By Guest Blogger Joanne M. Brown, Principal of St. Leo Catholic School
As a parent, my greatest joy and my biggest dilemma was recognizing my children were not just like all the rest of the children in their classrooms. I saw my sons having unique talents and interests and also challenges and characteristics that made me question our family history! As a mother, I wanted student-centered learning – a school with individual learning needs at the heart of instructional decision-making. As a teacher, I recognized the enormity of making that vision a reality in the everyday classroom experience.
Recognizing that each child is unique, the promise of personalization in education is appealing to parents and educators alike. The online Glossary of Education Reform (2015) describes personalized learning as “an alternative to so-called ‘one-size-fits-all’ approaches to schooling” while further suggesting the term is so broad it is difficult to determine what exactly it refers to without context. Carol Ann Tomlinson, noted proponent of differentiation, describes personalization (2017) as a kind or multiple kinds of differentiated practices intended to develop classrooms that honor the individual. With so much ambiguity regarding effective practices of personalization, researchers suggest a closer look at implementation. Which practices will be right for your child?
Is the school a good fit for your child?
Now that your student is well into the school year, you may be experiencing signs that a “better fit” may be needed.
“I’m so bored!”
Your child may be an ‘early finisher’ who is ahead of his or her peers or may be academically gifted in some areas. Perhaps your child learns best with hands-on activities and experiences. Also consider the expectations for learning in the classroom – is the bar too low? Arrange to meet with your child’s teacher and be prepared to ask questions about learning expectations. Visit the classroom and look for evidence of learning experiences beyond test scores.
“I hate school!”
Your child may be having difficulty adjusting to the new class. Some children have times when adjusting to change is more difficult due to a variety of social, emotional, and environmental factors. Reach out to the school for help in getting your child past a rough spot. If you find your child’s personality and outlook are changing, your school counselor and administrator can be great partners in problem solving.
This presents perhaps the biggest challenge for parents. Is there an issue with the environment that is creating fear or anxiety? Are learning needs being met? When you reach out to the school, are you being heard? Open communication and trust are critical in assuring the home and school partnership needed for your child’s growth. If there are conflicts or behavior difficulties, are the resolutions student-centered for positive educational outcomes?
Consideration and Caution
Research suggests times of transition that cause students to stumble, including the start of the school year, especially 6th and 9th grades (2016). Students who attended K-8 schools compared to middle schools were found to have slightly higher academic achievement. Research indicates students may lose learning each time they switch schools, however transfers that lead to better services for the student may be associated with academic improvement. The decision to change schools should be undertaken with caution and careful consideration.
When considering a change, take advantage of opportunities to see the school in action. Your child’s primary responsibility is to learn, so a careful look around to answer the question, “Is this a place where students love to learn?” is critical before making a move. At St. Leo Catholic School, Open Houses for prospective students are scheduled during the school day. Parents can visit classrooms and meet teachers and administrators. The upcoming Open House on November 1st will give prospective families a look at creative and service opportunities for students. Parents may ask student guides open-ended questions about teaching and learning at Open Houses and individualized tours. Prospective families can reach out to current parents to get a sense of the community at school events, like PTO sponsored speaker programs. Prospective students may want to ‘shadow’ a current student to get first-hand experiences in the values, social life, and academic expectations at their grade level.
Education plays a significant role in your child’s development into the person he or she will be in adulthood. Careful consideration of the right fit for your child may suggest a change. As Maya Angelou suggests, change may be worthwhile, for “stepping onto a new path is difficult but not more so than remaining in a situation that is not nurturing.”
St. Leo Catholic School
333 Springdale Avenue
Winston-Salem, NC 27104
Upcoming Open House Dates:
Editorial Projects in Education Research Center. (2016, August 11). Issues A-Z: Student mobility: How It affects learning. Education Week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/student-mobility/
Glossary of Education Reform (2015) Personalized learning. Retrieved from http://edglossary.org/personalized -learning/
Tomlinson, C. (2017) Let’s celebrate personalization but not too fast. Educational Leadership, 74(22), 10-15.
*Sponsored by St. Leo Catholic School