This is the time of year when parents start thinking about which teacher they would like (or not like) their child to have. Some cross their fingers and hope, some make an appointment to discuss the situation with this year’s teacher or the building principal, and a few wait until the class lists are revealed and then - depending on whether or not they get their wish - make their move. But if you’re a parent who has decided to wait-and-see, you may want to rethink your position.

Principals spend a great deal of time preparing class lists. They consider each child’s personality and individual needs. They try to divide the children up so that each classroom has approximately the same number of high, middle, and needy students, the same number of “behaviorally challenged” kids, and a near-equal number of boys and girls. They try to avoid putting twins or first cousins in the same room, as well as any kids who may have had trouble getting along with each other in the past. It’s a tough job.

What happens if families demand a change after next fall’s class rolls are posted? The principal agrees to make the changes but he is likely not pleased about it, or he refuses to make changes and parents get the short end of the stick. So scrap the last-minute “scream and stomp" option and look at whether or not you really need to request a particular teacher for next year.

Most students do not need to have or avoid having one particular teacher. Why? Because:

  • An ineffective teacher for one student can be highly effective with another.
  • Every teacher has at least one area of strength or expertise. Most have several.
  • Most kids will adapt to any teacher if the parent supports that teacher.
  • The most popular teacher is not always the best teacher, and the least popular is not always the worst teacher.
  • No matter how unpopular a teacher is, he is probably not incompetent. If he were, he would already have been relieved of his duties.

Of course not every kid fits the “bring-it-on, I-can-handle-it” mold. Children who (due to disposition or personality traits) do not bond easily or adapt to certain personality types, are the ones who may need some advance parent input for determining next year’s teacher. If your child is in this category you may want to discuss the situation with the building principal now. In order to secure the best possible teacher for your child’s individual needs, you should be prepared to share information on the following points:

  • What type of discipline does or does not work with your child?
  • Does your child accept good-natured teasing, or is he repelled by it?
  • Is she unduly frightened when a teacher scolds or reprimands the entire class for the actions of a few? (“Boys and girls, I’ve learned that your behavior in the lunchroom today was unacceptable. If this happens again, there will be serious consequences.”)
  • Will he tolerate an appropriate touch of encouragement, or does he prefer a hands-off teacher?
  • How does she respond to verbal praise? (This type of reinforcement embarrasses some kids.)
  • Is he okay with loose-structured scheduling, or does he do best with a stringent routine?

Highly effective teachers vary greatly in these areas. When a parent is aware of a particular personality type or teaching style that his child thrives under (or vice versa), he needs to share that information with the building principal.

There are two more situations when a request for a special class placement is appropriate. If a parent has had an unpleasant relationship or unresolved problem with next year’s possible teacher, he needs to make the principal aware of it now. It is to everyone’s advantage to avoid situations that have little chance of succeeding. Secondly, if there is “bad blood” between a child and a same-grade neighbor, cousin, or classmate, they should not be placed in the same classroom – if it can be avoided.

If you do decide to talk to the building principal about next year’s teacher, make an appointment to meet with the principal in the school office and take a written list of concerns and/or recommendations with you. If possible, concentrate on the type of teacher your child needs, rather than on one individual whom you do or do not want. And one more thing - leave your Big Stick at home. You’ll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar.