’ve really come to understand through trial and error. Each child is unique and there certainly is no “one-size fits all solution. We’ve tried a host of private Islamic schools, homeschool, public school and the shi-shi poo-poo preschool. This year, we have one child in public school in gifted programs, one at a small private school for gifted kids, one at Islamic school and one at home – whew! It sounds exhausting, but I think it will be the right environment for each child.

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