Monday, May 11, 2015

Requesting Your Child's Teacher: Why & How

The topic of whether or not you should request your child's teacher in both the teaching world and the parenting world. Some teachers argue that it unfairly "stacks" a class while some parents believe children should just adapt to the teacher they're given, because you'll have to in the real world.

I support parents allowing their children to experience growing pains and personality differences with their teacher. I feel that you can still do this when requesting a teacher. Requesting your child's teacher doesn't mean that your child will automatically have an easy time or not be held accountable--especially if you choose a teacher that you know will do those things.

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Why You Should Request Your Child's Teacher

I know that pretty much anyone reading my blog will agree that our kids are the most important things in our lives. We carefully/thoughtfully decide how they will be cared for before they're even born. We take extra precautions during pregnancy, seek the best health care for our wants/needs, and seek the best birthing experience. Once our children are here we carefully, thoughtfully, and often prayerfully decide who will care for them. Will mom or dad stay home? Will we leave our child with a grandparent, friend, or choose a daycare facility? If you choose daycare chances are you made phone calls, asked for opinions, and visited the center before enrolling your child. You may also follow similar procedures when choosing a pediatrician or dentist. When it comes to our kids, I feel like it's best to assume nothing. That means you don't assume that just because a doctor has a medical license and is employeed by a hospital that you should assume he is the best fit for you. 

The same goes for teachers. Teachers are not all created equal. Usually this is a good thing. Offering a school/parents/students differing strengths and abilities. But often times it also means that there are some bad apples. Many parents assume that if the teachers is educated and employed, then it's the best fit. Some parents also assume that teachers take their child's personality into account when putting them into a classroom for the next year. That isn't always true (see note below).

Your child's teacher spends more time with them during the day than you will most days. S/he helps shape character, build understanding, and helps develop your child's outlook on learning. Teachers play a big, big role in your child's life and it's important to be involved in the process of selecting a teacher. 

A Little Background:
Teacher placement happens differently in every school. In some schools the administrator,counselor or secretary handles placement. In many schools, the teachers do help place the students in their classes for the following year. It is, however, important to note that there are many factors considered when placing students. Students are usually placed based on four things: gender, ability level, ethnicity (this is important in issues of language and was especially relevant during the No Child Left Behind days), and personality. This means that a teacher can go in armed to put a whole slew of kids in particular classrooms but sometimes the needs of the teachers/school put the personality matches on the low end of priorities.

Tips for Choosing Your Child's Teacher

Some school districts do not allow teacher requests, so your first step is finding out if yours does. If it doesn't, and it's important to you, ask what you can do or who you can meet with to petition for a change. You might meet with the superintendent or the school board. If your school does accept teacher requests there are often rules and deadlines for this. Call the school and speak with the secretary. Find out what paperwork is necessary (if any) and what deadline.

Visit the Classroom
In all my years of teaching, I've only had one parent come watch me teach before choosing a teacher (she didn't choose me, by the way). I felt like it was so incredible that she took the time to visit each room without solely relying on word of mouth. In most schools there isn't a "best" teacher. There's usually a "best teacher for your child." When you have a selection, you'll want to note things like:

-Classroom Environment--is it cluttered or clean? Is it organized? Is it over stimulating? Each kid is different and each child will thrive in a different type of environment. You'll also want to note the way the teacher arranges her classroom/desks and the overall feel for the classroom. How the students interact with the teacher and each other.

-Teacher Expectations--You'll also want to know a bit about the teachers expectations. How accountable does the teacher hold students and will you be able to support that accountability at home? What is the discipline policy and how does the teacher view behaviors and discipline?

-Teaching Style--Pay attention to the way the teacher teaches. Does she use a variety of methods--particularly the method your child needs most? Does she encourage critical thinking? How do students participate in the learning experience?

Talk to Other Parents--Carefully

Other parents are an excellent resource, but exercise caution with this one. Some parents pick a teacher they like for other reasons than those listed above and it's important to use your judgement when you talk to parents. I know some parents in my neighborhood bad mouth a particular teacher but when you talk to them it's all word of mouth from one or two parents where the problem originated and it sounds (to me) like the original parents had problems because of their child's poor behavior. It's important to note your source and ask questions like, "How is discipline handled?" "What kind of homework does the teacher send home?" "How does the teacher communicate with parents?" Etc..

Go With Your Gut

You might just have a feeling about a teacher. Her classroom might be crazy and disorganized, but you just know she's got what your kid needs. Trust that and go with it.

Would or do you select your child's teacher? What is most important to you in a teacher?

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