Choosing the Right School: The Value of a Good Teacher

A couple of posts back, I was writing about some problems we were having with Aristotle’s behaviour at school and I have since realised that what I wrote could be easily misconstrued because of the way it was written. I just wanted to correct that because I have to say that I have been very pleased with the staff at Aristotle’s school – at least the ones that have been directly in contact with him because they are the only ones that I know so far (unfortunately because I’ve been busy handling Hercules at home and have not been able to get involved with school events).

After what I wrote about homeschooling, it is probably a mysterious wonder that I allow my son to attend school. Well, I don’t think that all schools are bad. They certainly figured it out in Finland and have a system in place that’s working pretty well there. And while there are plenty of articles enumerating all the key factors that make schools in Finland a success, I think the top of the list has got to be the teachers. You can have all the best systems in place but if you don’t have the right teachers to carry it out, what’s the point?

Who are the right teachers? In my humble opinion – the ones who want to be there; the ones who love to work with children; the ones who are interested in education – not in its limited scope but in its entirety. I talked about finding the right school for my children and I’ve seen the numerous comments on the post I wrote about International Schools and I realised that we’ve all been looking mostly at the system rather than the people. It’s not a bad thing – having a good system in place, but I learned pretty early on that it is the teacher that makes all the difference.

After all, what puts homeschooling ahead of conventional schools is the fact that the teachers are the parents – dedicated individuals with a desire for only best for their children. You can’t top that. Get enough schools with that kind of dedication and perhaps it might close the gap between the traditional schoolers and the homeschoolers.

What helped me decide that we had the right school for Aristotle was, of course, the environment, but also because he bonded well with his examiner. And now that I have seen his class teacher in action, I am glad he is where he is because his teacher is good. Now I can only hope that the rest of his teachers in the years to come will be as good and we’ll be set.

Even when Aristotle first started preschool, I could see the difference a good teacher could make. When he attended his first school, we had a lot of problems. Being a bright child, they wanted to advance him to the year ahead. Aristotle, however, didn’t like the teacher heading that class. After sitting in with him for a bit, I could understand why. He later moved himself to a different class (yes, he took matters into his own  hands) and I could immediately see the difference it made for him to have a teacher he liked. For a start, he began to enjoy school. And I knew it was his teacher who made a difference because his “bad days” were usually when she was on leave or sick.

If I were to look for a school now, I would look at the quality of teachers first and foremost and the system second. For you can have all the best ideals in the world, but without the right people holding those ideals close to heart and believing in them, they’re as good as worthless. In fact, you might as well not bother having them.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

8 thoughts on “Choosing the Right School: The Value of a Good Teacher

  1. Well said, dear. I can see where you are coming from. Even though my little one is years away from pre-school, I have started poking my nose around.
    When the location’s good, the system’s off eg: understaffed. When the teacher’s good, the building’s falling apart.
    I still think homeschooling is the way to go but unfortunately it is not an option at the moment or the near future 😦


    1. Hi Jessica,

      Yes, it is difficult to find a school that has everything. I, too, find that every school has something lacking. I guess at the end of the day, if I have to put up a priority list, I would put teachers first. Then I would look for whatever else the school might be able to offer.

      I wish we could go the full route of homeschooling, too. But that said, I cannot deny that school has been good for broadening Aristotle’s horizons in ways I would have struggled with.


  2. Good teachers make all the difference. I had my share of great teachers and I can’t thank them enough. Elyssa has many good teachers 🙂 Elena too! I’ve learned to make an effort to contribute in their schools without patronising. I’ve met many good teachers thru the years of trial and enrichment classes and are friends with them. I’m very grateful that they taught my girls then and are willing to continue teaching in my home now.
    I hope I will be able to make a difference in my students’ life as I did during my nursing days.


    1. Yes. And you were a great teacher to Hercules, too. Thank you for the role you have had in his early experiences of class 🙂 I was sad when you couldn’t continue taking his class any more… Are you continuing to teach again?


  3. Doesn’t it always good to advance the bright child “one” level up to see the response? ….the intelligence of the child, the school and the teacher, I guess I top child’s ability first and foremost when the existing class doesn’t seem to be able to accommodate the child’s ability to proceed through because ideas of holding back a child’s learning pace is as bad and totally unacceptable even if not impossible…..but what’s the point?


    1. Fz – I think I like the Montessori philosophy of cross-age. Having older children teaching younger children is a great way for them to organise the knowledge in their heads and cement their understanding. It also encourages the development of responsibility and leadership which are good values to have. It is a pity we don’t have more schools that offer this. Even many of the local Montessori programs are not “true” Montessori for this reason.

      If a child is bright in his class, there is still scope for him to learn if the teacher can figure out how to accommodate him. If I recall correctly, I think this is what they also do in Finland – the brighter kids help the slower ones.

      I have no issues with advancing a child if he is ready for it. But he should be ready for it in all accounts – not just academically, but emotionally and socially as well. Developing the non-academic aspects of a child has always been as important to me as developing a child’s mind. At the end of the day we have to weigh everything up and decide what is most important and what is best for the child. Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer so we have to make do with the next best thing.


  4. Yes, I continued teaching in my students’ homes after I left. They are mainly those living around my place. I’m taking a break since Aug last year to renovate my house and create a teaching area so I don’t have to travel and to refresh my materials. I’m planning to team up with my mom (confinement lady) to provide comprehensive care (pre to post natal and beyond). Also trying to be discipline to write all the things I’ve learned and are useful to young parents.


    1. Sounds terrific! Wish you all the best in that endeavour!

      I’m also trying to fix an area for the kids in our new place. We don’t have a proper area right now and everything is compromised. If the kids make a mess, everyone had to wade through it so I’m really looking forward to having our own space.


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