It’s that time of year in my hometown when parents — and kids — wait with equal parts anticipation and dread for the “teacher letter.” The official school notice of which class your child will be in for the upcoming school year. And which teacher will either enrich or torment their lives for the next nine months.
Immediately after the teacher letters emerge from the mailbox, the texts and Facebook posts begin. “Who is Mrs. Smith?” and “Anyone know anything about Mr. Jones?” It’s so important, because there is a huge difference between a good teacher who will challenge and inspire your child toward greater heights in math, science, and literature, and a burned-out teacher who will yell at your kid and make them dread going to school each day.
To be fair, most teachers — at least the ones who I’ve had a privilege to know — are awesome. And let’s face it, they’re not in the business for the paycheck. Most teachers take up the job because they truly want to help kids learn.
But the truth is that there are some duds out there. Boring teachers who hesitate to venture too far from the textbook or flat-out mean teachers who feel the need to assert their dominance over students with a constant stream of insults and yelling. And in some instances there are perfectly good teachers whose personalities just don’t seem to mesh with that of your child. What do you do if your child winds up with one of these teachers for the year? Do you let them tough it out — after all, they have to learn to deal with all kinds of people in the “real” world? Or do you go to bat for your kid and demand a change?
In my own experience, I have only had one occasion where my daughter was assigned a teacher who I wasn’t thrilled with. Everyone I talked to described this teacher in a similar manner: cold, boring, mean. Not at all the kind of classroom environment that I wanted my daughter to go into. And my first instinct was to march into the principal’s office and demand that she be switched. But with nothing more to go on than the word of the local rumor mill, I decided that I really had no alternative than to let my daughter start off in the class, but be ready to pull her at the first sign of trouble.
But guess what? There never was any trouble. That teacher was one of the best my daughter has ever had. I don’t know why she had such a bummer of a reputation, but the truth of the matter is that she is one heck of a teacher. And I’m still embarrassed by the fact that I almost listened to the rumor mill and made an enemy of her without even giving her the benefit of the doubt.
As if echoing my thoughts, Lori from Groovy Green Livin' had this to say when I asked her about teacher changes:
I have gone to bat for my kids and asked that they be switched to a different classroom. But a word of caution: I choose my battles very carefully. It's very easy to get wrapped up in the rumor mill. There are so many instances where a teacher that wasn't a good fit for another child might be a great fit for yours. It's also worthwhile to get involved in the school in other ways so you get to know the players. When the time comes and you need help, you are then a known parent and hopefully will have some credibility.
And Sarah from Practically Green had this to add, "to try to get to know the person you are attempting to dump. If you can worm your way into their heart somehow, by listening to them and trying to see the world from their point of view, you may find they are less defensive and the entire process will go far more smoothly than if you come in with your Mommy dukes up."
My teacher buddy Abbie from Farmer's Daughter had this suggestion, "having been in the place of the new teacher, I think it's really important for parents to make contact with him/her and explain the situation and what they hope to achieve."
Bottom line: Give each teacher the benefit of the doubt. They may not have been a good fit for someone else's kid, but they might be just right for yours. If problems do arise, talk to the teacher directly, without trying to pick a fight. And stay involved in your school so that you can more easily address small problems that do come up before they become big problems.
Have you ever had to request a new teacher for your child?
Related school story on MNN: How to reset your sleep clock for the school year