I've always viewed parents who request specific grade-school teachers for their children as kind of a helicopter parent — especially if their children, like mine, are lucky enough to attend an excellent school that's full of teachers that make it that way. My second grader has had three teachers with three different styles and personalities (some strict, some sweet), and I was thrilled about that fact because such is life. To me, learning to work with and learn from different types of people is just as an important as learning how to add double digits.
However, my son, who will enter kindergarten this Fall, has made me realize that my previous no-requesting policy was a privileged one. My first child is an excellent student, so I never worried about what teacher she'd get because I knew she'd do well regardless of whom she was assigned to. My second is a whole different story. My son needs a special kind of teacher, one who is patient, experienced, and compassionate, and because my daughter's kindergarten teacher was all of those things, I'm not just hoping he'll also be assigned to her classroom — I'm specifically requesting that it happens.
Since I've never requested a teacher before, I did my due diligence about how to best go about it, asking friends who've had kids in the school system longer than I have about their experiences in asking for a teacher. I also went directly to our school's principal to ask about when and how to ask for a specific teacher for my child. Here are the five tips I gathered about the best path to teacher-requesting success.
- Make a formal request to the school. Most schools will require that you make a formal request, in writing or through email, directly to your school administrators. Address your letter directly to the principal, who will most likely have the most pull and the final say on which class your child is placed in.
- Make your request before the end of the current school year. Your school is most likely starting the class placement process for the following school year in the Spring of the current one, so now's the time to shoot off an email or write a letter. Some schools, including mine, have a cutoff date for making such requests (ours is in mid-April), so be sure to ask if such a deadline exists and be sure to make it.
- Focus your request on your child's individual needs, not just a specific teacher. Just saying "I like Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So best" is not a great strategy. Instead, talk about your child's individual academic, social, emotional, or health needs, and if you have experience with a specific teacher you know can best meet those needs, definitely mention that teacher's name as your preferred choice.
- Don't be swayed by teacher gossip. Some teachers get a bad rap because they beat to a slightly different drum than their peers. Don't take hearsay and gossip as fact. That super-strict or super-silly teacher might not have been a great fit for your friend's kid, but she could be for yours.
- Trust that your school might know more than you do. Schools determine classrooms taking into account many factors, including each child's learning style and abilities and academic, emotional, and medical needs. Creating classrooms that are balanced in terms of size and gender and free of personality conflicts are also key ingredients. If you don't get your request fulfilled, trust that your school has a good reason for ignoring it, and focus instead on getting your child excited for the classroom they'll actually be in, not the one you wanted for them.