Class assignments should go like this: a child is matched to a teacher based on the likelihood that they’ll be a great fit. If there have been bullying incidences, these should be addressed. Any special needs, an IEP, done. A fair mix of ethnicity and ability. Check, check. Done and done.
YOUR GRANDMA & MY GRANDMA, SITTIN’ BY THE FIRE
In some schools, you’ve got the bloodline to consider. If an older sibling had a particular teacher, your younger child may be grandfathered in with that same teacher, unless a parent De-requests a teacher their older child had, in writing, by submitting say, “I have experienced this teacher and don’t think s/he will be a good match for my child.” Mind you, just because a student’s older sibling had a spectacular year with a favored teacher, it doesn’t guarantee that the student will be placed with that teacher. Because, logic would dictate, if enough parents play the “Say My Name” Card (see below), there won’t be room for the grandfathered siblings. Also, the older sibling, for example, might have been a handful-and-a-half, and needed to be placed with an orderly teacher who could keep tabs on her, whereas the younger sibling is an agreeable, easy child, but overly self-regimented and afraid to color outside the lines, someone who would benefit more from a teacher who believes that a little bit of chaos breeds extraordinary creativity. Without an older sibling in the mix, though, you’re left without any say in the matter whatsoever. Or are you?
SAY MY NAME, SAY MY NAME
Schools advise that you not request teachers by name to your existing teacher, nay to any teacher, nor to anyone. No names. Instead, they recommend that you submit any comments about which your child’s existing teachers may not be aware, in writing, by a specific date, to the principal. I happen to have two friends who are principals, and I was told that parents ignore this, full stop. They say whatever they feel like saying. They request teachers by name, cherry pick which friends they’d like to see in their child’s class, you name it. They mention it to the teacher at the end of the school year and to the principal. But, alas, there are last minute changes sometimes, and a teacher thought to have been teaching solo becomes the co-taught teacher. And then, what good was that name request when your other “request” was that your child NOT be placed in the co-taught environment? Still, I’ve heard many argue, you might as well, just say the names anyway. The worst that can happen is they tell you not to. At least you were heard.
A LID FOR EVERY POT
As much of a name dropper as I am–oh, and I am–I’ve never requested a teacher by name (I’ve wanted to, but I wouldn’t because they ask you not to, and we’ve respected that). Instead, as specifically and succinctly as we could manage, we described what our children needed based on their personalities. Their existing teachers agreed wholeheartedly. Both lefties, our children are day dreamers, easily absorbed in the world of stories. Kind Sir, a child without a jealous or mean bone in his body, favors imaginative play above all else (creating stories in a pretend world using objects from around the house, playing rocket ship on a playground). He’s bright and loving, genuinely happy, very comfortable in his own skin.
Little Miss is unquestionably creative, sees the negative space in objects, is always described as an out-of-the-box thinker, and she’s a pisser—In Preschool, she chose to dress up like Haman instead of Queen Esther for Purim because “All the girls are going to be queens, and how boring is that?” But man, oh, Manischewitz, is my girl sneaky. Not mean vindictive sneaky, but, oh, I spilled some stuff. Hmm. Instead of cleaning it. I’ll just kick it under the counter and hope no one notices. La di dah.
If a tree fell in the woods, and no one heard it, it’s because Abigail is the one who cut it down. She needs a teacher to not only tell her not to cut that shite down, but to stop her from kicking it down the hill and burying it, or at the very least, to show her why it’s wrong, then to get her to research her options, and guide her toward recycling. Of course, so much of this happens at home! AT HOME. AT HOME. AT HOME. And man, do we work on correcting, on guiding, on boundaries, on consequences. But pairing that girl with a lenient teacher is a disaster of a pairing. Little Miss will test boundaries and needs someone FIRM who will “STAND AND DELIVER” her ass. Someone who will EXPECT MORE from her. Who will damn well expect her to read the entire passage, yes now. No, there is no bargaining. This girl will try to negotiate and bargain her way through anything she finds challenging. She needs someone who won’t bargain.
There’s no easy way out of this. She pulls all the excuses out of the book when she knows she can. At home, we don’t tolerate it, but we have seen her get away with unfinished, sloppy work when she’s not pushed at school. This year, she needs a teacher who won’t give in. Someone who will expect greatness and make her do it again. When no one keeps an eye on her, at least at first, she just won’t do it. Instead, she pretends to do the work, does a half-assed job, just enough to get by, but not her best, not what she’s truly capable of, just to see if she’ll be called out on it. If the teacher is tired, Abby gets away with it. If the teacher asks her to correct it, Abigail pulls out the theatrics. Do it again? “But I’m so tired, I couldn’t possibly. Truly. I’m in the depths of despair.” Yes, these are her exact words. She needs someone who will inspire her to take pride in her work. Ideally, it’s someone magically creative who can connect with her, a kindred spirit who impresses Abigail, forcing Abigail to seek the teacher’s praise (I said ideal here, as in “Practical Magic, flips pancakes in the air, two different colored eyes,” not that I would ever submit this to a school as some unrealistic parent wishlist)! Sadly, when Abigail believes she has the upper hand, she stops working for it and gets lazy.
I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR LOVE, BUT I WON’T DO THAT
What happens when you adore the teacher but can’t stand the kids your child is paired with? Great, you’ve got the very best of the best, the “it” teacher, the “have to have” teacher everyone wants, but you’re also paired up with drama-inducing kids, the kids who make your child not want to go to school. The kids who make your child upset every day? The kids where there’s always a story. One could argue that if the teacher’s that good, s/he won’t stand for it, and s/he’ll cut it all out, quick. But you can only control so much AND teach AND inspire. Would you rather have the lenient, pushover teacher who likely won’t inspire your child academically (but who won’t let him fall behind) with the sweet, kind, wonderful classroom full of peers–Or the brilliant teacher with the handful of shit-stirring kids?
POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME
It seems like a damn near impossible job, and I truly feel for principals everywhere, especially this time of year. If I were a principal about to celebrate Labor Day Weekend (just after class assignments are sent out but before classes officially begin) I’d likely head with close friends and family to a remote cabin complete with wifi access and a wall-mounted flat-screen. As the scathing emails came in, the drinking game would begin. The word “unacceptable” would be an “All In” drink word, forcing everyone in the room to do a shot.
WALK AWAY FROM THE DEVICE
And now it’s time to step away from the device. Because this is second grade. You psycho. You nut farm. When you look back upon your own second grade, actually your entire elementary school existence, what mattered most?
That you didn’t fall too far behind.
That a learning disability, if one existed, was discovered (I had one, and SHOCKING, it wasn’t discovered, and I survived).
That you weren’t tormented by any bullies or frenemies who ruined your confidence.That you developed and continued a love of learning.
To know how to keep organized, and to learn how to learn, how to go about attacking problems, and methods to use when one strategy doesn’t work.
That girls shouldn’t feel intimidated to speak up in their classes, that they should be called on just as much as the boys, especially in math.
It wasn’t until middle school when I really needed to learn how to study. So, whatever happens, whomever they’re assigned to as their teachers, I will try to remind myself of this. I will try very hard. Just as I was taught to do in school… to try my very best.
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