By Yandiswa Xhakaza
Choosing a school is no small feat. Parents often undertake this task under enormous pressure and in a hurry to find a school on their way to or from work. However, I would urge parents to invest more time in finding the right school for their child because, while convenience is often the driving force, it’s important to remember that your child is potentially going to be in that space for up to 12 hours nearly every day. As such, the environment must be conducive for your child to feel secure, to be happy and to thrive.
Below are a few practical things that all parents should look for when in search of a good school. While these are biased towards pre-school and primary school, many of these considerations can also be applied to high school.
- The school environment and general aura of fun, excitement and vibrancy. Look for colour, flowers, trees, jungle gyms and outdoor play equipment. You should get a sense of security, love and warmth.
- Classroom design and layout is a big indicator of whether the school offers a forward-thinking, 21st century approach. Look for learning stations with different learning activities in each station, as well as the availability of appropriate educational toys that incorporate sensorial skills, fine and gross motor skills, etc. In a pre-school environment, look for the dramatic play area, big wooden blocks, a reading corner etc. Classrooms that still force all children to strictly sit at a desk for more than 8 hours a day are concerning, so look for beanbags, couches, benches, comfortable carpets, balance balls etc. This not provides variety, it also allows children to learn in the ways/positions that they are most comfortable in.
- Wi-fi powered schools are no longer those with a computer room and designated computer classes once or twice a week. Schools that are innovative and digitally advanced are easy to spot. Look for visible gadgets inside the classroom, including laptops/tablets, headphones, white boards, projectors etc. Digital learning shouldn’t happen in isolation, it should be infused with day-to-day learning.
- Child happiness is the most genuine measure, so listen for the buzz of laughter and look for happy smiles. Well mannered and polite children who greet and make way for you to pass is symbolic of the school culture.
- A great set of extra-curricular activities that children can choose from speaks directly to whole child development. Consider how the school harnesses all aspects of the child, not just academic ability.
- Effective teacher-parent communication that happens on a regular basis regarding the work being covered at school that week, fun activities that took place in class, occasional photos of the children, classroom messages etc. Find out how parents are engaged so that they feel like they are part of the learning experience.
- A diverse team of dynamic and passionate teachers always makes for a great school. The school can have state of the art facilities and resources, but without amazing teachers who inspire children and make them feel like they are doing an incredible job, then it’s all for nothing. Teachers can make or break a school, so be sure to meet the educators.