Well, now that National School Choice Week is behind us, maybe we can use this week to discuss a related topic; one that hasn’t come up yet on this blog: teacher choice. It’s one thing to choose a school, but once there, most parents have relatively little say in regards to who actually teaches their child.
It’s as if you and your honey spent an hour deciding on a Valentine’s Day restaurant. Then, when you get there, it’s “Welcome to Beth’s Café. You’ll have the patty melt. We hope you’ll enjoy it.”
Let me just say from the get-go that I’m ambiguous on this topic. I’m ambiguous because I'm both a parent and a teacher.
As a parent, I’m pro-choice. I know as well as anyone that some teachers are better than others, and I want my own kids to have the best teachers in whichever school they attend. There’s no question about it. In fact, I have in the past and I will in the future made phone calls, sent emails and spoken directly to school administrators in pursuit of those teachers.
On the other hand, as a teacher, I see the complications of teacher choice. For starters, most parents, including me, base their judgments about teachers on rumors and misinformation. A person hears something, probably from their kids, passes it on to others and before long a reputation is born, which may or may not be accurate.
Another complication is that teacher choice is inherently unfair. Well-connected parents (like me), parents who don’t change schools often (like me) and parents that can read English (like me) have a distinct advantage. If there’s two teachers at a particular grade level, one of which is better than the other; well-connected parents will be pushing to get their kids into that classroom. Guess who ends up in the other classroom?
Finally, there’s more to creating a class roster than satisfying parent requests. For the good of all, school officials try to balance the classes in regards to gender, IEPs, kids with behavior issues, and so on. For this reason alone, most schools, including mine, don’t allow parents to specifically request a teacher. What they do instead is allow parents to explain – in writing – the type of learning environment in which their child learns best.
But that takes us right back to where started, doesn’t it? Because parents like me, who can read and write in English and who know a little about the teachers in question can “game” these forms in order to get their child into a particular classroom.
Which, for the reasons I’ve explained, is not only unfair, it’s counterproductive to the school at large.
Like I said, I’m ambiguous.