Everyone knows the date that teachers for the upcoming year are revealed; phone calls are made to the school, emails are opened, and envelopes are shredded in anticipation. But what can you do if you learn that your child doesn’t have the teacher everyone is hoping to get: the creative young teacher, or the math legend, or the inspiring teacher who makes everyone love reading?
1) Think before you act.
Evaluate why you’re concerned about the match. Is it because everyone else says how great the other third grade teacher is? Less-heralded teachers often have much to share with students as well. Have you heard the teacher is “mean”? Seek out concrete stories, and see if any of them actually sound as though they would impact your child’s learning. What do you know about this teacher and his pedagogical philosophy? Don’t be afraid to call the school and ask about his instructional approach. Think about how it will work with your child’s learning style. If you see a potential for conflict between the two, meet with a school official to discuss your concerns, rather than to demand a change.
2) See the opportunity.
Have you loved every boss you’ve ever had? Every colleague with whom you’ve had to plan a presentation? Your child will benefit from working with someone who will challenge him. School is about learning both content and social skills, and a tough teacher can help your child grow in ways that even a favorite teacher can’t.
3) Don’t let history repeat itself (or do!).
Many schools have policies around families and teachers. If your older child had a tough year with the teacher in question, you can often get the assignment changed. Even better, if there is another teacher whom your older child loved, you can have your child switched into that class. But keep in mind that your children are different. What may have worked for one may not work for the other. Think about your child’s specific needs before requesting any changes.
4) Wait and meet with the teacher early in the school year.
Or, if your child is in high school, encourage him to do so. Try to learn about the teacher’s approach, and share about your child as a learner. Use specifics, such as
-my child needs to see something to process it
-my child often needs extra time to complete tasks
-my child is easily distracted by friends
-my child responds well to private conversations about behavioral problems
-my child is a hands-on learner
Building a professional relationship early on can help smooth out any wrinkles that might emerge.
5) Politely request a change.
Speak to the administrator responsible for assignments about a possible change. Acknowledge that such changes are complicated, and go into detail about why you think a switch is necessary for your child’s education. Be prepared to discuss his learning style and why you feel it doesn’t fit with the teacher’s approach. If you are told a change isn’t possible, ask for suggestions on facilitating a productive relationship, and find out how a change can be made later if things really don’t work out.
The most important thing is to stay as involved as possible in your child’s education: ask her about what she is learning, support her with her homework, and facilitate a positive relationship with her teacher. This way, you’ll both learn a lot!