In 7th grade, I was sent to a large school. I struggled with the idea of making friends in such a huge place. No one looked my way or told me about the school. I’d smile and wave only to receive a blank spaced out glare. In the cafeteria, I’d sit near the windows so that I could watch the trees and birds, almost as a way to block out the sound of the raging cafeteria.
When the day comes for me to decide the school my child attends, size will be the biggest factor. Over half of a child’s experiences and relationships are built within school.
The advantages of going to large schools include more clubs and extracurriculars. There’s also more sports to participate in with higher recognition. Students want variety in sports, so they can find something that best suits their abilities; small schools tend to only have three or four sports.
However, the disadvantages of going to a large school are significant enough that I don’t want my kids at one.
Large schools contain the type of energy that throws a person off their feet. Hundreds of students walking disorderly through the hallways and trampling any silence that may have been there before. Of course in younger years of school there are line leaders, though no child is promised to stay within that line.
Some disadvantages of going to a large school like West Ottawa are the way people react to someone new, since I’m new. Instead of jumping out of their seat to greet me, I found myself alone silently wishing that someone could lend a kind word. My future children shouldn’t need to search for a kind word or lending hand. It should be freely given. Also, the busy atmosphere can be harsh on those with social anxiety or anyone really, being surrounded by hundreds of people in a large building can be frightening.
Small schools tend to be more related to the idea of family. For me, coming from a small Christ-centered school, I saw the way everyone belonged. How everyone knew everyone and treated each other with value. It wasn’t abnormal to walk up to a new student and call them over to your table for lunch. On my first day at this smaller school, there were some girls who walked over to me and told me that I could talk with them anytime. It’s hard to completely understand why people ignore those who are longing for friendship; a small school could provide my child with the friendship and encouragement they need.
After this, we became good friends and they stuck to their word. Tuesdays we’d have chapel and all sing in unison. We’d pray for each other. Our teachers and students would tell stories of their lives and as they did so, I remember just staring in awe at the way they freely spoke, unashamed. This aspect of family and faith is something I’d like my children to experience.
During chapel, we also had discipleship leaders. The concept was that the upperclassmen would disciple the lower classman. My discipleship group had some amazing girls that I ended up really bonding with. Even though not all small schools are Christian, this is an example of how closely knit a small school can become. Children need a sense of belonging in their lives, especially in the place they spend most of their days. Belonging helped me in high school, and I want my children to have the same feeling
Although there are benefits to a big school, I will send my kids to a small school.