Choosing a teacher who challenges your child and works with your kid’s personality is not just important for a successful school year. According to Kati Haycock of the Education Trust (quoted in Newsweek) "The research shows that kids who have two, three, four strong teachers in a row will eventually excel, no matter what their background, while kids who have even two weak teachers in a row will never recover." Haycock is coauthor of the 2006 study "Teaching Inequality: How Poor and Minority Students Are Shortchanged on Teacher Quality."
Finding the right teacher for your child may take some work, but it is well worth the effort. Here are some steps to get you started:
Make a list of what I think is important in a teacher.
Regardless of your child’s age, you will likely have certain qualities (kind, strict, funny, organized, etc.) you feel are important when choosing a teacher. Write down anything that comes to mind – even if it seems trivial. You may not find a teacher with every quality, but the list will come in handy when comparing different teachers.
Tip: Ask for your child’s input when compiling your list. You may not necessarily agree with everything he or she wants to add, but it helps to hear what your kid thinks is important.
Make a list of my child's characteristics, including good and bad qualities.
Every kid is different, so it's important to be honest about where your child excels and where he or she struggles. If your child is very unorganized, write it down - the "fun" but unorganized teacher who all the kids love may not be the best choice for your kid.
Talk to other parents and kids who have experience with the teachers I am considering.
There's no better way to find out about different teachers than to talk to others who have been in the classroom. Ask them what they liked and disliked about the teacher. Find out what the teaching style - lecture, group work, hands-on projects -- is like in the classroom.
Volunteer in my child's classroom and in the school whenever possible.
The benefits of volunteering are numerous, but volunteering is especially helpful when it comes to requesting teachers. You can see firsthand which teachers you like or dislike, and which classroom would be a good fit for your child. In addition, by volunteering, the principal, counselors, and teachers know who you are and may be more likely to listen to your requests.
Meet with my child's current teacher to discuss teachers for the following school year.
Your child’s current teacher should have a good understanding of your kid’s personality, and he or she should also be familiar with the teachers for the following grade. Ask the teacher to be honest with you about the best fit for your child.
Tip: A great time to talk to the teacher is at the last parent-teacher conference of the year (usually in the spring).
Request the teacher I have chosen.
Elementary or middle school
Write a letter to the principal and copy the counselor. Be sure to include the following information in your letter:
Your child’s name and grade for the following year.
A brief summary of your child’s personality and strengths and weaknesses.
The name of the teacher you are requesting, plus a second choice.
Specific positive experiences you have had with the teacher you are requesting.
Note: If you have any personal negative experiences with a teacher and you do not want your child to be in a particular teacher’s classroom, briefly explain your reasons for requesting a specific teacher. Be sure to include your contact information, including home and cell numbers.
Warning: If you are requesting a specific teacher based on others’ personal experiences, do not include that information in your letter. Principals and counselors will not typically grant a request based on things you might have “seen” or “heard” from other people.
Tip: Keep in contact through email with the school principal or counselor during the summer. Teacher positions can change throughout the summer, which means the teacher you requested at the end of the school year may no longer be teaching the grade your child is entering in the fall. Ask to be kept informed of any teacher changes as they occur.
High school teacher:
Set up a meeting with my child’s counselor before the end of the school year. High schools typically have the students’ schedules set before summer, so it’s best to try to rearrange teachers and schedules before the end of the school year. Past experiences – good and bad – should be discussed at this meeting to help place your child with the most effective teacher.
Keep in contact through email with my child’s counselor during the summer. High school teachers and classes can get shuffled throughout the summer, which means the teacher you requested at the end of the school year may no longer be teaching the same classes your child signed up for in the spring. Ask to be kept informed of any changes as they occur.
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