A few weeks ago I was out to dinner to an old teacher friend. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and I was curious to know how her daughter, Lily, enjoyed second grade. Unfortunately, Lily had a terrible year and went from a kid who loved learning, to a kid who dreaded going to school each day. This was due, in large part, to her teacher. The teacher was inflexible and Lily wasn’t challenged. Homework was inappropriate and the teacher had poor communication throughout the year. This got us talking about whether or not parents should have choice when it comes to their child’s teacher.
The following are some opinions from various teachers, many of whom are also parents, and all of whom have dealt with this sticky situation.
Should parents choose their child’s teacher?
As both a teacher and mom, I realize how much more my son’s teacher knows him as a learner and can make the best decision about which teacher she should place him with. She also knows the other teachers in the building better than I do. I only know what I have heard from other parents. We get all “mama bear” about our kids, so if a parent had a bad experience that is what you are going to hear more of. But, rarely will that parent admit that’s maybe it was because their child was acting out or being disrespectful…teachers have gone through training and been hired by admin for their positions. As an educator myself I put my trust in the system. It’s not always perfect, but if my son has a bad year, so be it. He will be in school for 13+years… Sara from Draz’s Class
Years ago, one of my sisters talked to me about the teacher her son was assigned to for the upcoming school year. My nephew had heard some not great things about that particular teacher and wanted his mom to try and get him switched. My sister told me she wasn’t going to ask to switch him because as a parent, “it is her job to teach her children to be independent.” That has always stuck with me. I know my nephew grew so much that year, not just academically but also in how he handled conflict, disappointment, and responsibility. I wish my sister’s viewpoint was more wide spread amongst parents. I think it is a great opportunity for children (and parents) to learn to navigate this situation because of the large value it has in bigger, more “real world” types of situations. Becky from Teaching with Ninjanuity
The best thing parents can do is allow their child to learn from a variety of teaching styles. If parents hand pick educators, their child will never learn to be open minded, persevere despite personality differences, communicate regardless of personal feelings etc. We set kids up for success when we provide novelty experiences with support. Gretchen from Always a Lesson
Sometimes the teacher selection is as much for the parent as the student. Some parents are needier or require more of the teacher. They have often heard through the grapevine of teachers who will meet their communication needs. I have had students moved to my room due to the needs of the parents so I understand. I can also understand the desire to match teaching styles to your child and perceived learning styles. While students need to learn from a variety of styles and environments to be successful in high school, college, and beyond, a parent often knows how their child will thrive and that acclimation time can be shortened by picking a classroom they believe will be ideal. In small communities or close-knit ones like a military base, which is where I teach, the parents strongly rely on one another because their children and families are highly mobile. These parents talk in order to insure their children receive the best opportunities. It may be a logistical nightmare for students’ assignment and placement with teachers if they all want a specific teacher or two, but it is definitely a compliment to the teacher they are requesting. Melanie from Melanie Morgan Posh Primary
When my oldest started school we received a very detailed survey about my child’s learning style. It went great. She had a very interactive teacher. Well going into first grade this survey did not exist. She was assigned to a teacher completely opposite of her learning style. My daughter had to endure a year of worksheets and whiteboard work. Very little hands on anything and a very strict stay in your seat and stay quiet teacher. Because she was a well behaved child the teacher seemed floored when we questioned the teaching style and we were told from the principal that we needed to “do our best to work it out” with the teacher. It was such a bad year we truly looked into homeschooling. Now that my youngest is going into kindergarten they wonderful survey from 2 years ago seems to be done away with. Sara from Sara Hickman Designs
I think if a family has already had a teacher for an older student, they should be allowed to request that teacher again. Relationships between families and teachers helps students be successful in the classroom so having the same teacher can further that even more. Obviously it’s a lot more complicated than that with class size, IEPs, etc. so parents need to understand from an educational standpoint that requests can’t always be fulfilled. Jenny from Foreman Fun
Maybe/It Depends/Under Special Circumstances
Everyone knows that kids with special needs–that really means all kids–often excel with teachers of particular strengths, and the school staff will factor that in. If a parent makes a discrete request, it should also be taken into consideration, within reason. That said, a school can’t field a mad rush for what some parents think is the “best” teacher, and besides, sometimes a marvelous chemistry between teacher and child develops unexpectedly. Renee from Renee Dawn
There are occasions when, because of some special needs, a child is better placed with one teacher over another. Those should be considered and should be rather rare. In general, however, selecting teachers causes class balance issues and morale problems within schools and communities.
I have been in both situations. In schools that allowed teacher choice, some teachers had certain “reputations” (deserved or not) that resulted in student placements. Some teachers ended up with almost all boys or all girls. Some ended up with students thought to be “gifted” while other teachers ended up with the majority of discipline problems. Even class size can be affected. In one school where I taught, a fourth grade teacher ended up with 36 students while another fourth grade teacher ended up with only 17. Such inequities affect morale and increase discord within the school. If choice “limits” are enforced then some students end up with their teacher choices while others do not – which leads to discord in the communities.
Instead of teacher choice, the solution is to assure that every classroom has a highly qualified teacher capable of teaching any child. That way all students – regardless of their classroom placement – will receive a quality education. Rick from Rick’s Resources
It certainly is important that students learn to thrive in the real world, where there are bosses and coworkers we like, and others that rub us the wrong way. But, if there is a specific skill (French speaking) or style (excellent with kids “on the cusp”) that a parent wants to expose their child to, they should be able to make a request. It may not be granted, but everyone is happier when they feel heard. That being said, my feelings were hurt when a colleague said she’d rather send her kids to the rival high school than ours, because they wouldn’t be challenged. …um, hello! I teach the Honors kids! Carrie from Sunshine State Science
Yes, if there has been previous bad history. They will only make the teacher miserable all year. No, if they “have heard things” about a potential teacher. We give kids a chance, parents should give teachers a chance. A better solution if parents are concerned is to share characteristics that the child needs in a teacher. For example, “Johnny needs a teacher who will hold him accountable while helping him develop executive skills.” “Sally needs a teacher who is more laid back and won’t call her out or discipline her over every move.” Pat from Growing Grade by Grade
In some cases, I think it’s okay for parents/guardians to request a particular teacher, with the understanding that it might not be possible to honor their request. For example, if a caregiver knows that a certain teacher has expertise working with students with learning disabilities and wants that teacher for her/his child who has that learning disability, then it would make sense to request that teacher. Likewise, if a teacher has a strong background working with English Language Learners and a caregiver has a child who needs that type of support, then it would be fine to request that teacher. And it would certainly make sense to place students with teachers who’ll best be able to meet their needs. But if a parent/guardian requests a particular teacher just because the caregiver has heard good things about the teacher, I don’t think that’s a valid reason. So, I think it all depends on the circumstances as to whether or not parents/guardians should be able to choose their children’s teachers. Susan from The ESL Nexus
What do YOU think about allowing parents to choose their child’s teacher? We would love to hear your 2 cents in the comments below!