Requesting a Teacher
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
The quality of your child’s teacher is the key to the quality of your child’s education. And the teachers’ influence may extend beyond education. As American historian Henry Adams wrote: “A teacher affects eternity.” Given that a teacher can have a lasting and significant impact on your child, you may want to influence which teacher your child receives. Yet schools are often reluctant to grant parent requests for specific teachers.
There is good reason for this. If parents were allowed to select their child’s teacher, some teachers would have too many students and others too few. As a result, many schools have policies that the principal will not honor parent requests for teachers. This is one of those cases where the unwritten rule often speaks louder than the written one. Principals sometimes grant these requests where there are special circumstances. This may be the time to cash in on the good will you generated as a result of your volunteer efforts in the school.
Don’t assume, however, that good will is sufficient. Make this request in writing to the principal during the spring and provide a specific reason why your child should be assigned a particular teacher. The more you can convey that your child’s situation is unusual and has a marked impact on his emotional well-being, the greater your chance of success. Make the case that this teacher’s style is well suited to your child’s educational needs but be sure not to criticize other teachers. Call during the summer to find out what action has been taken on your request.
Your child’s current teacher may help you in deciding which teacher to request and may even support this request with the principal. Other parents are also key sources of information on teachers. You may even want to observe the prospective teachers before the end of the year. As you observe the teachers and talk with other parents, ask yourself what kind of teacher is best suited to your child. In particular, consider the following questions:
- Does he need a teacher who is very structured or one who is looser in style?
- Will he do better with a teacher who is discipline-oriented and runs a tight ship or one who is more nurturing and low-key?
- Will he respond better to a male or female teacher?
- Will be do better with a teacher who tends to teach to the average student or one who aims her instruction at the higher-level student?