Which schools are best? Let me know when you find out.

People STAY in my inbox asking me which schools are best, and what schools I would recommend for their child.  They have little Johnny who is more intellectual than I am - and he's a second grader - but he has challenges expressing feelings.  They have little Suzy who struggles academically, and is a big personality with many friends - socially intellectual.  And both of them are children of color.

The issue with this question is, neither Johnny nor Suzy were conceived, pushed out, fed, nurtured, or raised by me.  Heck, I have four children, and sometimes I have NO IDEA what is best for them from one minute to the next!!  Every child is different.  Who am I to say which school is best for your child's needs?  There are times when I consider plucking my second to youngest child out of the focus option school she attends, and putting her right around the corner from home, at her neighborhood school.  Not because she is naughty, but because she is different.  What works for her sisters may not continue to work for her, and vice versa.

Each school has its strengths and challenges.  There are schools with high academic focus, that have students that are a social trainwreck.  There are schools that are considered "failing" (as if the State of Oregon REALLY has the right to be the arbiter of what failing even is), full of emotionally happy students who graduate to be highly successful.  What may look perfect on the outside because of test scores and PTA involvement, may also be an incubator for bullying and racism - as I found out the hard way with my daughters.  And what may be a place of culture and pride may be vilified by media and no-history-having, neighborhood-columbusing gentrifiers.  (Sorry, I'm a Jefferson Demo, and am just a tad bitter about the Portlandian state of the neighborhood of my youth days.  A bit petty too. Yep.)

Before you decide you like one school or hate another, I beseech you to 1) know your child, and 2) go to the school.  By word of mouth, parent success stories or horror stories, by test scores, or by that silly GreatSchools tomfoolery on the web, you may THINK you know what a school is like.  But do you really, if you haven't been in there?  See, and when you go, two things will happen. The first thing that will happen is that you will get a feeling.  You went to school years ago, and you had a teacher, school, or classroom, in which you felt the best.  If adults in the building are kind and receptive, this feeling will come back to you when you enter the school in which you are considering for your own child - within 10 minutes.  The second thing that will happen is, the students will make you either want to hug them, laugh with them, hustle yourself off to class, hang out, or put them in a Full Nelson.  Because, again, though kids today have more access to tech and social media than we did, we basically partook in all of the same debauchery they did when WE were kids.  Don't lie, you did.

Go to the school.  Stay awhile.  Look for a feeling.  Mother Maya Angelou told us that people will forget what is said and done, but people won't forget how one makes them feel.  Nothing rings more true in a school environment than this.  When kids are made to feel good, they trust their teachers and peers, and are wide open to learn.  So, Yes, pay attention to test scores, and word of mouth if it is from a reputable source.  But focus on the feeling.  I can't do that part for you.