School Tour Horror Stories


Between preschool and kindergarten, I’ve spent about 12 hours in the last few years touring various schools in the area. We’re lucky to have the option for open enrollment, but that can make things a little more complicated, too. 

The following are four real life school tour “horror stories,” for your entertainment…

“The Buggy School”

They’re creepy and crawly… They might bite or sting… They may even jump at you. Bugs and I don’t get along. You can imagine my horror when I saw ants lurking around the students’ cubby area during one tour.

What I thought… My initial thought was, gross! This classroom must not be clean. On a bigger level, the school must not take care of pest control. Annnd, what if those bugs came home in my kiddo’s backpack.

Or, maybe… After processing what I saw, I had to think about the more logical explanation of the bug situation. Young kids are messy, sticky creatures. Ants can quickly sniff that out. Schools take care to not use pesticide where students and their belongings are located. There’s only so much a school can do without poison when there’s a constant food source. Maybe ants aren’t that big of a deal. (But, still, please don’t bring them home in your backpack!!!)

“The Cluttered Classroom”

During one school tour, we visited a classroom where “stuff” was piled from the counters almost to the ceiling! It looked like a mixture of curriculum material, student work, and so much more.

What I thought… It’s easy to think that this teacher is disorganized and doesn’t spend enough time taking care of her classroom. My initial thought was that I would be disappointed that my child’s art was piled on a counter, rather than displayed or sent home after they were finished with it. I also wondered how chaotic the classroom was if that’s what the physical space looked like.

Or, maybe… First of all, I remembered that we’re touring to find a great school fit for my daughter. Not me. Clutter doesn’t bother her and how a room looks has no correlation to how much the students are learning and growing. After opening up my mind, I started to think about other things that could be going on with the giant pile of “stuff.” Maybe the school was getting ready for an art show. Maybe the teacher is incredible and was looking for a particular manipulative to enhance a lesson. Maybe the teacher just “inherited” a former teacher’s curriculum materials and didn’t have time to organize it yet. Maybe the teacher is fantastic with students but not organization. Maybe the teacher pours every ounce of her energy into engaging the kids in her class, and isn’t concerned about the countertops. Maaaybe, clutter doesn’t matter that much.

“The Robot Students”

I always like to see how kids behave during a school tour. Are they engaged? Enthusiastic? ROBOTS?! During one tour, I couldn’t believe how precisely the students walked down the hall. They were almost perfectly in sync with their steps. The row of two dozen children were silent. Nobody was smiling. Frankly, it was a little creepy.

What I thought… Initially, I found these robot children pretty unsettling. I want my daughter to go to school and feel happy and smile. I remembered my own days walking in the hall whispering and giggling with my best friends.

Or, maybe… On the other hand, the students were showing incredible self restraint and respect. They knew we were a tour and they knew how to behave in the hallway. Having a few quiet moments during the day as they transition from one room to the next isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Cleary, the class had structure and order. They knew what was expected of them and respected authority.

“Too Many Tests”

During one tour, almost every classroom we passed had students hidden behind testing privacy shields, busily filling in test cards.

What I thought… Yikes. There are so many news articles about how testing is taking over the classroom. It was a little alarming to see it in action. Were the privacy shields really necessary in a first grade classroom?

Or, maybe… In reality, it’s been a while since I was a teacher. It’s possible this was a state-mandated standardized test that everyone in the school was required to take simultaneously. The privacy shields were probably really beneficial to the students to help minimize distractions. In fact, when I was a student, we’d use our folders or textbooks to make a shield.

If you go on a few school tours, you’re bound to see something that will make you raise your eyebrows. Before you let that change your opinion of the entire school, consider the “Or, maybe…” alternative. Choosing the right school for your child can feel like an impossible task – remember to pay attention to the little things and always trust your instincts.

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve seen on a school tour? Did it sway your enrollment decision?


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