Signs of Excellence

Over the last few weeks, I've been speaking with a number of parents about the school where I work (Xavier College Preparatory in Palm Desert, CA) and about the qualities that attract families. Education is filled with competing theories and methods and approaches, and it can be difficult to decipher what will ultimately be of value. In my conversations, therefore, I wanted to know what parents deemed to be essential for good education. Not education in the abstract, but education as delivered within an institution, especially in a private, Catholic environment. What makes a school compelling? What makes a private school worth the tuition? 

The responses fascinated. In all of my conversations, none of the parents mentioned job preparation. None mentioned technology. No parent stressed SAT scores, AP exams or facilities. When they identified what was most important, none of the parents highlighted the qualities that so often consume media, teachers, or experts.  


Instead, the parents stressed something that cannot be purchased or measured: They cared about whether their child was motivated and inspired. They wanted teachers who knew their students and responded immediately to academic needs. They wanted their children to feel safe and happy, among friends and peers who respect one another and shun gossip. And they wanted a program of studies that harmonized emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs.

It wasn't that everything else did not matter. Parents do care about college readiness and exam scores, and they do like up-to-date facilities. But not at the expense of the human, relational element. 

It was a powerful reminder of the crucial importance of individuals, of the decisiveness of a smile and a hello. It was a powerful reminder of the ways that small acts -- or seemingly small acts -- reverberate in huge ways. When parents see teachers regularly updating grades, communicating about the class, and relishing the details of their vocation, parents see signs of excellence. They see a place where adults are modeling the behavior they want to see in their kids. They see a place where they believe their kids will flourish.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.


The latest from america

Cardinal William H. Keeler in May 2009. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) 
A Pennsylvania report accuses Keeler of covering up sexual abuse allegations while serving as bishop of Harrisburg.
Associated PressAugust 15, 2018
With her appeal to emotion, Gadsby reminds audiences to see the vulnerable, resilient human being behind the humiliated stand-up comic.
Allyson EscobarAugust 15, 2018
Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley and Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection, are pictured during the 2017 Catholic convocation in Orlando, Fla.  (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
“Our first job is to listen, to be empathetic,” said Deacon Bernie Nojadera, the executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for the Protection of Children and Young People.
 In a screen grab taken from video, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks during an Aug. 14 news conference to release a grand jury on a months-long investigation into abuse claims spanning a 70-year period in the dioceses of Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Scranton, Allentown, Greensburg and Erie. (CNS photo/Reuters video)
At least 1,000 children identified in the investigation were raped in Catholic places of worship, in schools, and in diocesan owned vehicles.