Parent interview on choosing a private school: Shemin Jaffer

Shemin Jaffer shares insights about choosing schools for her children

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We asked Shemin Jaffer several questions about the school-choice process. We covered topics such as her goals, research methods used, challenges faced, and plans for the future. Here’s what she had to say.

If you’re interested, read the rest of our parent interviews on choosing a school. You can also read our comprehensive education expert advice guides on choosing a school and getting into a school.

Q: When did you first think to send your child to a private school?
A: Actually, I brought the issue up of how our kids would be educated on our honeymoon! I work as a mathematics teacher in the public system

Q: What were your expectations of private school?
A: I believe that really strong teaching is about feedback. I want to know what the teacher’s opinion is, how am I (as a student) progressing? What is my performance, how am I measuring up?

Q: What were you looking for in a private school? What were your priorities? 
A: We value education strongly in our household. I wanted well-intended teaching in line with our values.

Q: Were you trying to escape anything in public schools?
A: I believe in a gender-segregated environment; the high-performing boys; girls are left behind.The girls get left behind. 

Q: Describe the family conversations you had about school choice.
A: Strong—this is something I can speak to; but it is my area of expertise. Everyone has to be in-line.

Q: When exactly did you know which school you would choose? Describe the process. Describe the reasoning. Was it a matter of reason or just a feeling?
A: In Grade 1 and 2, I had my daughters tested, where their learning is at, where there capacities are. The girls were readers by the time they were four, they weren’t special. I know how to parent; we value education, they have learning skills. Our choice of a school was more of a head decision.  

Q: What were your sources of information when doing your search?
A: Talking to people—IB is complicated to explain, to learn all of the levels involved. I had gone to a number of girls’ schools. Some were well established, had been around for a hundred years. They had smart people who weren’t arrogant. The kids were not arrogant as people of their abilities. They just knew who they were. So many opportunities for reflection, no hiding from the reality of who they are. Adolescence is about finding out who you are. 

Q: How did you prepare for the school visit?
A: Portfolio. It’s all about you, the portfolio—really helped them focus their thought process, reflecting, and book reviews. 

Q: What impressed or surprised you the most on your school visits?
A: The school visits were just what I expected. They were thorough in what they were looking for.

Q: Do you have any advice for other parents about to visit schools?
A: Start early with your kids. Take the SSAT. The conversation about private school needs to start early. Discussed openly and early, and in line with what a child wants. Explore what the options are when they have to make a decision. 

Q: Have you made other decisions in your life that you would compare to the choice of school, or would you say this experience was unique?
A: For my second career, I decided to go back to school to study mathematics. We had to move; it was an overwhelming decision. 

Q: Did you have to interview for acceptance? Did you have to take tests? 
A: We did have to prepare for and take the SSAT: it’s challenging, it’s really about how do you answer questions, what makes sense, what doesn’t. 

Q: Did you try to find a school that would play to your child’s strengths or correct your child’s weaknesses? Do you have any thoughts on that distinction?
A: I looked for a good school, of course. My kids needed to be supported and thrive.

Child-specific advice on school choice
For child-specific insights on choosing a school, read our guide. We explore how school choices crucially depend on kids' unique traits, such as their mental and academic focussocial tendenciesactivity level, academic interests (such as art and STEM), and other attributes (such as giftednessspecial needslearning disabilities, and social issues).

To get school-choice advice customized to your child's unique traits, create a child profile through your user account and read our seven ways to choose a school based on your child's needs (i.e., overall fitmore academic challengesocial strugglesacademic strugglesintensive learning interestsuniversity preparation, and special needs.).

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