Picking the perfect teacher

This week's article is one of those highly conflict-ridden issues that seem to afflict schools. Anytime there are multiple classes per grade level or subject area, teacher reputations spread throughout the community and parents (as well as students) begin to express a preference for one teacher or another. These requests might be submitted in writing to the principal, or shared casually. But either way, schools have a big decision to make: should they honour or deny parental requests for specific teachers?

The debate can be endless and each has its own reasons to believe they have the right to pick what they think is best.

Let's have a closer look at how schools assign students to teachers. Scheduling hundreds of students is a coordination challenge, to say the least, and tackling parent requests can be overwhelming for principals. Many people don't realize the numerous factors that are considered when creating class assignments before the beginning of the academic year.

There needs to be a semi-equal distribution of students by gender, achievement levels, and behavioural concerns (and balancing all three of these factors simultaneously should not be underestimated.) Special considerations must then be made for the placement of English language learners and students with special needs. Often student-teacher personality conflicts are considered, as well as interpersonal conflicts between students who need to be separated from their peers. The ideal is to have a mix of strengths, abilities and personalities that create a classroom where students can learn from each other whilst also being in tune with the teacher's teaching style. Many parents may believe that their child has been randomly placed through a baseless system; however that is not the case. It is only when a near-perfect balance has been achieved, that the admissions office announces that a student is transferring in or out of the school, and more changes have to be made accordingly. When one child is removed, or added, the equilibrium can be thrown off. I, myself have been involved in the process of student class assignments throughout various years, and it can take hours for just a single grade level to be allocated appropriately. Thereafter, When dozens of parent requests are added to this task, it becomes almost impossible to maintain the system.

This important issue is paramount primarily during the beginning of a school year where parents must understand and accept that they may not have a choice. If all parental requests are honoured, the effect on the school can be chaotic. Parents may not make the best choices for their children, as they are unaware of the expertise and potential that teachers may have and the positive effect they may have on their children. Unfortunately, time and again parent requests are based on criteria that is usually morally questionable, or irrelevant to their child's development. Not every parent is an education expert, and they may choose based on irrelevant criteria. For instance, parents must understand that all students with educationally supportive parents cannot be placed in one class, particularly at a primary level as it will create a disproportionate teaching and learning environment. This is just one amongst various different criteria that is developed when allocating student classes.

As an educator, a prior teacher, and a parent myself; I do understand the matter and have considered it from different viewpoints. Having said this, I strongly believe in the efficiency of learning when students are allocated according to the standard criteria set by the schools that we, as parents have handpicked for our children. It is essential to understand that children need to be exposed to a variety of different situations and environments to ensure that they are positively and globally developed throughout their school years. Indeed, every parent has a right to question and raise concerns if and when a dire situation arises, however selecting the teacher and class for your child will only make them less adaptable to change and will in turn stagger many social development traits that they may have.