How Picky Should We Be About Our Children’s Classroom Teacher…

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Several years ago I experienced something for the very first time. After 7 or 8 years of classroom teaching, I finally found myself standing outside the classroom door waiting to pick up my child and listening to the ‘other’ moms talking about ‘THE TEACHER!’

I was shocked! Perhaps I was a bit naïve. Maybe if I had thought about the parents in the hallway while I was teaching their children inside the classroom, perhaps then I would not have been shocked. But I didn’t and I was.

As I stood there, listening to the moms’ complaints about the teacher, I was struck by first how adamant they felt, but also by how unfair I thought their remarks were. You see I understood that this was a big class, 26 for a grade one French Immersion class (where students spend 80% of their school day learning in a new language, in this case, French) with seven special needs students. Three of them were later moved to classes that specialize in working with students who have severe behaviours. Two students were later held back and two were later moved to full English classes. Their more experienced classroom teacher left part way through the year due to complications with her pregnancy, and they had a first year teacher coming in to take over for the remainder of the year. While this was not what I would describe as an ideal set of circumstances, my sympathies lie with the teacher. I strongly believe that my children will experience many different teachers, who have different ideas, strengths, beliefs, values, and approaches to teaching and learning. I also believe that is the beauty of public education. I wanted a diverse experience for my kids.

While we may all want what is “best” for our kids, and it may be hard to think of a new teacher as ‘the best,’ the reality is teachers don’t get experience unless they get to have experience. While new teachers may lack in the wisdom and experience of more veteran teachers, they are often younger, have more energy, enthusiasm and time for teaching. They are still idealistic in many ways. They also model what it is like to learn and grow, because everyday the teacher will be learning and growing along with the class. It is my solemn belief that no child will be disadvantaged from having a new teacher once or twice in their academic career.

It is also my solemn belief that just because a teacher is different from what you want, or expect, or what your child was hoping for, your child can still grow, learn, and benefit from that teacher. Life is about learning to get along in a world that does not bend for you. We all have to work with people who are ‘a little different,’ who are a little less agreeable, competent, or interesting. While it is not the purpose of schools to prepare children for the adult organized world of work, it can be a side effect of education…but only if parents are willing to let their children have these learning experiences.

Perhaps instead of trying shape every environment or experience to your child, children would be better off learning to cope with different people and environments? Because, really, which serves children better in the long run?

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