Handling Sticky School Situations

Too much homework? A teacher who yells? Our expert's diplomacy tips will steer you through the tough spots.

Requesting Specific Teachers

Classroom of kids

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On the playground or at the pediatrician's office, you'll often hear parents comparing notes: "Is your daughter being overloaded with homework the way mine is?" or "Did your son tell you that the new kindergarten teacher yells a lot?" When you have a problem with your child's teacher or school, it's hard to know how involved to become -- and how to respond most effectively. Since you won't find this kind of guidance in school handouts, Child went to the experts.

Q: The school principal has a policy against parents' requesting specific teachers, but I know some parents have done it in the past. How can I make a request that the school will actually honor?

A: The key to getting what you want? Cite sound educational reasons for your preference. "Don't come in with hearsay about a teacher because often that hearsay is wrong," says Paul Young, Ph.D., a school principal for 15 years and president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals in Alexandria, VA. "Instead, tell the principal what your child needs, whether it's a teacher who emphasizes language arts or one who has a traditional, structured approach." Ideally, it's best to do this in the spring, before class assignments have been made. If you don't get your first choice? Give the teacher a chance, says Dr. Young. "Sometimes the teacher the parent wants is the popular, grandmotherly one, but she may not necessarily be the one who is best for your child."

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