Thursday, March 1, 2012

Choosing Your Child's Teacher

This year, our elementary school has decided that parents will be more involved in their child's education by choosing their child's teacher.  I am excited about this, yet skeptical.

When I was a teacher, at the end of the school year, we put together cards for each student.  Each card contained information about how they did academically and socially and any special notes for that child.  It also contained their picture and other personal information.  All of the teachers of the grade level sat down one day after school and sorted through all our students.  Previous to this meeting, individually, we had sorted through our stack of cards and grouped the students according to ability and social skills.  When we got together, we would simply take turns grouping students into piles of no more than 20 (20 was the class size limit at that time) to piece together a possible class for the next year's teacher that wouldn't contain all students who struggled or all students who excelled, sort of a way to pre-determine the classes so they were evenly distributed.  However, there were several parents who would request certain teachers.  I had a few who came into my classroom to observe at the end of the school year and then they could make a formal request with the school to place their child in a certain class.  The school tried to honor those requests but sometimes just couldn't, based on the distribution of students in the teacher's classes.

Today, I went over to the school and asked about how they would proceed with letting parents choose.  I found out that they are not planning on having any sort of "meet the next year's teacher" night.  They don't have any biographies or anything of that sort on the school website for the teachers.   I asked about contacting the teachers to see if I could come observe in their classrooms or even just sit down with them for a brief interview before or after school.  The office staff said that was probably fine but they felt most teachers wouldn't want to do that.

So how, I ask you, am I supposed to choose the appropriate teacher for my child if I don't even know who the next year's teachers are and am not allowed to meet them or find out anything about them?  They have time slots for each grade set up during which we parents get on the website and select our child's teacher.  If we don't make it in during that time slot, they will choose the teacher for us anyway.

I wonder about how this will work out.  Will they end up with a class entirely made up of gifted students or students with special needs?  Will large groups of students who are friends ask their parents to request certain teachers and then those classes end up being a class of a bunch of friends which will make the teacher's job harder?

I applaud them for wanting to involve parents.  I was going to make a request for my next-year second grade son anyway for a certain teacher, but the other two, I really have no idea who I want them to have.  My son starting kindergarten would probably do fine with the teacher that my other son had, but I was kind of looking forward to working with a different teacher for him, depending on who the school assigned him to.  I have not met any of the fourth grade teachers for my oldest and don't even know their names or if they're male or female or how many classes they will have of fourth grade next year.  And for second grade, I really loved my oldest son's teacher and wanted to request her again for my second child, but I don't have a clue about any of the other second grade teachers at all.  For that matter, in later years, I don't know any of the other first grade teachers either because my two sons have had the same teacher.

If we aren't allowed to meet them and aren't given information about them, how are we supposed to make a good choice?

I wish I could get some other parents together to rally the school and show them how important it is that if we are left to make this decision that we have some knowledge to help us make the decision in the first place.  However, I've learned in the past that when I try to initiate such things, nobody sees them the way I do and they don't seem to care about the same things.  I wonder if any other parent at that school has even asked these questions.


Vanessa Brown said...

Yeah they way they are doing it seems like they are promoting all the parents just gossiping about all the teachers so they can try to figure out who to get. Well I am sure sometimes it isn't being "gossipy" But some of the stuff I hear parents say about teachers I wonder how in the world does that pertain to them being a good teacher or not? Not sure why the school is doing it, maybe they'll learn after doing it one year like this that it was a bad idea? Or who knows maybe it will turn out great! Now I have to go try and figure out who to request for 1st grade. I have no idea on how to go about doing that.

Vanessa Brown said...

PS I see you are going to the story home conference. Have fun! They asked me to speak...twice actually...but I am so sick with morning sickness. But a lot of my friends are speaking and they are wonderful writers. It is going to be awesome, hope you post on how it goes!!

Royalbird said...

Well, I can tell you that we've really liked Mrs. Evans. My third grader had her and my first grader is in her class now. I don't know any of the other teachers though. But I do know that I haven't heard very good things about one of them and would stay away from her class. I'll message you that privately.


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