Does your school take student requests for particular teachers?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by TrademarkTer, Jun 9, 2018.

  1. TrademarkTer

    TrademarkTer Groupie

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    Jun 9, 2018

    So I teach mostly juniors this year. They found out that I am teaching a few sections of seniors next year. Natrually I had a handful of kids tell me "I'm requesting you next year!" or even "I'm going to demand that my guidance counselor put me in your class again next year!"

    While it is very flattering (and I would rather teach kids who request me than kids who don't want me), I don't know how many of them will actually follow through and ask to be put in my class (I'm guessing not many). If they do ask, our guidance counselors usually say they can't honor such requests (unless there are extenuating circumstances, and those circumstances are usually to NOT be placed with a particular teacher, rather than to be placed with one). While this is the official stance, I do think that a lot of kids (or more particularly, parents) who request a teacher are "coincidentally" placed in that teacher's class.

    How does your school handle such requests?
     
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  3. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    I have never worked in a district which allows students to request teachers. The closest thing to that is students requesting an elective of a favorite teacher.
     
  4. cocobean

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    I teach elementary so it’s a bit different. Parents can put in a written request for a teacher (or request their child NOT to be put in a certain class). Our principal takes it into consideration but has to make sure classes are balanced ie, boy to girl ratio, class size, number of IEPs, etc. She also speaks to the teachers about it!
     
  5. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    I think they do to an extent. It's discouraged but not forbidden.
     
  6. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    My previous admin used to honor parent requests. Her reasoning was that parents who requested tended to be on the "high maintenance" end and when that same parent came back to complain about something the teacher did, she could say, "Remember, you asked for Ms. __________" rather than having the parent complain even further about how there would be no problems if their child had just been put in the class they'd asked for. We didn't get a ton of requests, so it wasn't really an issue with creating balanced classes.

    My current admin doesn't honor requests and says that she wants parents to know that any teacher in the building is a good teacher. In previous years, we've also picked out specific teachers for some kids based on personality, and we weren't allowed to do that this year either, because P said that it led to "making assumptions about colleagues that may not be true."

    I can't imagine any school honoring student requests. I know at my high school, the classes you ended up in were entirely a product of what would fit in with the rest of your schedule/what classes you needed to take. Making one move would have a domino effect and mess up the rest of the schedule.
     
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  7. rpan

    rpan Cohort

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    I think when there is a personality clash between a particular student and a teacher and it has led to a lot of problems for both parties - student deliberately causes disruptions and doesn’t do work etc leading teacher to call the student out and this becomes a vicious cycle, the school has moved a student out of the class to another class and the problem alleviates.
    But as to simply requesting a specific teacher because a teacher is “better” than the other then I think that’s only under extenuating circumstances. Because parents talk to one another, if admin honours one request then it has to honour all requests and that’s just not feasible. Besides all teachers have different teaching styles and students need to be able to adapt.
     
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  8. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    No.
     
  9. gr3teacher

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    My school gives some consideration to parent requests, but none to student requests.
     
  10. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    At my private school, students make requests to get into my classes all the time and the principal almost always honors such requests. It doesn’t create any problems, except once my classes are full the parents are notified and they have to pick someone else to be taught by. I don’t see why this would be an issue.
     
  11. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    At my HS most classes were only taught by one teacher. If you needed Spanish 3 or AP English, there was often only one section. There were multiple teachers for generic gen ed requirements in the younger grades (i.e. something like sophomore world history), but the rest of the student's schedule pretty much determined what class the student was placed in. For example, maybe world history is offered 3rd, 4th, and 5th period, but the student is in band which is only 3rd period, and Spanish 2 which is only offered 3rd and 4th period, dictating that the student would need to be with whoever teaches Spanish 2 4th period and whoever teaches world history 5th period. If parents insist that they want the teacher who is teaching world history 4th period, it would mess up the entire schedule.
     
  12. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    This is a suitable explanation. However, what if some students want to be taught by teacher A and some students want to be taught by teacher B and they both teach the same subject mater? In this instance, it shouldn’t matter if it balances out in the end.
     
  13. 2ndTimeAround

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    Absolutely. The official answer is no, they don't. But if you know someone, have the time to sit and wait in the front office for the principal to show up, donate to the athletic program, have a kid that is a star player for a team, are a politician, can afford to be a SAHM and volunteer on a regular basis or are otherwise priviledged, your child will get the teacher that hands out high grades like candy. And if you don't get who you want right away, just call up the school, make up some crap about the offending teacher and your child will be moved immediately.
     
  14. 2ndTimeAround

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    Because it doesn't balance out in the end. Last year we had two teachers for AP World History. It was to be capped at 128 students. Each teacher had 32 students in two classes. One teacher is well-known for being challenging and getting top scores on the AP exams (which are optional here). The other teacher believes that AP students should be responsible for their own learning and runs the class as a study hall. Kids can come and go as they like, can work on any assignment from any class or play on their phones, can even leave campus early. Those kids are given one open-note test per marking period, which can be repeated until they get the score they like. Everyone knows this and the administration does nothing to address it. Of course the kids want to be in the second teacher's classroom. They get a guaranteed A in an AP course which looks awesome on their transcripts. Within the first three weeks of school the first teacher's roll had dropped from 64 students to 37. The second teacher had more kids than seats in his room but since he never had everyone show up, it was fine. One section had 41 students.

    If you work in a school where teachers teach and have similar expectations, choosing a teacher based on personality isn't as big of an issue. But when there is a big difference in expectations, it really undermines the more rigorous teacher.
     
  15. YoungTeacherGuy

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    Student requests at the elementary level? No. We do honor all parent requests, though.

    This year, we received about 20-25 written parent requests for particular teachers. We accommodated those parents.

    I totally understand why parents requested those particular teachers. If I had children, I’d want them in those classrooms, too.
     
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  16. 2ndTimeAround

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    This implies to me that the non-requested teachers are not up to par. And that administration is aware of that.

    So, first, why are you allowing sub-par teachers to work in your school? What are you doing to change the situation?

    Second, why are you allowing students with more involved parents to handpick teachers? How fair is that to the student that doesn't have a parent in the know? Or a parent that has the ability to advocate for her child? Wouldn't the children without such parents be the ones that actually NEED the better teachers?
     
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  17. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Our school (elementary) does not allow teacher name or gender to be specified in a request form. Parents may request their child not be with another particular child (i.e. if there was some significant strife between them, or if they have twins, for example), and may request certain elements in an environment, but not by name. It'd open up a can of worms...
     
  18. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    This issue was addressed in a previous post of mine. It’s first come, first served at my high school and all student requests are handled in the order they are received. This means that once all seats are filled in my classes, for example, parents and students are notified via email and no further students have the option to enroll in my classes when we do enrollment. It works well for us.
     
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  19. YoungTeacherGuy

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    Everyone at my site has tenure. The worst that can happen to a teacher who is awful is that they get placed on an improvement plan. Sometimes, it works. Most times, it doesn’t. California Teachers’ Association makes it nearly impossible to get rid of a permanent teacher.

    I never stated that ONLY involved parents can handpick teachers. Where’d you get that from?

    We usually get 20ish written parent requests. We (our district) have to let parents know in our end-of-year newlesetter that requests for particular teachers have to be made in writing. Some parents take us up on our offer, others don’t.

    You’re obviously not part of the CTA. Otherwise, you’d understand that it’s one of the most powerful unions in the state of CA.

    We can give pointers to teachers who are ineffective until we’re blue in the face. It’s up to the educator to want to change—even if we’re in their classroom providing coaching. Lots of resistance to change from those who are low caliber.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2018
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  20. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    Exactly. I don’t see why some people are so inflexible about things. People just like to make issues out of non-issues.

    I think you are doing a great job. Don’t listen to those naysayers.
     
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  21. 2ndTimeAround

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    The only parents that take you up on your offer ARE more involved parents. Parents that don't pay attention or don't care aren't going to advocate for their children. Leaving the kids of those that are indifferent or ignorant in the sub-par classrooms.

    I'd think that in your situation, where you have no power over the teachers in your school, you'd make sure that parent choice was definitely not allowed. This is a perfect example of why/how achievement gaps continue to grow.
     
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  22. YoungTeacherGuy

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    There are ineffective teachers in every school in every district.

    Parent requests will continue to be honored as they are a district-mandated option.
     
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  23. MsMar

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    At my children's high school, parent or student requests for teachers are officially not considered. No idea if they are unofficially considered. I do know once a schedule is in place that they won't change you from one section to another to get a different teacher.

    At the middle school I teach at I know they'll consider parent requests. However, when setting up which team a student will be on the main consideration is keeping students apart who had issues with each other in elementary school.
     
  24. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    My school accepts parent input on the qualities they would like in a teacher, as well as peers that they do/do not want their child placed with. Requesting a teacher by name is not allowed, but it doesn't always stop a parent from writing a name on a form. We generally, but don't always, honor their requests. Students get no say at all. It's an elementary school.
     
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  25. Bibliophile

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    SOOOOoooooooooo, yeah, California teacher here and this is absolutely not true.

    Perhaps it is true where you are, but that would mean that you have a strong local union. Or perhaps there are other factors at play. CTA is not power house that is insumountable with the power that makes admin every where cringe and hide in fear. In Ca I have I have watched good, tenured teachers get fired just because admin didnt like them. I have watched crazy parents push for dismissal of teachers in instances that were unfounded and it worked. Permanent teachers most assuredly can be fired in California.

    If admin is aware of poor teaching then they are more than able to do something about with documentation and the proper channels. Parent requests shouldn't be necessary to keep students away from bad teachers as all teachers at a site should be more than capable of teaching and working well with all students. Period. Honoring parent requests just sends messages of inequality and creates a poor school climate among professionals.

    I say this as a teacher who got a lot of requests. I actually shook a moms hand last week as she introduced herself to me and said how much her child wants to be in my class. It was very sweet, but I've seen my class list and she isn't on it. The teacher she has is a fine teacher and she will do just as well in the other class.

    At my sons school you couldn't request a specific teacher but you could write a letter describing what would be a "good fit" for your student and why you think so. Well I wrote my little letter and I didnt get the person I wanted. The teacher that he got instead ended up being the best teacher he ever had. They developed an awesome connection and he used his recess to help in her class for the next 2 year. He made awesome gains. Its awful to think that he could have missed out on that if the school had gone with who I thought was a better teacher for him and gone with my request.

    I also had the reverse. I got exactly who we wanted and who I had described in my letter...worst year ever. My kid learned nothing, fell behind academically, went from proficient to below level in 2 content areas, and picked up some bad behaviors that year which the next teacher had to work hard to break. That teacher left the district at the end of that year.

    Parents dont know enough about what goes on in each room to know what they are talking about. 9/10 just request teachers who are good at the dog and pony show or who have really fun projects. I am pretty sure 2 of my PBL's are behind all of my parent requests. My class is much more than those 2 PBL's and the other teachers are so much more than the fact that they dont do those 2 projects. Just say NO to parent requests!
     
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  26. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    I agree... It kind of falls into the "what does it hurt?" category to me.

    There's no formal system for requesting teachers, and I'd imagine parents are told they can't request teachers, but as the saying goes the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

    I get how it could seem like the other teachers are sub par, but I don't view it that way. Many times requests come from families who had older siblings in a class and want the same teacher for the younger siblings. I think it is nice to have those built in family relationships.
     
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  27. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    That’s great that that worked out for him, but his experience does not speak to the general population of students in high school or below.

    Like I said before, it only becomes an issue because you make it one. If more people were accommodating and less rigid, then we would have more positive student outcomes. The current system obviously is not working if so many students are underperforming and I imagine that it has to do with, in part, their dissatisfaction with some of their teachers.

    This comment is not directed at you, but I don’t blame some students for wanting to be taught by certain teachers in certain classes. Take my classes, for instance. I’m a highly effective teacher (according to parents, students, and my teacher evaluations) because I’m not only knowledgeable and professional, but I’m approachable, constantly smiling, cracking jokes, positive of my students and encouraging of them even when they’re difficult to deal with at times. I’ve had students who came from public schools that their teachers seemed to brush them off, make snide comments toward them, drone on and on during lecture, and possess virtually zero personality. Plus, and here Is the big one, they act stereotypically old and grumpy all the time. I’ve had students who generally didn’t want to come to school get excited each day in my classes and turn their acts around because I made learning fun and engaging while interacting with them socially.

    Certain teachers — I’m speaking broadly here — need to be more lively and upbeat. Try listening to what your students have to say and actually addressing their concerns instead of being overtly dismissive. Secondly, teachers need to do more self-reflection and examine why students typically don’t want to be around certain individuals. There might be a reason for that. (You can still be strict and manage your classroom and yet still be inviting and humorous.)

    With that said, I once was asked by a colleague of mine how to get students to open up more to them and to not shy away from them. I promptly said, “Try listening to your students and not condescending them all the time for starters. I’ve seen you interact with students in the hall and you are habitually sarcastic to them. Why?”

    They were taken aback and saddened that I answered their question crudely, but my sincerity got them to self-improve and be more cordial with their pupils. Thereafter, students started liking them more, and miraculously, students started requesting to be put in their class more. They still taught the same way, but they weren’t so confrontational.

    It’s not always about the teacher being more or less effective in the classroom. If I was still a student and had to take a class with a grouchy and boring person, I would request to be put elsewhere at the soonest opportunity.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2018
  28. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    You just gave an example of such a teacher at your own site. What are you doing to change the situation?

    Parents absolutely should be able to request their students' teachers. That's the only way most districts will ever do anything about the bad ones. They respond when parents talk. If someone is getting all or none of the requests they may actually try to find out why.
     
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  29. 2ndTimeAround

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    Other that assisting with PD and giving advice when asked, there is nothing I can do. I'm not an administrator.

    It does not take a popularity contest for administrators to see that something is amiss. They know before parent requests come through. They just choose to ignore situations most of the time.

    And please do not assume that parents request the better teachers. Parents know even less about what is happening in the classroom than administrators do. They hear gossip and act accordingly. At the high school level parents often request teachers that have the reputation of giving higher grades.
     
  30. otterpop

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    I agree.

    Parent requests do not always indicate the best teachers. It could indicate the teachers who give easy A's, the ones who assign less homework, or the ones who are the nicest (which is a good quality, but does not equal superior teaching skills).
     
  31. Ms.Holyoke

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    I'm surprised that some schools take parent requests. It seems like it would give kids with the most involved parents a leg up.
     
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  32. Aces

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    Same here. Students can't request to be in my classes, per se, but they can request a specific class I'm teaching. So for instance there's only two teachers that teach a senior physics class, so you've got a 50/50 chance. Although I think the counselors at least take it into consideration a little bit. For instance me and the other physics teacher are COMPLETELY polar opposites of each other. He uses his text book to preach from, I use it for test questions and something to press leaves with... So students will sometimes request him over me and vice versa but how much of it is actually honored I have no idea.
     
  33. 2ndTimeAround

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    exactly. The same students that are less likely to need the better teachers.
     
  34. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Should there be that much discrepancy between teachers such that there is markedly better teachers than others?

    I understand that every now and then there will be an exceptional teacher because in every aspect of life there is an exception, but if often there is a distinctively better teacher, there is a problem.
     
  35. Aces

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    Some of it isn't exactly the teacher but rather how the student learns and the teachers style. Take me and the other teacher that does physics at my school. We're teaching the same material from the same book but in different ways. Some students struggle in his class come over to mine and they're golden. Some struggle in my class, go over to his and they're golden. So if you consider that, from a students perspective there's always going to be teachers that seem better because the material clicked for the student with that teacher.
     
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  36. 2ndTimeAround

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    I agree. I think that all teachers should be competent and efficient. But the reality is that not all teachers are great. Or even good. Some teachers are better at some subjects than others.

    Let's say that Jefferson High has a good AP Psychology teacher. She's a member of the social studies department. This year she must teach freshman World History. She's not a historian. She knows very little about the subject. She's used to teaching juniors and seniors. She may be a good AP Psych teacher, but she's a poor World History teacher. She doesn't have the content knowledge and her classroom management style doesn't work with 14 year olds.

    Moms in the know could request the other World History teacher. Leaving the students with fewer supports with the teacher that is floundering throughout the year.
     
  37. otterpop

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    Maybe there's a difference between elementary and high school here too.

    Wanting the easy advanced chem teacher is different to me than wanting Mrs. Smith for third grade because the older sibling had her a year ago. I see a problem with the former but not the latter. So I guess, if I were the one making the call, I'd want to know why a particular student (or their parent) wanted a particular teacher.
     
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  38. TnKinder

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    I think for elementary, request are are made based on the temperament or perceived temperament of the teacher. I requested for my son’s in third grade based on the working relationship I had with the teacher when she taught K. She had good ideas, was very organized, had good classroom management and she was patient. I thought she would be great for my son who struggled with confidence. It turned out to be a rough year for him. She was a great K teacher but not so much in third grade teacher.
    I get requested a lot, but like the pp said, it’s because I taught the sibling.
     
  39. otterpop

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    Not saying at all that this is the case with your child, but I've also seen parents request teachers and be disappointed for the reasons for described in your post.

    I've heard parents say when requesting a teacher, "My child has really struggled in the past few years because he has had bad luck with teachers, and I've heard Ms. Smith is great. I really want my child to have her."

    Sometimes, though, the child continues to struggle with Ms. Smith, and the parent has a hard time recognizing that Ms. Smith is not necessarily a miracle worker or that the child may actually have some behavior or learning challenges.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2018
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  40. TnKinder

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    I’ve had that experience personally. This last year I had a repeater who’s mom requested me. She thought she had made a mistake with her first choice. The problem was that she expected her student to be perfect in all areas academic and behaviors. When I told her that same thing the first teacher told her, her child struggled severely. She was disappointed and told me so. She refused testing.
    With my son I made a decision based on a working relationship. I should have had a conversation with her beforehand and I would have found out that she hated having teacher’s kids. She told me on the last day of school.
     
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  41. futuremathsprof

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    Just because a student is socioeconomically disadvantaged it does not mean that they are more deserving of the better teacher. ALL students, regardless of wealth, should have access to the best resources available.

    Are you saying that because someone is not poor that they should get the crappier teacher?
     

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