Once parents make that difficult decision to get some help for their child and begin researching the different options, they need to consider what's next. An Educational Consultant that specializes in helping parents with children making poor decisions can help with the research and offer assistance, guidance and much discussion to help can develop a plan of attack. However, it is important to set aside time to tour each campus being considered.
Visiting a program is usually done without the child for many reasons. For one, he or she will undoubtedly refuse to go and will threaten to do "whatever" is needed to do to ensure parents don't go either. Secondly, parents need to be able to talk freely and openly with the staff at the school about presenting issues and the family history. Lastly, parents need to process thoughts and feelings concerning a possible enrollment for the child after the tour.
Upon arrival, parents are typically greeted by an admissions counselor, as well as a couple of students for the tour. These students have often been at the school or program awhile and tend to be more positive about the program. They have shown responsibility at the school and have been set up beforehand on how to tour parents.
During the tour, parents will be guided from one building to the next, from classrooms to main gathering areas. This is the time to really be observant and take in the feeling of the school. Parents should gather the following information about the school.
What does the facility look like? Is it well maintained and are things organized? In order for children to deal with the chaos inside of them, their surroundings need to be neat and uncluttered. Are the beds made and are personal touches adorning their bulletin boards and footlockers? Look and see what kinds of photos are hanging up. Do you see family and friends displayed? This is a good indicator of how the students are dealing with being away from home and if they have built relationships with peers at the school and with their families. Check out the bathroom area, does the tidiness extend to these areas also? If so, this shows there is active staff and faculty presence in the student dorms, making sure all areas of the campus are tight. The dorm is one of the most important areas on campus concerning your child. In a sense; this will be their "home" for however long.
How is staff interaction? Do staff and faculty take the time out to greet you and introduce themselves? Are they engaged with the students? How do the students respond to staff? Do they come across as consistent with the school model? What is the staff to student ratio? Are the staff and faculty members hanging out with students or are they congregating in the staff offices? Do the staff and faculty eat meals intermingled with the students or do they sit at a head table?
What is the student's body language saying? Do they make direct eye contact with you? Do they avoid looking at you when you are introduced? When students meet you and look directly at you, they feel at ease and trust the staff at the program would not bring in strangers who pose a threat to their safety. Do they hover in the corner or peer at you from behind an obstruction as if they want to see if you will notice them? Are they playing, busily studying or otherwise participating in the program?
What is the overall feeling or mood of the school? Is it quiet and tense? Are students engaged in conversations? Do you hear laughter or fun? Are students behaving appropriately? If not, are those behaviors being addressed?
If you get the opportunity to sit and talk with students, don't be afraid to ask questions. Ask why they are at the school. Ask how they adjusted the first few weeks being there and what it is like for them now. Ask about the pros and cons of the school. (The students are always willing to tell the "good, the bad and the ugly," but remember; these students are also struggling with their own issues and are dealing with being "sent away," so be prepared to hear some negativity.)
Finally, make sure to take advantage of your time on campus and gather as much information as possible. Then ask yourself, "Is this the place my child will learn to grow and trust again? Will he/ she be safe here? Will we, as a family, be able to re-build our relationship?" Most importantly, you know your child better than any professional in the world; trust your gut instincts.
About the Author:
Laura Morton has worked in the parent-choice private education network for over 20 years, as a counselor and team leader. She currently works for Woodbury Reports, Inc in Bonners Ferry, ID, 208-267-5550, firstname.lastname@example.org.