When I was a kid, teachers were selected for students at random and class rosters were posted on the glass doors of the lobby two weeks before the first day of school. We were at the mercy of the invisible gods of elementary school. Some years, the gods would look on you with favor and you would get someone like Mrs. Olson, and in other years the gods were vengeful and placed you with Mrs. Rushton. The idea of my parents (or anyone else’s) going to the administration and requesting a particular teacher was unheard of.
Back in the day public education was a more trusted institution, and teachers were generally well-trained in teaching the basics. The education you received with one teacher would essentially be the same as with another.
Today, things are different; public education has a very tattered image, and a solid dedication to the basics is no longer a guarantee. The theories behind the negative changes in education could take up volumes, and I won’t even attempt to cover them here. What’s important is for parents to understand that their role in their child’s education requires more participation than ever before.
Here are three reasons why hand-picking your child’s teacher is important:
- It holds you more accountable. In order to properly pick the right teacher for your child, you will need to spend some time observing classrooms. This requires a certain amount of participation on your part. Requesting a teacher should be more than just asking your child which teacher she thinks is the nicest and then requesting her. If you are going to make a request, you are responsible for investing the time necessary to make the right choice.
- It holds your child more accountable. Once you have done your research and have made your request, you have an already-formed connection with your child’s new teacher. You are clear on why you picked her and you already understand (at least on a basic level) what sort of teacher she is. This common ground between the parent and teacher creates an ideal environment for student growth. Your child will go into the school year knowing that he has been placed with the teacher that his parent thinks is best suited for his academic growth.
- It holds your child’s teacher more accountable. For the most part, teachers know when they have been requested by a parent. The same connection mentioned above is also acutely felt by the teacher. When a teacher knows that his unique qualities are appreciated, he will get a motivation boost and will generally be more keen to living up to his reputation as a worthy teacher. A teacher who starts the year with the knowledge that parents have already endorsed him is an energized teacher, and that translates into a more energized education for your child.
Now, keep in mind that requesting a teacher is not the end of the responsibility for parents, and it is not a guarantee for a perfectly smooth school year. Teachers are human. Parents are human. Kids are learning to be human. You will not always agree with something your child’s teacher does, but establishing an open and respectful partnership will provide a forum for you to address concerns, if the need arises. Establishing a trusting and respectful connection early on makes bumps in the road much easier to bear.
Also, please make sure that you clearly understand that requesting a teacher does not give you the authority to dictate how that teacher runs her classroom. You are not saying, “I picked you and now you need to do this and this for me,” but rather you are saying, “I have confidence that my child can excel in the sort of learning environment that you have already created.”
While many schools gladly honor parent requests, some may still balk at the idea. In the end, however, your child’s education is your responsibility and you have the ultimate say on how he or she will be educated. If you encounter resistance from school administration, just make sure that you are kind and respectful, and state your case clearly and confidently. Most principals will gladly accomodate a respectful and engaged parent.