Interview on choosing the right school: Irina Valentin

Education expert Irina Valentin shares insights about choosing a private school for your child

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Irina Valentin is a psychologist at Valentin and Blackstock Psychology, in Toronto, Ontario.

We asked her several questions related to the issue of choosing a school. Here’s what she had to say.

For more expert advice on a wide range of questions related to school choice, read our comprehensive guide. You can also read our parent interviews on choosing a school, as well as  our in-depth advice guide on getting into a private school.

Q: What are some of the factors to consider when choosing a school?
A: The teachers are so important. What happens in the public schools, if you're lucky, you have a different teacher every year, if not every six months. Some, like I remember when we were picking schools for our kids, we really looked at who the teachers were, and some private schools, you have the same teacher for three or four years, so you really need to know who that teacher's going to be.

I would say look for a school that encourages adaptability, flexibility, for the unpredictable world that they're going to grow into, because we don't know what that world's going to be like. I think that would be something I would recommend. I can't help thinking about the special need of ADHD, because it can be both a gift and a challenge. How flexible is this school in dealing with kids who are different in these kinds of ways, because this can profoundly affect the future development of these kids?

Q: Are there certain types of early learning perspectives that you think are more effective?
A: For the preschool child, I would say a school that encourages adaptability and flexibility for the unpredictable world that they're going to grow into, because we don't know what that world's going to be like. You also want an environment that’s flexible in dealing with children that have different personalities and learning styles.

Q: In searching for a school, is it better to focus on accommodating your child’s weaknesses or developing their strengths?
A: I have a strong opinion about that. My general idea is that you need to find a school that fits your kid, and that it's more important to nurture strengths, but at the same time make sure the weaknesses are looked after in a way that doesn't hurt the kid.

Q: Is there a common mistake parents make in the school-choice process?
A: You should never select a school for life anymore. Your child will change over time: his or her learning needs and styles, social needs, personality, and more. Ideally, a learning environment will meet your child’s social, emotional, and academic needs. Since these evolve over the years, you may need to consider making changes to his or her educational environment or switching schools at various points.

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