Changing teachers mid-year: Experts weigh in

A good classroom fit can be a big help for kids who learn and think differently. So if your child and the teacher don’t seem to be a good match, can you change teachers mid-year?

Before considering a switch, there are things you can do to try to make the situation better. You can talk with the teacher about your concerns. You can ask to observe in the classroom to see what’s going on. And you and the teacher can work together on an action plan.

But what if those steps don’t work, and you just don’t want your child to stay in that classroom? Here, experts weigh in on changing teachers mid-year.

Is it possible to switch teachers mid-year?

Bob Cunningham, in-house advisor for Understood: It is possible, but it’s very uncommon. Even if things aren’t going well for a child (or for a whole class), schools are often reluctant to make changes.

Sometimes, they don’t want to make a change for one family because it might encourage other families to ask for changes. Other times, schools want to reinforce the message to teachers that they’re responsible for every student. No matter what the school’s reasons, though, you can still make a request to the administration to switch teachers.

Kristen Hodnett, professor in the department of special education at Hunter College: It isn’t common. But if you can make a good case for why it’s necessary, and you’re persistent, you can switch your child’s teacher.

If you’re thinking about this, though, keep in mind why schools try to avoid this situation. Principals often frown on making changes since it can call negative attention to one of their teachers. And some schools prefer to look for solutions that could improve the relationship over time.

Ginny Osewalt, former public school special education teacher: Requesting a switch because your child and his teacher aren’t a good match is an extreme step. In fact, switching teachers for any reason during the school year is extreme — and uncommon. Not every one of your child’s teachers will be a good match.

Claudia Rinaldi, chair of the education department and associate professor in education at Lasell College: It’s very hard to have your child change teachers in the middle of the year. Principals typically don’t support it.

Kristy Baxter, former head of the Churchill School in New York City: Most schools don’t make a switch unless it’s a last resort. Even then, the school might be resistant. A move could be disruptive: Your child already has friends and knows the class routines, and any change is hard. You have to weigh the pros and cons of a possible change.

Try to figure out what’s happening in the classroom first. Is your child afraid of the teacher or does your child not feel safe in the classroom? Is there bullying going on that the teacher isn’t taking care of? Does your child feel ignored by the teacher?

When is it a good idea, and when is it a bad idea?

Bob Cunningham: It’s a good idea to switch if a teacher is clearly unkind to your child or discriminates against your child. Or if a teacher is inappropriate when dealing with you. If your child has an IEP or 504 plan and the teacher isn’t following it, a switch may be a good idea then, too.

Asking for a switch because your child is unhappy, their friends are in a different class, or you don’t agree with the teacher’s decisions probably won’t get you anywhere. The school should help you work through these issues. But they won’t be seen as good reasons to change teachers.

Claudia Rinaldi: It’s a good idea to request a change if you think your child is being discriminated against based on race, language, culture, or on any other basis.

Kristen Hodnett: Switching classes is something to do only when you feel you have no other options. It should be tied to evidence that your child’s self-esteem, health, or learning are being negatively impacted.

What’s the best way to go about switching?

Ginny Osewalt: Make a formal request in writing to the principal. Then schedule a face-to-face meeting. Bring along any supporting documentation. That might include copies of relevant work your child has done, and emails between you and the teacher. (Keep a copy of everything you submit for your own records.)

Bob Cunningham: Ask for a meeting with the principal or another school official. Be as specific as possible and give detailed examples of the teacher’s actions that concern you. It may take a few discussions before the principal is ready to consider making a move. Be prepared that they might suggest an action plan to try to work out your concerns.

If your child has an IEP or a 504 plan, you can also address concerns with the team or committee. Again, they may be very reluctant to switch teachers. But they have the authority to do so when needed. Just like with the principal, be prepared to give specific examples and to present any documents that help to make your case.

Kristy Baxter: Ask for an appointment to see the principal. Come prepared, be specific, bring documentation of your efforts to date, and keep the focus on your child’s needs. Try to avoid complaining about the teacher’s personal qualities.

Instead, stress that the teacher’s methods or style of teaching don’t mesh with your child’s learning style and strengths. Explain how the situation is affecting your child’s ability to learn, self-esteem, and willingness to go to school. Be firm and clear that you need to see some positive changes in the near future.

More things you can do

A good classroom fit is helpful for kids who learn and think differently. But switching classrooms isn’t always the best move, or even one that you’ll be able to achieve.

It’s important to try to work with your child’s teacher. Get tips on how to advocate for your child. And learn how you can request a specific teacher for next year.


Explore related topics

Read next