by Rus VanWestervelt
Open House, Saturday, October 15, 2016: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
I think there is a moment where every child, every parent, knows that she or he has found the right school. We might expect such moments to come to us after thoughtful introspection and careful side-by-side comparisons of the schools we visited. But if we really want to be honest, those moments usually come to us at the most unexpected times, even if we don’t realize it at the time.
For me, it happened in the NDP auditorium this time last year, as my wife and I sat with our daughter, listening to the sentiments expressed by real NDP students, authentic teens who spoke directly to us about what it really means to “respect the dress” and so much more.
Before we arrived, I made the conscious decision to be open-minded with no expectations. I wanted to provide each school we visited with that same blank slate, that tabula rasa that clears the mind of judgment and prior experience.
When that moment came and I realized this was the place for us, I glanced over at my daughter. As much as I knew that this was the school for us as a family, I didn’t lose sight of the fact that she had to have her own “moment” that this was a place she could call “home” for the next four years.
Immediately, I could tell by her expression that this was the school for her as well. She looked happier and more hopeful about her education than I had seen in years.
The conversations and comparisons followed, as they should. All of us, though, knew long before in that auditorium that NDP was the best decision we could ever make for our daughter’s present, and for her future.
As you begin your own process of finding the right school for your daughter, it might seem as if the options are overwhelming; each school you are considering is providing a showcase of their best practices in well-crafted slide shows and videos, not to mention polished presentations from administrators and admissions directors. They field the hard questions — many of which they’ve received countless times by prospective parents over the years. They know the right answers — all truthful, for sure, but prepared nonetheless.
The first step in finding the right school for your daughter is abandoning all expectations and entering the NDP Open House with an open mind. I recommend you follow these six easy steps to get the most out of your experience and help you along the way to making the best decision for your daughter.
- Register to attend the NDP Open House. Although the event is “open,” NDP wants to be as prepared as possible to treat every attendee with personal, individual attention to make the most of the experience. You can register here .
- Arrive with open-ended questions. Attending the Open House with questions does not prohibit you from keeping an open mind. In fact, it provides a nice framework for you to understand what is at the core of NDP’s programs.
Some of the questions we asked included:
- How is the guidance/counseling program structured? How are academic, personal, and college needs addressed?
- How are innovative students empowered and supported?
- How does NDP approach the wellness of and kindness among its students?
- What is the teacher-student relationship like in and out of the classroom? How are students supported by faculty members beyond academic instruction?
- Don’t be afraid to ask your student guide what she thinks about NDP. What you don’t usually get are chances to interact with the students in a one-on-one setting. At NDP, these students are encouraged to share their thoughts and respond to your questions candidly and honestly. If they don’t have the answer, they will find someone who can help you.
- Think in “whole school” terms. When it comes to the people in the school (admin, faculty, staff, parents, students), the spiritual foundation, the academic and athletic programs, and the social experience, how does NDP help balance the academic, athletic, social, and spiritual needs of its students?
- Think beyond the middle- or high-school experience. What are the intentional programs or efforts made by the school to help your daughter after she graduates? What are the unintentional benefits of attending NDP that might last a lifetime? Why do so many alums return to NDP to teach, volunteer, and support the school?
- Think about your needs as a parent, as well as the needs of your daughter. Safety and a quality education are so important to us as parents, but we also need to think about the needs of our daughter and — most important — what’s most important from her perspective (being an individual, getting involved, thriving in a diverse environment).
We should all get the chance to “transform the world,” and our daughters should be given that chance in an environment that is both safe and challenging. By registering and attending an NDP Open House, you take your first step in giving your daughter that chance. Don’t be surprised if you experience that “moment” when you realize that NDP is the best place for your daughter — and for you.
Rus VanWestervelt, dad to Maddie (class of 2020), shares his experiences monthly as a new NDP parent. You can reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about the NDP experience from a parent’s perspective.