Parental concerns about school are inevitable. First and foremost, we want our kids to be happy. If our kids are happy at school, everything can flow from there. But as parents, what can we do? What power do we have to ensure their happiness at school? My answer is the same as it always is – we can do a LOT! We are in an honored position to be a positive force in our kids’ lives; especially when they are young and not yet in the grip of peer influence!
To take a deep and informed look at parental concerns about school and what we can do, I carried out an interview with education expert, Rory Mooney. Rory has been in education for almost 40 years. In that time he has been an elementary school principal in the USA and an international education consultant. Not only is he vastly experienced, but he has never lost his passion and drive when it comes to educating kids.
In the first interview, we focused on what parents (and kids), can do to make school a happy and positive experience. If you missed it, you can check the interview in the post HERE which includes the transcript. Or you can check it out on our YouTube channel here:
I was fortunate enough to interview Rory again and discuss what other parental concerns about school exist and how can parents address them. Here’s what he had to say.
NP: Talking about parental concerns about school, we spoke last time about the importance of happiness for our kids’ learning. In your experience, what other parental concerns about school are common and what can parents do to alleviate them?
RM: After happiness, I would say the biggest parental concern about school is the quality of teaching. This won’t be a surprise but knowing how good the quality of teaching is at the school you are choosing/have chosen for your child, is not always evident. Academic results can tell you something, but it is advisable to ask to visit the school and observe classes and lessons. Even if your child is already at the school, requesting to observe classes of teachers in upper Forms or Grades, will help you to make requests for certain teachers in later stages. When observing lessons, you will very quickly know if the teacher is a wonderful teacher.
NP: How would a parent know this, especially if they haven’t been in a classroom since they were a child?
RM: A wonderful teacher knows her/his subject. More importantly, they know how to teach it. Teaching a subject which you love involves communicating that love and passion for your subject in everything you do. Children listen to what teachers say but they are truly impressed by the teacher’s actions.
NP: I think too, that observing how the children are reacting to the teacher would give parents a real insight into the teacher’s passion and level of teaching. What would you consider to be the third concern?
RM: Next I would say the curriculum. Most parents are concerned about what their children will study and learn. Parents will undoubtedly look to ensure that “core curriculum” subjects are taught – English, Mathematics, Science, History, etc. But of equal importance would be whether creative subjects such as arts, music, and crafts featured prominently. Whether there were significant opportunities for physical education or structured play, and whether modern foreign languages were also offered.
It’s also a good idea to read the school’s course catalogues. Understand the goals and objectives of the school’s curriculum. Make sure they are in harmony with your own. You have probably already decided whether a traditional or a progressive approach works best for your child. But if you have not compared the two approaches or visited schools, do so as soon as possible.
NP: I love, ‘Make sure they are in harmony with your own’. It’s so important that parents choose a school that is a good fit for their child and family. What would be the fourth concern?
RM: I think the fourth concern would be the extracurricular activities. These activities are always about learning which takes place outside of the classroom. Most schools pride themselves on offering a wide range of extracurricular activities because they know how important they are for building team spirit, as well as uncovering talents and abilities which students never realized they had. Again, if you have an artistically or musically gifted child, this will be of great importance. But even if your child has not yet developed major strengths in these areas, having opportunities in which your child may begin to demonstrate such talents – in music, dance, drama, art, etc. – and having professional training that develops those talents, is a key factor in parents’ decisions on school selection.
NP: I couldn’t agree more. Many schools seem to be extending what they offer which is great. What would you say is the fifth concern?
RM: I would say the next concern is the reputation of the school. The reputation is important to parents for a number of reasons. Knowing that the school offered programmes which it had operated successfully for years, gives parents peace of mind, and allows them to know that their children are in good hands.
NP: I agree. And in our digital age, parents have access to so many avenues for learning about a school and its reputation. What would you say is the sixth concern?
RM: Parents are strongly influenced by their child’s school facilities. For example, when the preschool classes were compact affairs housed in a dedicated education wing, spotless and filled with artwork, and the classrooms looked just the right size for little people, parents were highly likely to choose the school. They could then see similar quality and age-appropriate learning environments in higher Forms and Grades. Importantly, among the school facilities, the quality of the school library figures prominently in parents’ decisions. Libraries used to be places where children went to find a book and do research, but parents are now seeking libraries that are state-of-the-art digital learning centers.
NP: Finally, what else concerns parents when choosing a school?
RM: Parents tend to be most impressed with schools where they are strongly encouraged to take an active role in their child’s education. It’s not just about parents providing financial support for desired and necessary school developments. It’s much more about whether the school openly invited them into the school on a regular basis to observe, to support their child’s teacher or other learners working in small groups, to chaperone on class trips, and even to “teach” by providing short lessons or “talks” on their area of expertise – such as leading an art or music class.
NP: As an educator and mother, I am a huge advocate of schools that welcome significant parental involvement. Its benefits at the primary/elementary stage are tremendous. Thank you, Rory for your valuable insight.
Over to You…
I hope you found this interview and the parental tips helpful. If you would like any further advice, suggestions on this area, please don’t hesitate to comment here or email me.
What have your experiences been with your child’s school? As always, I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.