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According to The Chicago Tribune, school administrators are asking parents to trust their children’s school when it comes to creating class lists. It’s not uncommon for parents to make phone calls, write letters, and schedule meetings in hopes of persuading administrators to place their child in a specific classroom. Some Chicago school officials, however, are discouraging parents from making such requests, emphasizing it’s not a popularity contest.

“I’m bright enough to realize parents talk at soccer fields and baseball fields, but you have to realize your experience with Teacher A may be very different from someone else’s [experience with] Teacher A,” Northbrook Junior High School principal Scott Meeks said.

Parents who try to guess which teacher is “best” often find themselves regretting their decision, Mark Friedman, Libertyville Elementary School District 7 superintendent, said.

Not all parents are buying this. After watching her son struggle with a laid-back teacher for a year, parent Tomi Hall now sees the merit in making teacher requests, even for kindergarten. “A teacher can make or break you,” she said.

Parent Denita Ricci disagrees. “I think [children] need to learn to deal with people who are different than them, just like an employer.”

5 Comments

As a parent and a teacher, I try to remember that a teacher sees my child under different circumstances than I do. I feel very sorry for parents who are unable to see their child objectively. They are so focussed on how wonderful their child is that they cannot see the whole child. I have only requested a teacher once, and that was because my older child had her as well. Otherwise, I take "pot luck." Our intermediate school (grades 3-5) sends a questionnaire asking about the child's learning style, hobbies, strongest subjects, etc.. I have to admit that I add info about my needs too. I write "mom functions better when teacher is structured." We had a laid-back teacher once, and it was harder to help my daughter organize her studies because we had so little communication.

I was a teacher for many years and had requests from parents every year. The problem is that when the school tries to satisfy all requests, the classes are no longer balanced. For example, one teacher ends up with too many discipline problems or high achievers. The teachers and principal at the school know what's best for the group as a whole so I do not request a specific teacher for my child. If you feel your child needs a certain type of teacher, write a letter explaining which qualities you feel will benefit your child. For example, let the school know that you prefer a structured teacher or a teacher who does a lot of hands on activities. Be specific and let the educators make the decision based on their knowledge and your input.

I have never requested a specific teacher for my own children, but I have for the deaf and hard-of-hearing students I teach. I generally trust the school, but I will make a suggestion if I feel it warranted. My suggestions usually come in terms of qualities: structured, nuturing, able to tolerate a lot of movement, clear communicator. I once asked to avoid a specific teacher because her perception of what a hard-of-hearing student needed made it difficult for me to function well within her room. Most times there are caring people knowledgeable enough about the student to place him/her with an appropriate teacher.

I have always requested teachers for my children, but not because of information I heard on the sports field. I am able to make an informed request based on my experience volunteering in the schools. When parents, working or not, make their children's school a priority so much is gained, and not the least of it is the information needed to make an informed decision regarding class placement. Teachers do make and break children and every child deserves the best possible enviornment.

With open enrollment being a key issue today, school systems often yield to parents who make request for a specific teacher. I see a problem with this thinking in that parents are having children moved at any time they like through out the school year because they are not happy with grades or other factors they encounter.
A effective classroom is one that encourages children to feel as if they are a part of something bigger than themselves, I feel. It's not an "each man for himself" attitude which a teacher tries to build but rather a "we are a community of learners helping each other" one. So when a child or parent moves a child from one classroom to another based on perception and not facts, other children can become confused and frightened and look to the teacher for an explanation. What can be said or done to protect their "school family" from irate or misinformed parents. This I feel speaks more to the issue of the reality of parent request for specific teachers. In the end, no teacher can defend themselves from this thinking because their is no one to who will speak for them. Im my 33 years of teaching, I have watched as the facts are less important than "pleasing a customer" at all cost.

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