Our 12-year-old son is in 7th grade in a local yeshiva (there are quite a few yeshivos in our neighborhood) and not doing well at all.
We are considering changing his yeshiva mid-year as things are rapidly deteriorating. We are not asking for specific advice, as you do not know him (or us, for that matter). But can you help us by sharing with us which questions we ought to be asking and answering when making this difficult decision?
Rabbi Horowitz Responds
This week, we will conclude the four-part series on changing schools with several suggestions.
I would suggest that you come prepared to your first interview with the ‘new’ school armed with all relevant documentation that the Head of School may request. Bring at least one year or report cards – Hebrew and General Studies – and any reports of educational testing that you may have done over the past few years. Coming prepared is a sign of respect for the Head of School. You will present yourselves as thoughtful, hands-on parents – in short, people an educator would love to partner with.
Be Honest with the Prospective School
It is often tempting to suppress information that will impact negatively on your son from the prospective school. Bad move. The Head of School will, in all likelihood find out what you were trying to hide despite your efforts, and this will put a significant damper on your application. Even if you slip this by and get your son accepted by withholding critical information, you are getting your new partnership started on the proverbial wrong foot. Please keep in mind that getting your child accepted in the new school is not as important as getting him into a school that will work with you. With this in mind, duping the Head of School is not a recipe for future synergistic cooperation. On the other hand, being candid with him or her will set the stage for a relationship based on trust and mutual respect.
When discussing your son’s current setting with the prospective school head, please make sure that you are gracious and respectful. You may think that a school head would enjoy hearing negative information about a competing school, but trust me when I say that there are few things that will derail your application as quickly as a parent who speaks poorly about their current school. After all, a reasonable school head will assume that sooner or later you will speak disparagingly about him or her as well. (I know this sounds elementary, but you would be surprised to hear how many people put their worst foot forward in this fashion in school (or job) interviews.) The best thing that you can say is something like, “… is a good school, but the chemistry was just not right.”
To Tell or Not to Tell
This is a tough one – when do you inform the current Head of School that you are considering/making a school change? I would say that a balanced approach might be to keep things confidential while you are doing your due diligence but be prepared to inform your current Head of School once things go beyond the initial interview with the ‘new’ school.
The head of the ‘new’ school will invariably ask to speak to faculty members at your child’s current school setting. And once that happens, it will become publicized regardless. It is much better for you to break the news to the school head yourself. I recommend that you do so in person if at all possible.
Timing is Everything
You mentioned that as things are deteriorating, you would like to make the move mid-year. I encourage you nonetheless to carefully consider if this is something you must do in mid-year. Generally speaking, it is more difficult for a child to make the adjustment to a new school in mid-year, as all his/her classmates are settled into the rebbi/teacher’s routines and friendships tend to be more established.
In your particular case, with you son in 7th grade, a better case could be made in favor of the mid-year move, as many schools are understandably reluctant to take a transfer student for an incoming 8th grade graduating class (BTW; the same applies for 12th grade in High School).
Prepare Your Child for the Move
When and if your application was accepted, and you decide to make the move, you would be well served to consider the interpersonal aspect of a school change. Socialization is such an important component of a child’s school experience that you should do whatever possible to ease the transition. One way to do this would be to get a list of his future classmates and invite one or two of them to your home for Shabbos or a Sunday afternoon.
And, … don’t forget to daven to Hashhem for hatzlacha.
Best wishes for a successful resolution of this matter.
© 2007 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved
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