I wrote this a few weeks ago, trying to decide whether I had any requests to make regarding teacher choice and friend-mix for my boys in the 2013-14 school year. Possibly for the first time ever, I did not make any requests… and of course, it is gnawing at me a little.
Every spring, parents begin to worry about their child’s class placement in the fall. Which teacher will he get? Will she be with her friends? And…
…Should I make a request?
My boys’ teachers have made good decisions for them. But there is always this nagging feeling that if I don’t make a request regarding on placement, they will have a disastrous next year in school.
What if his creativity is squashed by the teacher’s discipline? What if he flounders because the classroom is too loose? What if the mean kid decides to pick on mine, because everyone else has requested that their kid be in a different class? What if they separate him from his friends? What if he gets the easier teacher and is not prepared for the year that follows?
What if he hates school because I failed to make the request?
With my oldest, who is very reserved, I want to lobby for kids in his class who make him feel comfortable and safe enough to join in. I want the teacher most likely to adore him. Even though I assume his current teacher will look out for him in this regard, I cannot stop myself from reminding her how important that was to his success this year.
With my middle child, his friends are everything. If he has boys he likes, and a few who he enjoys competing with academically, he will shine. And while he has never been demonstrative toward his teachers, he needs a teacher who thinks he’s a great kid. But he can shut down if not inspired. I worry for him next year, as I will every year.
Who knows what I will want to say to the future teachers of my youngest son. But I know I will want to say something about class placement. Like the parents of all of their classmates, I hope their teachers think carefully and care deeply for my kid before setting next year’s classes in stone.
Some parents say they never make requests. Their children have to learn to deal with diverse personalities and with adversity. “Why not start with their teachers?”
Some parents say they are saving their request for that year when they really need it, so that the school takes them seriously.
And others make a request every year. “It can’t hurt to ask.”
Since I want the best for my boys, and am constantly struggling with whether to tell their teachers my opinion, I have created some guidelines for myself:
• If you have a gut feeling about a teacher, do your research. Talk to parents whose kids have been in that class. If their feedback confirms your gut, let the current teacher know what you are excited or concerned about.
• As long as you don’t make unreasonable demands, your request or concern will be treated with respect, even if it cannot be addressed. So it cannot hurt to ask.
• If the mix of kids is what’s nagging at you, ask the teacher if there are students who push your child to do better or who inspire him to be at his best. Even if they don’t divulge names, that list will be in their minds when making placement decisions.
• If you are worried about the effect another child is having on yours either academically or socially, let the teacher know how you feel. Ask that, if she can’t separate them, then she inform next year’s teacher about your concerns and provide some guidance on how to navigate the issues. Again, your concerns will be in her mind at decision time.
• Unless there is a dramatic reason for making a placement demand – like bullying or you have already had bad experiences with next year’s teacher – do not do it. The teachers are trying to address the needs of more than 40 children. They have to make some tough decisions. Respect that.
• Do not feel guilty about advocating for your children… ever.
• If you have no requests to make, then feel good about it. You are not a bad parent. Maybe this year, for your child in this grade, you can’t go wrong.