A Sticky Subject: What if your child’s school is NOT a fit?
by Tanya Anton
Between December and January this year I worked with four separate clients whose children, for one reason or another, were really struggling in their respective schools. These students had issues beyond some of the typical school adjustments such as adapting to differing teaching styles, navigating personality conflicts, developing organizational skills or learning how to put more focused effort into classwork, which, ultimately, can all turn out to be great “life lessons” or opportunities for growth.
But in all four cases, these were soul-crushing school worries that kept these kids – and by extension their parents – up at night, unable to cope, and super stressed-out that the school they were attending was not the right fit even after months of trying to make it work. After in-depth consultation and discussion, and much to everyone’s relief, we were able to facilitate mid-year transfers for all of these students.
Folks, there ARE other options. Always, there are options.
In this crazy city with its range of public school choices, there is always something we can do to support a child. And yes, even after the lotteries. Even mid-year. Especially mid-year if your child is truly miserable. We can figure something out!
While it’s true that some schools are completely at capacity or even over-enrolled, many are not. Many are under-enrolled, or have a few open seats due to attrition, that last-minute shifting off another wait list, or to a move out of state. Some programs never quite fill to capacity, and some will just make an exception for an exceptional kid in an exceptional circumstance.
Bottom line: a child’s school life should not be filled with misery and dread. Or the endless grind of homework. Or the constant fear for their safety. Or the stress that comes from a deflated social bank account. Especially when you watch these issues start to chip away at that confident, well-adapted child you know and love who used to love school.
Sometimes students can hit a rough patch in school and as parents it’s our job to try to determine what’s really going on and just how serious it is. Is there social drama? Does your child need extra support in certain subjects? Is your child unchallenged or bored, so then starts acting out? Is your child over-scheduled and needs to let some extracurriculars go? Is your child being subtly (or not so subtly) harassed, or ostracized? Is the school culture not a fit? Is it too big? Too small? Just. Not. Right?
It can be tricky to determine what exactly is going on, especially as students transition to middle or high school because that’s also the time they tend to pull away from parents in favor of their peers. But parents, this is NOT the time for you to pull away too. This is the time to get even closer. Do your best to find out what’s going on. Try to get them to open up, but in a gentle, non-pushy way. Monitor their afterschool activities, texts, instagrams, class planners and homework assignments. Set up a meeting with their teachers, the school counselor, the magnet coordinator, or even the principal if you feel you have to, to find out a) what’s going on, and b) what can be done about it.
No school can provide all things to all students, so it is important to weigh and dissect the specific issues and challenges against the more positive aspects of the school and see how it does on balance, especially taking your overall priorities into consideration. When weighing your decision, it’s helpful to note things that can change, things you can support at home, and things that probably won’t ever change. In the end, it all comes down to fit and the well-being of your child.
Either it’s a good fit, or it’s not.
And at a certain point, when you’ve exhausted all your school resources and things have gone from bad to worse, you might want to consider making a school switch. I know we did. And the other clients I helped place. And believe me, we’re all happier for it!
7 Signs Your Child’s School Is Not Working:
Your child is:
- sobbing at the thought of facing school
- dragging, won’t get out of bed
- refuses to get out of the car curbside at school
- has a sudden drop in grades
- isolating behavior, not reaching out to friends or participating in school activities
- apathy, avoidance, loss of interest or the desire to learn in school (esp. when previously a very upbeat and curious learner)
- changes in appearance, grooming (or lack thereof)
It doesn’t make sense to stay in a not-so-great situation just because you fear making a change. Or you worry about losing your points. Or where they’ll go to middle or high school if you leave your current school. These things can all be figured out.
If your child is struggling and you want to discuss the situation further and explore your options, please let me know and we’ll schedule a consultation. I am here to help. Completely confidentially, of course.