How do you pick a school?

by Muddy Waters

In his article entitled How to Pick a Pre-school in Less than an Hour,  the author, David L. Kirp (a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, a senior fellow at the Learning Policy Institute and a contributing opinion writer to the New York Times) ends with the following: “For parents, the bottom line is simple: Watch closely what’s happening in the classroom, pick a preschool that you wish you had gone to, and your child will do just fine.” I would go a bit further and say the same would be true of any school, and the good news for me is that I do wish I had gone to the The Pike School of today.

A few years ago, we hired a firm called Mindpower to help update our image. They spent several days on campus observing our school in action and meeting with representatives from all constituencies. They also used surveys to reach out to many other stakeholders. While we all liked the colors, fonts and logos they recommended, we were most interested to see what they thought our core message should be. As opposed to some firms that give organizations a menu of possible choices, Mindpower said that they were confident that they could come up with one message that would resonate with our community. After time with our faculty, staff and students, they summarized our core message as “positive energy.”  I believe they hit the nail right on the head. One does not have to be at our school very long to see and feel the positive energy at all levels.

A few weeks ago, I was able to go to the annual Kindergarten Teddy Bear picnic and sleepover where I learned that one of the children had named his bear, Mr. Waters.  I wish you could have been there the next morning when the children were literally screaming with delight as they saw the results of the sleepover. Some bears were doing artwork while others were building blocks.  My bear and his new best friend Mr. Waters had someone found their way on top of the projector hanging from the ceiling. Later, I watched the third graders doing math in a way that I would have much preferred to my experience of doing 1-30 odd in a workbook. They were on the floor with their teacher playing a game that had them very engaged while they were solving interesting problems. My eighth-grade history class was studying the case of Marbury v. Madison that established the Supreme Court’s ability to declare laws unconstitutional. As you can imagine, it turned quickly into a discussion about the relationship of the courts to our new President.

Those three vignettes are certainly the small tip of a very large iceberg that includes our Makerspace, robotics, snowshoes to take advantage of the nature trail (if we get enough snow), new games for recess, electives in Upper School that allow teachers and students to explore areas of mutual interest and much more.  However, more important than any program are the people who make up Pike.  We are so fortunate to have teachers who are the life-long learners in our mission statement, willing to constantly be open to new ways to better serve their students.  We have parents and guardians who are committed to doing all they can to help their children receive the best education possible.  Finally, we have students who are clearly excited to come to school to learn which makes all that positive energy come to life.

I do feel fortunate to come to Pike every day and feel blessed to have a window into all that makes our school a special place.

To see all of our images from Bear Day, click here.

The Pike School is an independent, coed, day school for Pre-K through ninth grade in Andover, Massachusetts. Visit to learn more about Pike – and visit our blog for more thought leadership. To learn more about admission to The Pike School, visit our Admission page


on “How do you pick a school?
5 Comments on “How do you pick a school?
  1. I couldn’t agree more, Muddy. Thanks for sharing just a few of the many moments of positivity that make Pike such a wonderful place to learn and grow–for all!

  2. One only has to step inside our pre-K classroom to feel the joy and engagement that permeates the room. The love of learning begins here and continues throughout the child’s journey through Pike!

  3. Well said! There are many times I say to my children, “I wish I went to a school like Pike when I was your age.” The teachers have a great way of connecting with the students to engage them no matter what their learning style may be.

  4. I wish I went to a school like Pike today when I was my daughter’s age – and I went to Pike! It is a remarkable, nurturing, engaging and academically strong environment for its students.

  5. Outstanding, Muddy. I feel so fortunate that our children have been part of the Pike community. Your leadership sets the tone for each teacher and staff member. The students are the beneficiaries of that “positive energy.” The Pike culture exudes kindness and fosters academic growth tailored to each individual student. Well done. I am awed by Pike’s excellence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *