Choosing a School, Having Doubts

Question:

I have a friend who wants to enroll her kids in a public school. She is zoned for PS5. She has gone to the informational meetings, she has asked and looked for information but still has some doubts. 

I know that you are an expert at this subject so that is why I dared to recommend to my friend to talk to you. Do you think you can help her? 

Answer: 

Let’s start by clarifying one point: I’m definitely not an expert on the Jersey City Public Schools. That said – here are my thoughts:

Your friend has done her due diligence. She’s attended the meetings, searched for information (presumably on the web) but still she has doubts. My initial reaction is “Yup.”

I agree. Doubts. Not about PS5, I don’t have a child enrolled there so I can’t speak to that school as a mom, but yup to doubts about every important choice I’ve ever made as a parent. Doubts about which pediatrician to use, what age to introduce solid foods, nanny or daycare, pampers or cloth…Doubts grow in moms like dandelions.

I think that means we’re doing it right.

Here’s my advice to your friend. Spend some time thinking about what it is about the school that gives her pause. If she can’t identify what that is, the doubts are less about the school and more about just being a mom.

If she can identify the concerns, can she also justify them? Are they real? Might they be fears, possibly relating to how different this school experience seems to be from the experiences she had as a child?

If she can identify and also justify the concerns, she should then consider how much they matter. Are they massive pedagogical differences? Are they strict – too strict for her comfort? Is the school in a condition that is sub-par? Is the facility clean? Do the materials appear outdated? Or does the school have a pretty good appearance and vibe, but maybe the reputation is less than impressive?

If it’s primarily the reputation that’s troubling her, my advice is to consider the significant growth in the city over the past few years, and think about how that might impact the success of the school system.

All that said though, ultimately she has to trust her gut. The fact is that no school exists that’s going to alleviate all the anxieties we have as mothers. In this particular school it might be the reputation, in another it might be the price tag. She should allow herself the flexibility to make a choice, and then change her mind the next year if it doesn’t work out. And if it REALLY doesn’t work out, she could change her mind mid-year. It’s her kid.

Tell your friend she’s doing it right. Her kid’s in good hands. And best of luck!

Posted by

Mel Kozakiewicz a professor, editor, writer, and mother of two.

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