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.
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.
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.