Guest Educator

Next Year’s Teacher

by Jacqueline McTaggert

This month’s guest educator, Jacqueline McTaggert, is the author of From The Teacher’s Desk (Booklocker.com, $18.95). MetroKids invites teachers to contribute Guest Educator articles that offer insights to other teachers and parents about topics such as curriculum, techniques, motivation, discipline or teacher-parent relations. Please send ideas to editor@metrokids.com

This is the time of year when parents start thinking about which teacher they would like (or not like) their child to have next school year.

Some elect to simply cross their fingers and hope, some make an appointment to discuss the situation with this year’s teacher or the building principal, and a few wait until the class lists are revealed and then — depending on whether or not they got their wish — make their move.

Forget the wait-and-see option. The building principal spends a great deal of time making up next year’s class lists. First and foremost, he considers each child’s personality and individual needs.

Often he tries to divide the children up so that all classrooms at any given grade level will have approximately the same number of high, middle, and needy students, the same number of “behaviorally challenged” kids, and a near-equal number of boys and girls. Whenever possible, he tries not to put twins or first cousins in the same room, or kids that have had trouble getting along with each other. It’s a tough job.

What happens if several parents demand a change after next fall’s class rolls are posted? It’s back to square one. This situation doesn’t make the principal a happy camper, and as a teacher, I can tell you that it’s not a particularly cheery time for those who have to be around him.

So scrap the “last-minute option and look at whether or not you really need to request a certain teacher for next year; and if so, how to go about it.

For Most Students
Most students do not need to have or avoid having one particular teacher. Why? Because:

An ineffective teacher for one student can be highly effective with another.

Every teacher has at least one area of strength or expertise. Most have several.

Most kids will adapt to any teacher if the parent supports the teacher. The opposite is also true.

The most popular teacher is not always the best teacher, and the least popular is not always the worst teacher.

No matter how unpopular a teacher may be, she is probably not incompetent or she would likely have been relieved of her duties.

Of course, not every kid fits the “bring-it-on, I-can-handle-it” mold. Children who do not bond easily or adapt to certain personality types are the ones who may need some advance parent input for determining next year’s teacher. If your child is in this category, you might want to discuss the situation with the building principal now.

Info You Should Have
In order to secure the best possible teacher for your child’s individual needs, you need to have in mind and be prepared to share information on the following points:

What type of discipline does or does not work with your child?

Does your child accept good-natured teasing, or is he repelled by it?

How is she affected by a whole-class, behavior modification lesson (e.g. a bawling-out)?

Does he relate best to a teacher who gives warm fuzzies, or to a “just the facts, ma’am” instructor?

Is she put off, or turned on, by verbal praise? (This type of reinforcement embarrasses some kids.)

Is he okay with loose-structured scheduling, or does he do best with a stringent routine?

Highly effective teachers vary greatly in these areas. When a parent is aware of a particular personality type or teaching style that his child thrives under (or vice versa), he needs to share that information with the building principal.

There are two more situations when a request for a special class placement is appropriate. If a parent has had an unpleasant relationship or unresolved problem with next year’s possible teacher, she needs to make the principal aware of it now. It is to everyone’s advantage to avoid situations that have little chance of succeeding. Secondly, if there is “bad blood” between a child and a same-grade neighbor, cousin, or whomever, they should not be placed in the same classroom — if at all possible.

If you do decide to discuss next year’s teacher, make an appointment to meet with the principal in her office and take a written list of concerns and recommendations with you. If possible, concentrate on the type of teacher your child needs, rather than on one individual whom you do or do not want. And one more thing: You’ll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar.

Good luck.