Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Requesting Teachers: Necessity or No No?

Reading Lindsey's post the other day got me thinking about one of the things that I usually never do, but did anyway just last month. Before I get too far ahead of myself let me start at the beginning...

I don't believe in requesting teachers for my children. Here's why:

  • Current teachers usually make the class lists for the next year. I have a fundamental trust in teachers, in general, that they really do want what is best for my/your child.
  • Current teachers know what personalities of teachers/children will work best.
  • Current teachers know what work load your child has to look forward to the following year and which teacher will work with your child the best.
  • Each class level needs to be balanced within the classes and the current teachers are the best judges of how to balance them by district standards.
  • We all have to learn how to deal with all kinds of people throughout our lives. College professors are notorious for being very strict in their rules. If I am constantly getting the nicest/most lenient/whatever teacher, then I am really doing my child a disservice. We will all have a teacher/boss/co-worker/neighbor that we really don't get along with but have to work with anyway. Isn't childhood the best time to learn how to deal with those that we don't get along with?
Over the last few months we've had some issues with HB#2 not getting all of his work done in class. I can't just say that he doesn't understand the work, because he does. I have been working with his teacher but nothing really seems to work. I pop in unexpectedly (requested by the teacher,) and he is still daydreaming. I remind him to 'get movin', and nothing. In many ways I love my son's teacher but I'm not sure if her mild manner is 'harsh' enough for him to get over this hump. I have talked to her-and him!- about this, to no avail.

This is where this year's letter comes in.

I really need him to have a strict teacher for second grade. Not one that will be a push over for his cuteness. (He's seriously cute.) Not one that will let some of this slide. Not one that will just let him get over it in time. I need a teacher that will push him to achieve, that will help him to believe in himself a little more. {Yes, I know that most teachers, especially primary teachers, have these things built into their DNA. However, some are more effective than others, right?}

I spoke with his current teacher about his placement for next year, letting her know that I wanted him with a teacher that would be pretty hard on him. I also had a phone conversation with the principal about my wishes for the type of classroom that he should be in. I then wrote her a letter reminding her of our conversation but I also added the name of a teacher that I would like for #2 to have. She was planning on retiring and I just found out that she won't be retiring until later. I think that she would be a perfect fit for my son-she runs a really tight classroom, does not take crap from any student, pushes the kids really hard, and does it all in a pleasant way. My HB#1 had similar issues in 1st grade and the teacher that I requested for #2 was the best thing for him. He started out thinking that she didn't like him but by the end of the year was saying that she was his favorite.

If I can just get #2 through 2nd grade getting his work done then I think that it will be a success. In my experience so far, second grade is really crucial in this area because they are preparing them to take their first round of standardized tests, and if a child can't get regular work done then it cuts into test prep. (Just don't get me started on standardized tests, ok? That's a topic for another day. Or not.) If they don't get all of their work done now then they will have a harder time in 3rd grade, where things move much faster, and they will get behind even quicker than before. It just snowballs from here.

I want to stay on top of this and the best way to do it was to write the dreaded letter. We'll see what comes of it.

What are your thoughts on requesting teachers? Have you done it? Why or why not? Were you happy with the choice or did you wish that you hadn't requested anyone?

Headless Mom


Karen said...

I have not asked for a specific teacher, but I have asked that the teacher my child is given have certain skills and personality traits.

365steph said...

From a mother of a teenager...we've found that BabyAm does not learn anytype of Math/Calc etc. froma woman very well. Now, it could be the way these women teach, however we have just decided that she does better with a man. She started out this year with a woman...struggled, then at the semester her schedule changed to have a man...presto...she did soooo much better!

I think sometimes a parent knows best, maybe this option of "requesting" a teacher may not be for everyone, but I certainly would have liked to know that was an option earlier on. Sadly, I don't think it ever occured to me.

kyooty said...

this is so true!!! I can totally see that this is exactly what's needed. I wish that my AJ had had the same grade 2 teacher as TJ. I've written teachers that I'm a strict mom, I don't want lax, lax doesn't work. kids need to know what's expected and that it's expected because they Can get it! I totally understand what your saying right down to the daydreaming.

meandmom said...

We aren't allowed to request teachers in our school...thank goodness....and I totally agree that the vast majority of the time, teachers do their best for our kids.

We are allowed to request placement that might avoid another student...if they are twins, if there have been (documentable) behavior issues, etc. But that is different.

Have you set up an incentive system? As the daughter of a school teacher myself...I've been taught not to be a big fan but, as a mom, I've learned that sometimes a kid needs an external reward to feel the intrinsic one.

Good luck and just keep encouraging him!

Rocks In The Wash said...

Our school does allow teacher requests, however.. I do know that our teachers all sit down together as a team and discuss each individual student and together they decide on their placement. The teachers are really good at looking at the over all student and try to make the best placement. Not only have they worked with our children for 6+ hours a day but they also welcome the concerns of the parents and want to work with the parents on placement. They too, have a pretty good idea of the next grade level teacher's personality is and if it will mesh with our children.

I'm sure if you approached your sons teacher and mentioned your concerns, they would be more than willing to work with you. Definitely talk with the teacher. Good-luck! :)

Lydia said...

I taught school for 4 years before becoming a SAHM and our district did not allow teacher requests (for the most part, if you knew someone, you could probably get the teacher you wanted, but that's a whole 'nother issue as well). Our teachers also did not place each child from the current year with the best teacher for them in the next grade. (Don't know why, I think that route is really the best for all the reasons you mentioned.) The school counselor was mostly the one in charge of assigning students to specific teachers. The strong personalities were divided up amongst the teachers, but for the most part it was very random. Anyway, I say that to let anyone else know that not all schools allow teacher requests. I am ok with requesting teachers, if the district allows it. However, you then run into the parents who aren't thinking along the same lines as you are, but rather which teacher will go easy on little Johnny or they want the "cool" teacher. But in your situation, I think a teacher request is totally appropriate and hopefully will be heeded by the principal/whomever makes those decisions. I will say from my experience teaching, the strict teachers are ultimately the best, even if there can be rough moments throughout the year. Good luck!

Headless Mom said...

Thank you all so much for your input so far. Let's keep up the conversation!

I'd like to clarify a couple of things. Our school does not 'technically' allow requests and says that they don't always honor the ones that they receive. In my experience (which would be hearing of others' requests,) they seem to always be honored. They also "only take letters with more than one teacher named," which I didn't do.

I also did not request for HB#1-he will be in 4th grade and he really wants the only male teacher in the whole school. I think that it would be great for him but I also don't know if their personalities would work well so I left that one up to chance.

Busy Mom said...

Wow, I could have written what your wrote about HB#2, myself.

Have never requested a teacher, they know what he needs. We'll see how it goes for 2nd grade.

Ruralmama said...

Wow. After reading all of this, I am even more thankful that we decided to homeschool our kids. You all obviously want only the best for your kids, but getting that seems to be a key problem. Requesting a specific teacher? Teachers and school counselors divvying up the "strong" personalities--so that what? Each classroom can be as uniform as possible? Weird. Obviously school has changed much in the 15 years I've been out in the real world. I just can't even imagine being in the position that you are in and I wish you the best of luck!
BTW, I'm really, literally bewildered by all of this, I'm not intending to come off as snooty. It's just much stranger than I even imagined!