This summer many parents are going to be deciding where to send their kids to school. This may mean buying a new house so they will be zoned for a "good" school system. It may mean finding a private school. It may mean trying a charter school. Or it may even mean homeschooling. As educators are planning for the next school year, they would do well to simply think about what sort of school they would want for their own children.
Here are 10 things I think we should be mindful of as we seek to teach and lead in a "school of choice."
Part I: It’s About the Kids
1. Parents want a school that focuses on their kids. They care about their kids more than anything in the world, and they want to feel that the adults in the school will care about them too. They want a school that recognizes the unique potential, abilities, and challenges of their students. They want to know that their input will be valued and their needs will be accommodated. They want to know that the adults will always be making decisions with the needs and interests of the kids at the forefront.
2. Parents want a school that inspires their kids. They want the school to encourage and celebrate the dreams of their students. Parents see limitless potential in their kids, and they want the school to recognize that as well. They want a school that expands horizons and highlights possibilities.
3. Parents want a school that communicates about their kids. They value transparency, and they always want to know what's happening at the school. They want to hear about what their students are learning and see pictures of what they're doing. They especially love seeing pictures of their own kids.
4. Parents want a school that will prepare their kids. They want to know that their students will be provided the knowledge and skills to be successful in the future. They want their kids to be prepared for college and ready for work, and they want to know that this preparation is a priority of the adults in the school.
5. Parents want a school that is a fun place to learn. They want their kids to like going to school because the teachers are committed to delivering engaging and relevant lessons. Parents recognize that a school that is a positive place and a happy place will be one that their kids will enjoy attending.
Part II: But it’s Also About the Teachers
6. Parents want a school that empowers the teachers. They want the teachers to be given the resources and training to provide the best possible instruction to their students.
7. Parents want a school that connects the teachers. They realize that teachers are not as effective when they work in isolation, so they want a school that provides opportunities for teachers to communicate and collaborate with each other.
8. Parents want a school that trusts the teachers. Their own kids do not fit into cookie cutter molds, and they know the teachers don't either. They want teachers to have the flexibility and professional latitude in the classroom to always do what is best for their own students.
9. Parents want a school that validates the teachers. They know that the teachers are the most important variable in the success of their student, and they want the teachers to be valued and recognized for the work they do. They know that this validation will increase the motivation of the adults working with their kids.
10. Parents want the school to be a fun place for the teachers to work. They realize teachers are more effective when they enjoy their job, and their classroom will be a happier place for their students to be. They know that a positive school culture creates the best context for teaching and learning.
Every school has the potential to be a great school. Every school has the opportunity to be a "school of choice." This is the type of school I want for my own children. What sort of school do you want for your kids?