The dog days of summer are slowly fading into fall, and that means parents and students are beginning to make the transition back to school.
As someone who has spent her entire career in education, I often get the question from parents about what to do when their child does not get paired with the teacher of their choice.
For a parent this turn of events can be somewhat frightening or even frustrating.
As parents, we cannot manage or control all aspects of our children’s lives. Even if we could, it would not be good for our children to have all their challenges solved by us. So when a classroom assignment is perhaps disappointing—thinking differently about the school year can help your child grow in new directions.
Here are my top five pieces of advice:
1. THE PROCESS IS DIFFERENT EVERYWHERE
Schools vary in how they make classroom placements. The schools I have been involved with gave careful attention to many factors in making student assignments to classrooms.
Under the best circumstances, fostering student growth and learning is at the heart of the process.
One of the frustrating aspects of the process for parents can be not knowing or understanding the process. Ask the school administrator or teacher about how decisions are made at your school. Keep in mind that academic information about other students is confidential—which is a good thing.
2. THINK ABOUT YOUR CHILD’S NEEDS WHEN MAKING TEACHER REQUESTS
It is frequently just not possible for the administration to place every student with the teacher whom parents have specifically requested.
Requests are made for a wide variety of reasons. In the requests that may carry more weight, parents describe their child(ren) as learners—especially aspects of the child’s learning that might not be visible at school —so that the people making classroom assignments have additional good information.
In my experience, factual description is more effective than emotional appeals. For example, if your child has difficulty remembering to hand in assignments, a classroom that includes highly structured routines with teacher checks might be a good idea.
3. STAY CALM, DON’T FREAK OUT
The last thing parents should do is make impulsive angry phone calls or storm into the school and demand answers as to why their child was not placed in a particular classroom.
Take a deep breath and consider whether your request was addressing your child’s needs or your own.
Good teachers can look very different from each other. The most frequently requested teacher might not be the best teacher for your child.
As parents, we have a responsibility to prepare our children to solve problems. Find a different angle on the school year.
4. BE POSITIVE, ESPECIALLY AROUND YOUR CHILD
Think about how you can support your child’s growth in school this year. Be positive and confident about the beginning of the school year. This really is an important step.
If you have concerns or questions, consider a two-pronged approach.
With your child, find something about the school year to be positive about and focus on that. Avoid sharing your concerns or insecurity about school with your child. At times, you might have to “fake it.”
At the same time, discuss your concerns privately with the teacher, if appropriate, and/or with the principal. You will be giving your child, two gifts: a confident start to the school year and a model for adult problem solving.
5. COMMUNICATION IS KEY AND RELATIONSHIPS COUNT
Working well with your child’s teachers and the school administrators will help support your child.
If there are problems, talk directly and calmly to the teacher about your concerns. Avoid flaming or lashing out. Look for ways to talk to the teacher or principal before a problem arises. That way, if there is a problem, you will find it easier to bring up the issue and talk about it.
Mary Kay Delaney is a professor and chairperson of the department of education at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C.