My kid got a 'bad teacher'!

Take a deep breath, identify your concerns and address them.


The anxious wait begins for the letter revealing your child’s teacher for the upcoming school year. Maybe you are hoping it’s not that teacher who your neighbor said was mean and makes students cry. If you are concerned about your child’s placement, consider these tips.

Take a deep breath. Before reacting, try to understand why your child was placed into that classroom. “We have, as a staff, tried to make decisions that would keep our classrooms balanced by age, sex, ethnicity, etc.,”explains E. McCrae Harrison, director of the Elementary Workshop Montessori School in Wilmington, DE.

Identify your concerns. Write down your legitimate concerns. Maybe your older child did not gel with that teacher or you want your daughter separated from her twin. “We seek to separate siblings, and sometimes other children who will be most successful if they are not in the same class,” adds Harrison.

Try an unofficial request. Carol Rooney, a Berwyn, PA mother of three, knew that she couldn’t formally ask for a specific teacher. “However, I was able to unofficially request a teacher for my son in elementary school,” she recalls. “My daughter had this teacher, who I thought was terrific and I wanted my son to also have her. It did work.” 

Address your concerns rationally. Whether your request is unofficial or you feel a sit-down with the principal is important, be respectful. Make an appointment to discuss your concerns. Speak your mind, but also listen to what the principal believes. Be careful not to let your child know how you feel. If he does end up in that class, he will need your support to succeed.

“A parent with a strong  preference for a particular teacher would be best not badmouthing the competing teachers,” advises Harrison. “A parent’s strong sense that Teacher X would be a good emotional or academic fit for the child could be mentioned.”

Avoid “whisper down the lane” stories. “I had a family who moved into our school one year and based on what they heard from others, they determined which teacher would be best for their child,” says John Cafagna,  principal of the Bret Harte Elementary School in Cherry Hill, NJ. Though initially unhappy that their child was placed with a different teacher, the family ultimately realized she was in the perfect place.

Discuss only your child. “Always make sure the conversation is focused on your child’s needs,” suggests Cafagna. “That usually has to do with extraordinary  circumstances, such as an  illness, unfortunate incident over the summer or something that I might not be privy to. Maybe there was an  interaction before between a teacher and parent who didn’t get off on the right foot and there’s no reason to force that interaction if we don’t have to.”

Give the situation a chance. If your request is denied, try to make it work. “I recall my daughter getting a teacher in elementary school that I heard nightmares about,” says Rooney. “It turns out, she was a great teacher for my daughter and all that worry was unfounded. I learned a valuable lesson that year — never listen to the rumors. Each child and teacher relationship is unique and you must form your own opinion from your own personal experiences.” 

In the future, be proactive. To avoid potential problems in future years, make your feelings known before the current school year ends. “We give the parents an opportunity to give us their input prior to making the placement,” says Cafagna, who sends parents a survey in May. Though every parent is welcome to respond, this year only about 10% did. “Over the years, parents have gotten to know me better and trust in my process,” Cafagna believes.

Terri Akman is a contributing writer to MetroKids.

Categories: Elementary Education