By Rae Wang
5th grade parent
October 9, 2018
Josephine entered the 5th grade this fall. Some middle schools start taking kids at this grade so we decided to embark on a school search early this year. After months of visits, applications, and soul searching, we chose Forest Ridge as her new school. I wanted to share a few things we noticed along the way and why we ended up with our choice.
- Fun is part of the whole picture. Private school open houses rarely talk about challenges, hardship, work ethics. But most of them talk excessively about kids having fun. Don’t get me wrong — having fun is a big part of childhood or even adulthood. But the almost 100–0 ratio doesn’t seem right either. When asked about how much students should work hard and set high goals, one school’s principal went so far as to tell me if that’s what I care about then go to some other school since her school’s focus is for kids to have fun. Life is hard and our decisions and efforts are serious. It’s important stuff for kids to learn during secondary school. But we live in a world where Facebook distorts our perception of others’ lives (fun outings and vacations only) and the general public obsesses over celebrity gossip much more than morality and character (e.g., People magazine is more widely read than Meditations of Marcus Aurelius). The schools’ priorities and images are probably just a reflection of how people want to spend their money and time. The two kinds of schools that seem to have a different balance are Montessori schools and religious schools. They are both rooted in solid value systems of their own and are not as easily swayed by what’s popular.
- Preparing our kids for the real world. Most of the students we heard from or saw in pamphlets/websites seem to walk on water. They get near perfect scores in everything, lead many clubs, win sports competitions, and are happy, confident, nice and outspoken. It’s hard to believe there’s anything they can’t do and the world seems to have an oversupply of really perfect kids— or at least this is what I see on the parent end. But, I do get a different perspective from my workplace at Google — as a hiring manager at one of the best companies to work for in the world. We are always struggling to find enough qualified candidates to fill our openings and even the ones from prestigious schools still seem under-prepared for the real world. A lot of them lack the ability to be humble, accountable and resilient. What’s causing such a blatant gap between the two? Are schools not aware? Or is this just not what prospective families want to hear?
- Gender diversity. As a woman in tech and a hiring manager, I care about the lack of gender diversity in the STEM fields. Companies spend a lot of resources trying to encourage more women to join tech since a more diverse workforce means a better culture and better products for society in general. However, I’m surprised to find that most elementary and secondary schools aren’t even interested in talking about it. In Josephine’s current school, I once asked a teacher how to encourage more girls to excel at math, he told me “it’s not my fault” and then told my husband “your wife intimidated me.” At a private school open house when I asked the same question to a middle school math teacher, he said it’s not a problem since girls are better at math in middle school and by high school they just prefer to hide it (why?). As tech companies struggle to find female candidates and our universities invest in growing women in STEM, our secondary schools seem oblivious.
Why leave a great public school? We live in one of the best public school districts in the area and Josephine attended the gifted class which was comprised of students scoring in the top two percent of standardized tests. She hung out with smart, hardworking kids all day which is great. Then why did we leave? Over the last 2 years, we’ve come to realize that the public school system here is great for parents who can own most of the teaching themselves. We are a dual working family and therefore need teachers who have the time to get to know the kids and teach them and proactively communicate with parents. Her previous private school teachers accommodated that well, but we haven’t been able to get it from the public school system. Since we both intend to keep our careers, we decided to invest in private education.
Why Forest Ridge? Because the school addressed the 3 concerns I listed above much better than others. And it didn’t hurt that Josephine said she “really, really likes Forest Ridge.”
The Forest Ridge open house had mostly presentations from students (rather than staff). They talked a lot about overcoming challenges and failures to achieve personal growth. Both the students and the teachers were willing to talk about hardships, and weaknesses while emphasizing a growth mindset. It made them seem more human and more in tune with the real world. Being an all-girl school means that gender issues are on the top of their mind. They actively encourage girls into STEM and the principal patiently answered all my questions. I went to an all-girl high school myself and know that I can attribute a lot of my confidence and assertiveness to that environment. When you see that your school principal, teachers and top students are all women, it breaks down gender stereotypes and gives you a deeply rooted belief that women can achieve at a high level.
So, this is the journey we went through over the last year of our school search. Fingers crossed for a great year at Forest Ridge.
- Forest Ridge Blog