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Can I Ask for a Specific Teacher for My Child?

By Bob Cunningham, EdM

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Question: Can I request who my child’s teacher is for the next school year? Any pointers on what I should say and when I should say it? Or on what I should not say?

Answer:

My advice is to frame your request in terms of what your child needs rather than who your child needs. In my experience, schools tend to bristle when parents request a specific teacher. But most schools are willing to discuss specific needs of children.

I recommend trying to do this in person. Arranging a face-to-face meeting will show the school how important this is to you. Scheduling this can be more challenging once the school year ends. But you can still politely ask if the principal will be in the office at some point during the weeks after school lets out.

If meeting in person isn’t possible, you can send a letter. In it, talk about your child’s specific needs. (Try to limit this to three things.) Mention the characteristics of teachers who have met or can meet those needs well.

If you’re able to meet in person, afterward you can send a follow-up email thanking the principal for taking time to meet. Try to keep it brief and upbeat. But be sure to include a sentence or two summarizing the key points you discussed.

In terms of timing, the best time to have this conversation is late spring or early summer. Ideally, you want to make your request when schools are doing their planning for next year.

If your child has an or a , you can ask for a team meeting. But this can be tough to pull together over the summer. Meeting with the principal or with your school’s special education coordinator might be a good alternative.

But regardless of when you bring this up, keep in mind that it’s unlikely a school team will agree to write a certain teacher into an IEP or a 504 plan. Changes in staffing make it very hard to guarantee which teacher your child will have. Limits on class size can be a factor, too.

Again, the best strategy is to keep the focus on your child’s specific needs. Talk about your child’s IEP or 504 plan. Mention how much it will help to have a teacher who can carry out this plan most effectively. Talk about how essential this is to your child’s success.

Whether you’re meeting with one person or a team (or if you’re writing a letter), be prepared to describe specific aspects of a teacher you feel would do well with your child. You might want to use words like “flexible” or “structured.”

“Experienced” is another word you might want to consider using. For example, you might want to stress how important it is for your child to have a teacher who knows a lot about differentiated instruction or about multisensory reading instruction.

You might also want to talk about and other specialists. Explain that your child would benefit from a teacher who can work well with support providers as your child moves up to the next grade.

If the principal or case manager brings up potential teachers, talk up what’s good about the teacher you want. And avoid dwelling too much on what’s bad about the teacher you don’t want. This can help keep the administrator from getting defensive.

Remember to keep the focus on what helps your child rather than who. Feel free to bring up specific things previous teachers have done that worked well or not so well with your child. Talking about this can really help an administrator get a sense of which teacher would be a good match for your child.

After your meeting and follow-up note, be sure to also reach out to your child’s current or most recent teacher or counselor. This person can have a big influence on which teacher your child gets next year.

Preparation can help you be an effective advocate for your child. Ask a friend or family member to help you practice talking to the principal. Try out some different conversation starters. This can help you be clearer about what your child needs and the kind of teacher who can help your child succeed.

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