Our 12-year-old son is not doing well in his 7th grade local yeshiva class.
We are considering moving him to another local yeshiva in mid-year, as things are rapidly deteriorating. We are not asking for specific advice, as you do not know him or us. But can you share with us what questions to ask and answers to give when making this difficult decision?
Rabbi Horowitz Responds
Here are some final suggestions:
I would suggest you come prepared for your first interview with the potential new school, armed with all relevant documentation that the Head of School may request. Bring at least one year of Hebrew and General Studies report cards, and any educational testing reports that may have been 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’s view. Bad move! The Head of School will, in all likelihood, find out what you were trying to hide, 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 to 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 when parents speak poorly about their current school. After all, a reasonable school head will assume that sooner or later you will speak disparagingly about their school, 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 you can say is something like, “His current school is good, but the chemistry was just not right.”
To tell or not to tell:
It is tough to decide when to inform the current Head of School that you are considering or actually making a school change. 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. And once that happens, it will become public knowledge. It is much better for you to break the news to the school head yourself. If at all possible, I recommend that you do so in person.
Timing is everything:
You mentioned that as things are deteriorating, you would like to make the move mid-year. I encourage you 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 of his or her classmates are settled into the rebbe’s/teacher’s routines. Additionally, friendships tend to be more established at this time.
In your particular case, with your son in 7th grade, a better case could be made for a mid-year move, as many schools are understandably reluctant to accept a transfer student for an incoming 8th grade graduating class. (The same applies for high school seniors.)
Prepare your child for the move:
If and when your application is 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 to your home for Shabbos or a Sunday afternoon.
And don’t forget to daven to Hashem for hatzlachah!
Best wishes for a successful resolution of this matter.
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and the founder and director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S.
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