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So you don’t like your school….

School choice can keep many a parent awake at night. Life as MOM contributor JessieLeigh offers some great suggestions for troubleshooting what might be amiss at your children’s school.

school desks

photo source

Sometimes I worry that people may grow weary of hearing me gush about our public school. We really are very lucky and we never forget that. In general, Connecticut public schools rank highly– we pay a lot of taxes and they receive a good bit of funding. On top of that, we have the privilege of living in the part of town with the very best of three great elementary schools. So, yes, I have a deep love for our school and I’m vocal about it.

I also know not everyone is so fortunate.

It’s easy to choose public education and advocate for it when you’ve had wonderful experiences. But what if you haven’t? What if, for you, the system is failing? What if you just don’t like your school?

Consider what’s really wrong.

Is your child not getting adequate support? Does the school lack funding and supplies? Is there a personality conflict with a teacher or administrator? Are you seeing a lack of passion as a result of burn-out or, perhaps, red tape?

There are so many factors that go into a good or bad school experience that it’s critical to really evaluate what’s upsetting you.

Determine who can help.

Is your special needs child not getting proper support or accommodations? You’ll want to find an advocate with a solid knowledge of special education law.

Is the school floundering from lack of funding? Find out when and where the Board of Education and Board of Finance meet.

Are you struggling to get along with a staff member? Figure out who the next person up in the chain of command is.

school crossing

photo source

Take the proper steps.

Storming into the school, eyes flashing and hair flying, may be spectacularly dramatic. In real life? It’s not likely to get you so far.

Do your homework and know your rights. Schedule meetings with the proper “higher ups,” if appropriate. Consider joining the PTO or even running for local office.

There ARE ways to effect change, even though it might take some time!

If a personality conflict is ruining a school experience for you or your child, do not hesitate to communicate that to the principal. Often, a simple class reassignment can make everyone infinitely happier.

Use your passion for good.

When we get really angry or really upset, we tend to get fired up. That’s good in that it creates the energy to move forward. It can be dangerous if you let the negative feelings overwhelm you, though.

Ride the wave of passion and desire for change in a progressive way that actually helps improve things. Using all your energy to vent and complain might feel good at the time, but it’s unlikely to make anything significantly better in the end.

If all else fails, change schools.

As much as I love our public school, I realize that experiences vary and not everyone will have those feelings. If, at the end of the day, you feel like nothing is going to change and there is no improvement in sight, it may be time to consider alternatives. Magnate schools, private schools (both religious and secular), or homeschooling are just a few of the educational alternatives out there.

Don’t be afraid to reach outside your comfort zone– make lists, charts, spreadsheets, if you need to. Consider cost, benefits, challenges. Really look into your heart and be honest about the needs and priorities you see for your children. There are options for a reason, and one of them will likely prove to be a good fit.

I love our public school and, so, that’s where my children go. Just because I love it doesn’t mean I think everyone has to. But I do think everyone deserves a wonderful school experience… wherever you happen to find it.

What’s YOUR school experience?

– A mother of three, including a 24 week preemie, JessieLeigh is a determined advocate for even the tiniest of babies.  She can be found celebrating life’s (sometimes unexpected) miracles and blessings at Parenting Miracles.

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Comments

  1. We were lucky to get our two kids into a magnet school that follows the Montessori philosophy and my children are thriving there. We also live in CT and there are so many choices for magnet schools in the Greater Hartford area. You do have to get a slot in the lottery, which makes it a luck thing. There are no problems with our local public schools (except for maybe a lack in diversity) but thought the magnet school would benefit our children the most. I am so happy with our decision. I am very active in their school, which I think helps my children. I am the website chair for our PTA and I also am the room parent for my daughter’s class. This allows me to speak frequently with teachers and staff and keep up-to-date with all the school happenings.

  2. This is really good advice – we generally like our kids’ school but when my son’s autism became more of an issue the school addressed it as a behavioral issue (as in; we can ‘teach’ him not to be autistic…). I worked really hard, cried a lot (not at school!) and pushed but always kept in mind that I had to have a relationship with the people caring for my kids 7 hours a day. And I know they care – I told them that every time. I wouldn’t describe the situation now as perfect, but approaching it with a mindset of the school needing education and always trying to provide it without seeming like a know it all was the right balance for me :)

  3. My daughter will be starting kindergarten in the fall and I have several concerns about the school she is attending; although I do not have concerns with the teacher. A flawed education system throughout the country pushes many public school students through the cracks.

    As a former teacher, I know that 99.9% of teachers LOVE teaching and want the best for ALL students. I have also seen a couple teachers who really needed to be in a different profession. In that case, document EVERYTHING the teacher does that is inappropriate and bring it up with the principal and school board.

    However, as for the 99.9%, sometimes they know what’s best for your child, but are either not allowed to do so or do not have the funding to do so. Recognizing when this is occuring and pushing the higher ups (not just the school board, this involves who you elect to public office as well) to do better for your children is necessary to make a change.

    Also recognize the immense workload your child’s teacher is under. Can you help in any way? Normally, a teacher is paid for 40 hours but works more like 50-60 (also, please stop perpatrating the myth that teachers get paid winter, spring, and summer vacation…it’s a lie!).

    The biggest reason I left my teaching job was to spend more time with my daughter and have an easier time taking care of my family. Unfortunately, right behind that reason was the fact that I was not able to do my job properly. I loved each one of my 25 students last year and when one of them struggled and I couldn’t get them the help they needed, I knew the higher ups were signing away the child’s educational career. But my hands were tied. It’s devastating and emotionally draining because these are real children whom we love and can’t help as much as we know they need.

    Thank you for this post! It is great!

  4. I think these are all wonderful suggestions and things to consider. I LOVE how many educational opportunities we have in our State. Though also think that it could lead to

    I also think that we as parents need to be aware that sometimes when we run into an issue that things might not always be what they seem. That we might over look the real root of the problem. It might even make you question whether the school is the right choice for your child. Gathering as much information and observation as possible and sometimes waiting things out can be the best choice instead of rushing in. Though I never advocate waiting in the case of a serious safety concern.

  5. Great article!

    I just had a guest blogger on my site that posted on ‘redshirtting” your kindergartener (holding them an extra year before beginning). http://yourmodernfamily.com/should-i-redshirt-my-kindergartener/

  6. Every concern you have should always first be communicated in writing. The end of each communication should ask for a phone call or meeting. Once it’s in writing, it can’t be ignored.

  7. Better schools was one of the biggest reasons why we chose to build a home/move to our current city.
    Now he has more diversity and a wider range of activities to choose from.

    He’s only in kindergarten but we are happy with our elementary school. Any time we have a concern, I email his teacher and she’s very quick to respond. She’s very helpful with suggestions for helping to improve his reading skills, writing, etc.

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