Dear Schools Leaders and Supporters,
Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the Peacock Family Services community event on Bainbridge Island. Peacock is a leader in their field offering high quality, flexible, inclusive early learning services to families in Western Washington. As I talked with their families and staff it was clear how happy and cared for they are by this program. It reminded me of all of the reasons teachers choose to work at private schools.
Here are a few:
Private schools attract teachers who are idealistic, passionate about teaching, well versed in their fields of study, and who are caring in their relationships with students and colleagues. In polling teachers on why they continue teaching at an independent school, the quality of the students and a climate of professionalism are cited as key factors. Independent schools define their culture and norms of behavior for their community of students and staff.
Private schools adhere to the principle that teachers are professionals. One of the ways private schools can demonstrate this is often by giving teachers freedom to design their own curriculum, allowing educators to have unique approaches and a direct impact on learning material. Also, private school teachers do not have to teach to the test, as many private schools do not track students’ progress or attach monetary incentives to the standardized testing systems public schools require.
Teachers feel safe in private schools because private schools can enforce their discipline codes with impunity. Students are governed by a signed family-school contract where consequences are clearly outlined and can be swiftly executed. In addition, most private schools have small student populations making it easier to supervise groups of students while gaining an understanding of each individual child.
Small Class Size
The average ratio of 11:1 student to faculty in most private schools allows for students to deeply investigate the material being presented and for teachers to work with each student to solidify a fundamental grasp of concepts, and challenge a student to dig deeper.
Teachers relay how important it is to be able to support the mission of a school and know that everyone at the school is working towards the same system of values. Sharing in the distinct vision of a private school community provides meaningful connections that both teachers and students convey are the most defining aspects of private school education.
Administration in private schools is streamlined without layers of bureaucracy. It is easy to address issues, engage with co-workers and effect change in a private school.
Typically benefits in independent schools include top-tier health insurance and retirement programs; generous vacation leave, and family-friendly policies.
Often the perception is that private schools lack diversity, but research shows that independent schools are often more diverse than public schools, which are defined by neighborhood living patterns where populations tend to be concentrated by socio-economic and ethnic factors. Independent schools search for teachers committed to diversity to foster an inclusive and multicultural environment and actively seek student diversity by drawing from many communities. On average 25% of the student body of a typical private school receives financial aid and around 20% of the student body is comprised of students of color. This average changes depending on a schools mission and in many schools is much higher.
Private school teachers attribute their satisfaction to parental support, work climate and school values. Additionally 94.7 percent of private school teachers have participated in various types of professional development in the past 12 months (see data), which is not surprising given that mission based schools can provide diverse educational opportunities through their affiliates constituency group.
Share your experience and reason’s for teaching in a private school with the WFIS community. And keep up the great work!
Suzie Hanson, Executive Director of WFIS