Step 4 - VISIT: Page 4

Insider Buzz

This page covers:

  • Tips on finding parents to talk to
  • Tips on questions to ask
  • Tips on interviewing parents about their school, and interpreting their comments

So, how do you get the inside scoop? It goes without saying that talking to parents (and students or teachers at the school, for that matter) is really the best way to get a sense of whether you’ll fit in as a family at that school – either by “blending in” or complementing it.  

Finding People in the Know

Start with an email blast to friends -- “Does anyone know anyone whose kids go to X school?  We’re hoping to get an insider’s perspective…”  Post on Facebook or Twitter.  If none of that works, call the school in question and see if they’ll put you in touch from someone from the PTA or community outreach committee.  Or email us and we might be able to connect you with someone we know. 

Interview & Questions

As for what to ask people, revisit your top priorities, get ideas from our Questions to Ask page downloads, and create a list. We suspect that if you have 12-15 questions on your list, you’ll only end up needing to ask about 5, since once you get people talking, their responses will likely cover more than one question. 

So have your fingers at the ready to type up notes you can refer back to (a hands free phone will help).  And while you should be mindful of not taking up too much time, know that most of these parents will be more than happy to talk to you especially since they know you’re seriously considering the same school they chose.

Interpreting Comments

And not to throw a wrench into your information gathering, but take every opinion with a grain of salt. While parents’ comments will be some of the best insight you can get about schools, they will also be muddied by their biases.  Your job is to shake off the mud and see what’s really there.  For example, it will be nearly impossible to know if another parent who gives you information shares similar values regarding education and what makes a school great.  Or you may be hearing a lot of complaints that might ultimately have nothing to do with the school, but rather reflects their own unusual situation. You could hear a hidden agenda from people who feel that going to the neighborhood school is a duty.  Or maybe you’ll chat with a parent who subconsciously wants validation that they sent their kid to the right school and so their responses will try and pull you in that direction.  It goes without saying that anything you read or hear has an inherent bias, so the best research skill you can hone is the ability to sniff out the nuggets of truth pertinent to your situation. 

Once you cast your net to find folks to “interview” about their kids’ school, start thinking about what you want to ask them.  You may have different questions about different schools.  Try and get organized for your conversations so you won’t be drowning in tid-bits of data.  A spreadsheet might help if you’re lucky enough to talk to several parents regarding the same school.

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