Making a Teacher Request
Many parents feel that making a request for a specific teacher will help a child have a good school year. However, not all parents know there's more to making that request than just telling the school in which classroom you want your child to be placed. Knowing how teacher choice works can help you make the right decision, both in terms of a teacher and how to approach your request.
1. Teacher request policies vary from school to school.
While some schools have fairly open teacher request policies, allowing parents to choose whomever they wish, other schools' policies are more stringent. Many schools have adopted policies that don't allow requests for specific teachers. Instead, parents are asked to describe their child's personality, needs and learning style as well as what type of teacher and classroom structure would suit him well. In fact, some schools have developed questionnaires for parents to fill out for this purpose.
Note: Policies can even vary from school to school within a district, so if your child's school hasn't informed you of their specific policy, be sure to ask before making a request.
2. Making your request in writing makes a stronger case.
The best way to make your preferences known is to write a letter to the school's principal. You can certainly discuss placement with the current teacher, but since the principal typically makes the final decision, she's your go-to person. In your letter, be sure to make it clear that you are aware of the teacher request policy and that your request falls within (or why it falls outside of) those guidelines. Identify your child, his grade and current teacher before describing what type of educational experience would help his academic success and, if allowed, the teacher you think would be best for him.
3. Placement is not a popularity contest.
A lot of parents request a teacher based on what they've heard around the neighborhood. Granted, it may be true that Mrs. Smith was the best teacher the little girl down the street ever had, but that doesn't necessarily mean she'll be the best teacher for your child. When using word-of-mouth as a recommendation, many parents fail to take into account that not all children learn the same way and not all personalities work well together. Not to mention it takes a few years for a teacher's reputation (good or bad) to be built, so some very talented beginning teachers can be overlooked by this method.
4. You'll need to do your research before requesting a teacher.
It's okay to listen to the other parents, but it's important to ask questions too, not only of parents but of administrators as well. You may not get all the answers you seek, but at least you'll have tried. Find out about the teacher and her teaching style. Is she hands-on or does she do a lot of paperwork activities? What type of discipline or behavior plan does she use in her classroom? How well do her students perform academically in comparison to other classes? What type of training does she have working with children with certain types of disabilities? Does she teach boys and girls differently?
5. Bad mouthing is a bad idea.
Your child may have had a terrible year with a difficult teacher, but using that as justification for next year's request isn't going to get you very far. Ideally, the teachers in a school work as a team and insulting a team member isn't going to endear you to the rest of the players. Simply put, dwelling on the negative makes people look at you in a negative light. Instead, try to word your concerns in terms of the obstacles your child had to overcome this year and how you think the requested teacher will help him to avoid or navigate similar obstacles next year.
6. Be honest about your child's needs and personality.
Of course we all want to portray our children in the best light possible, but when trying to find a teacher who can help make his academic year a success, it's no time to gloss over the rough spots. If your child has trouble with authority or getting along with other children, now's the time to say so. Among the other things you should mention are whether your child has a diagnosed disability, what type of discipline he responds well to, how he reacts to change in routine and what his academic strengths and weakness are.
Some parents are under the mistaken impression that IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) gives them the right to choose their child's teacher. This simply isn't so. You have the right to be involved in placement for your child, meaning that you can help determine the best type of classroom and program for him, but that's not the same as choosing a teacher. However, after the year begins, if the teacher isn't implementing your child's IEP, you do have the right to request a meeting to discuss switching his teacher.
8. Teachers work hard to create balanced classrooms.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your child may not be placed with the teacher you have requested. Before getting upset, it's important to remember that all children deserve to have the best educational experience possible. To this end, teachers and principals work hard to make sure each classroom has a balance of different types of learners, personalities and educational needs. Many times a teacher has a stellar reputation as to how she works with children with learning disabilities or other types of students and a number of parents request her classroom. If all of those children are placed in the same classroom, the teacher will be overloaded, so an administrator may choose to redistribute the student population more evenly.