We all want the best for our kids, but in our era of hyper-parenting things can quickly go from well meaning to well, kind of crazy. As the school year wraps up, thoughts turn to who your child’s teacher will be next year. Personally, I’ve never given the matter much thought, but I suppose if I had a child with friend, behavioural or learning issues I would. It’s a question worth asking: should you try and influence what teacher your child gets next year?
Some schools say flat out they will not tolerate any parental influence when it comes to determining class make up. Inevitably, you hear of it happening and you’re annoyed you stood on the sidelines. I have a ton of teacher friends and I always enjoy debating education issues with them. I’ve polled them about this issue and am happy to share a few points to consider before hauling into the principal’s office and making what many administrators consider to be a fuss.
How schools select classes
School propaganda spews nuggets such as: We strive to provide the best learning environment, so children can grow socially and academically. They don’t decide willy nilly who goes where, though I suspect the head teacher (or one with the longest tenure) gets first dibs. Still, schools strive for an even boy/girl balance and an equal number of students in each class. Then they’ve got to even out the abilities, making sure there’s an even proportion of learning styles and needs. Of course, there is some intentional placement and separation of students who aren’t at their best in the same environment.
When to step in
Personally I think parents who manipulate their child’s placement because they want to avoid a certain teacher do everyone a disservice. In many of these cases, they don’t know the new teacher, they’ve only heard rumours from other parents or children. Swooping in to protect their child from unforeseen issues with a potential teacher doesn’t teach kids resilience. It teaches them how to buck the system (a skill I’m not opposed to kid’s learning), but in this case, it sets them up for failure. Far better to learn how to deal with different types of people at a young age, then to be coddled and face a harsh reality when you’re older.
If your child is having friendship issues, that’s another story. Likely the teachers involved are well aware of the dynamics between children. If you want to point it out, feel free, but don’t expect the world to move. Far better is to get your child some skills in navigating friendships. GirlPower and GoodGuys offer courses, camps and one-off seminars around the world for parents and children.
Your foremost job as a parent is to ensure your child’s safety. If you feel their safety could be compromised by being in a classroom with a certain teacher or student, by all means, do what you need to do to keep your child safe. But if it’s not a safety issue, consider the impact of meddling before diving in.
How to make a change
I know more than one parent who ramped up their volunteer efforts just so they could be on the school’s good side. Surprisingly, in the cases I’m aware of, it seems to have worked. They get the teacher they want in future years and their current teacher appears more understanding when issues arise.
I try to start each school year with no expectations. I’m not the one going to school. There’s often one stand out teacher per grade, but to influence getting in that class, not only isn’t fair, it sets a dangerous precedent. What’s next? Calling up Johnny’s boss after he gets a lackluster performance review? Sadly, this really is happening in the corporate world, I suspect by those same types of parents.
I say stay out of it as much as you can. It’s not your job, it’s the school’s. It’s not your business, either. It’s your child’s business. I know, I know, you’re their advocate, but I bet if you let them, they’d rise up to the challenge.
Have you ever tried to influence what teacher your child got? Would you?