WHAT IS THE BEST SCHOOL FOR MY SON? (Insights applicable to daughters too)
As we approach school opening once again, some may be excited and some may be dreading the onslaught of homework, quizzes, traffic, waking up early and other stress-inducing but need-to-go-through activities. No matter how challenging school life is, as long as it is the best environment for our son and promises to develop him to his full potential, we’re willing to persist and make sacrifices.
Choosing the best school for our son is not that simple. We usually want to send him to the best school we can afford. Most of the time we send him to the school where our husband, brothers, father or even grandfather studied, especially if the school has an old tradition of excellence.
I wish to share with you a story of a mother who had to make that painful decision of moving her son out of that fabled boy’s school in the country.
I’ve known her since our sons were in prep. I remember her son as a typical energetic smart kid who loves to play basketball and would go up the stage to receive honors during their earlier grades.
From prep in School Year 2002-2003 I’ve developed a close friendship with the other moms in my son’s class that we even have a name for our group – GMMs (pretty much like grade school and high school groupies). We would have very long lunches to celebrate birthdays, Christmas and other occasions, and of course to exchange stories about our favorite topic – what else – our sons. I just realize that we are celebrating our 10th anniversary this school year. Wow we’ve been together for a decade and our sons are entering junior high school next week! I’m sure the moms are even more excited about the coming prom than the boys themselves. Their academic performance in junior year is also very important because this will show their last full year report card, an important criterion in their acceptance to the universities.
During our lunch after enrollment, we were all saddened to find out that my friend already enrolled her son in a different school. While she was telling the story, she couldn’t help but shed tears in some parts.
Her son started feeling the pinch – i.e. the pressure of studies, towards the latter part of grade school. But who wasn’t? This was a common denominator among all the boys. While in high school, the situation did not really improve despite the fact that they resorted to outside help such as tutoring on some problematic subjects. It was also a challenge for her and her husband to show enthusiasm when their other son, who’s seven years younger, would bring home report cards with very high grades, sometimes even with a final mark of 100%! You know how parents always want to be fair in showing affection to their children.
The dad graduated from the same school and his life long friends were nurtured in this institution. So the order of the day was to persist, to encourage him to try harder, maybe even to nag when needed. Day in and day out, everyone did his and her respective role. The boy went to school, the parents did their best to motivate and support their son.
But on promotions day, the dreaded thing happened. They had to make a choice whether to transfer their son to another school or to appeal, which could sometimes result to repeating the year level. They pursued all the options and in the end they opted to move him out of the school.
These are the words of the mom:
“Last month, we went through the process of transferring our son to another school. We had contemplated on this before but didn’t really think we would actually have to do it. The red flags were there but somehow we were able to set them aside. There were times when I had a lot of questions as to why we were still staying there. I felt my son’s full potential wasn’t being maximized and instead I found myself just ‘settling.’ Something was clearly off and yet we were still there. But deep in my heart, I knew there was a greater purpose as to why things had to happen this way.”
Of course we were all sad to hear this. We didn’t want to miss her and her son in our long lunches. We want her son to graduate with our sons two years from now. One mom in the group said, “You should have told me earlier, I would have been able to help.” There were similar cases, even more difficult cases, whose appeals were approved. But when she continued her story, I knew that she, together with her son and husband, made the right decision. She said:
“My validation came while the principal of his new school was interviewing my son. The principal asked him, ‘Your assessment test shows that you have above average IQ, how come it does not show in your report card?’ You know what my son answered? He said, ‘My previous school wasn’t making me the best person I can be anymore.’ BANG! That really hit me. So that’s how he has been feeling the whole time? That answered most of my questions. That erased whatever doubt I felt about the transfer. That made me realize that this is about my SON and not the school he was in. I was so bent on keeping him in that school that I forgot about him, how he feels. I got a wake up call to remember that he is more important than anything else. So it is now time to focus on our son and how to bring back his yearning to learn and the smile on his face.”
I thank my friend for allowing me to share their story to remind us parents to look closely at the struggles of our children in their respective schools. I’m not advocating that we take them out at the slightest sign of hardship and discomfort. In fact, I think they need that. I am also not in favor of putting our children in schools that are so easy for them they might get bored. But we have to watch out if that innate love for learning is slowly and woefully dying. Do they painfully drag themselves to school everyday? Do they still enjoy the learning offered in their school? Or is their enthusiasm to learn totally switched off that we can’t see the smart little children they used to be? We need to be involved to see this. We can’t just check their report cards for pass or fail, or honor or no honor. We have to engage them in conversations beyond the grades. We have to make sure that their zest in life is always on. And since they are still students, school is the big part of their life and they have to realize that too.
In Chapter 3: Finding The Right School of my book Raising Pinoy Boys, I wrote, “Parents should pause and realize that sometimes it is not their son who is not good enough for their chosen school but it’s the school which is not good enough for their son, because of a mismatch in personalities and learning/teaching styles.”
I ended the chapter with this summary:
In A Nutshell:
We have our beliefs about the best school for our children. Sometimes the pressure on our son to study in our perceived best school gets in the way of his full development. To me, the best school for our son is the one that suits his personality, learning capability and style.
As we approach the resumption of classes next week, let’s all ask ourselves this basic question again, “What is the best school for my son?”
Note: All these factors are also applicable to your daughters. Have a great SY 2012-2013!