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About.com Interview with George Higgins

Authored By: 
The Beekman School

Can being counseled out actually be a good thing? Though it might sound counter-intuitive, George Higgins backs up this statement with 34 years of experience at The Beekman School. In an interview for About.com, he reminds us that "school is everything to kids. If they are unhappy, it clouds all their hours, even outside of school." Leaving a school environment that isn't working can really be the opportunity students need to find their stride. "It’s not always academic reasons that cause kids to leave schools—there can be many factors."

I spoke with George Higgins, the headmaster of The Beekman School in New York City about what to do if your child is “counseled out,” or asked to leave, a private school. The Beekman School, founded in 1925 and located in a townhouse on East 50th Street in Manhattan, offers a customized college-preparatory education to students who need a flexible schedule, a more demanding school, or a new beginning because of academic, health-related, or personal problems in their current school. Mr. Higgins has been at The Beekman School for 34 years. Here’s what he had to say about how to handle the process of being asked to leave a private school:
Question: How should parents react if they think their child is being “counseled out” of his or her current school?
George Higgins: When you see signs that you are being counseled out, go talk to the head of the school or the head of the division. Ask them whether your child can move to a smaller class or reduce his or her workload.
Most of the time, they are going to try to figure it out. If the school isn’t working with you, or if the school says they are doing all they can, it’s time to look at other schools.
Question: When should parents start the process of looking for another school?
George Higgins: The sooner you start looking, the better, and make your kid a part of it. You can narrow down your choices to a few schools, and then get your kid involved. Have the child go with you to schools. Don't put off the process. Keep in mind that if you’ve been struggling, you’re not going to get a contract to come back to the school the next year. Also, consider whether you want just one bad year on your transcript or more than one year, and consider the college application process and how your child will do in that process if he or she stays at the same school. You can’t change the past, but you can modify the future.
Question: Parents often feel hurt by the school asking their child to leave. Should they?
George Higgins: Being counseled out can be a real gift. Instead of feeling bad, you’ve got a chance to turn around your school experience and really soar. For example, there are often health or personal reasons that cause someone to be counseled out. We’ve helped kids who are being bullied in their current schools. It’s not always academic reasons that cause kids to leave schools—there can be many factors.
Question: What is your opinion of using tutoring —often excessive tutoring—to stay at a certain school?
George Higgins: I’ve seen very overscheduled kids. They have no time to be a kid because of so much tutoring and other activities. This isn’t healthy. Don’t wait until your kid is burned out to look for another school.
Question: How do you respond to parents who want to stay in their school because of the social scene or their commitment to their child’s current school?
George Higgins: My job is educating parents, and I remind them that leaving their current school can be a fluid thing. For example, the student can take a leave of absence and return to his or her school. If the student is very homesick at boarding school or not adjusting well, for example, sometimes they can return after taking time off or attend another school. A lot of parents feel social pressure to stay in a certain school, but sometimes the kids fall apart because of it. It can really break the kids down, and then the work has to be with the parent. The bottom line is to pay attention to the kid. The student has to go to school every day. School is everything to kids. If they are unhappy, it clouds all their hours, even outside of school.