Choosing the right school for your child can be complicated, especially as Denver grows, and there are more and more options (public, private, charter, innovation, etc). Regardless of the school type, there are some key questions you should be asking to help guide your decision.
What does my child need?
You know your child better than anyone, and each child is different, so consider what specific needs your child has. Does he need small class sizes for personalized attention? Does he need more flexibility? Does he need to be able to move around during the day? Does he need a place where he has some autonomy to use his creativity?
What do I need?
Choosing a school for your child is also choosing a school for your family, so consider what you need as well. What kinds of communication to you need to feel comfortable and knowing what is happening? What role do you want to play in your child’s education? Do you want to be a partner in that process, and what would that partnership look like?
How are behavioral challenges addressed?
Behavioral challenges are inevitable as children learn and grow and test their boundaries, so consider how the school handles those challenges. What is their general approach to behavioral challenges? Do they have a punitive approach or do they believe in positive discipline? Do they believe in restorative justice? What systems are in place to prevent behavioral challenges?
How are all students supported?
Each child is unique and should be treated as such, so consider consider how all students’ needs are being met. In what ways are advanced learners challenged and pushed? In what ways are struggling learners supported and encouraged? Is there space for your child to be unique or are all students expected to fit into a mold?
How are teachers supported?
Teachers are perhaps the most valuable asset any school has and can be the most important factor in your child’s success as any school, so consider how those teachers are supported. Do they have time to work together and collaborate? To what extent is there a unifying vision that unites all of the faculty? What kind of professional development is offered? Are teachers coached? How are they held accountable? How much turnover does the school have in its faculty?
What values are at the basis?
Schools serve a major role, not just in the academic growth of students, but also in their personal growth, so consider the extent to which the school values align with your own. What values do they say that prioritize? How do you see those values in action? What does the work on the walls say about what happens at school? What language and behaviors do you notice in the classrooms?
Will my child be safe?
Safety is a major priority for many parents, so consider not only the physical safety, but the social-emotional well-being of your child. What does security look like at the school? To what extent do you feel safe walking the hallways? How prevalent is bullying, and how is bullying handled? What resources are available to the students when they aren’t feeling safe, and how is that handled?
Will my child be valued and feel valued?
Children just want to feel a sense of belonging and validation of who they are. Is this a place that will recognize and appreciate what is unique and special about my child? Will he be made to feel good about himself? Will he be given the space to work on his strengths and interests while also building additional strengths? If my child misses a day, will the other students miss him?
How does this school feel?
Ultimately, much comes down to your gut feeling and the impression you get from walking around the building. Is this a place where you can see yourself and your family? Will your child be happy here? Is this a place she’ll want to come every day for several years? Do the people there look happy to be there? Do you feel a connection and feel like you’ll be supported when challenges arise?
At Einstein Academy, these are all questions we have considered very seriously as the school develops. We view children as individuals and truly celebrate the contributions they each make to our community. Our small class sizes allow for personalized attention and flexibility, with just that right balance of autonomy and structure. We see parents as partners and look to them to help us co-create our learning community. We look for learning opportunities during the day and build our community, putting certain frameworks in place, in order to prevent behavioral challenges and learn from them when they do happen. We celebrate the uniqueness of all children, challenging them and supporting them in a differentiated setting to maximize individual growth. Our teachers are valued and respected and supported with planning time, a dedicated coach, meaningful professional development, and a true voice in the school. Our EPIC Values (empathy, perseverance, impact, and curiosity) are at the core of all we do, and they pervade beyond signs on the walls, impacting our daily interactions. Safety is always on our minds, and we not only have a secure facility, but we work with students every day to ensure they feel safe coming to school. Ultimately, one of our most important goals is to make Einstein Academy a place where you want to be (whether you are a teacher, student, or parent) because you are engaged and appreciated. Only then can the real magic happen!