Making the best of your child’s teacher assignment

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The results are in. You now know who your child’s teacher will be for this school year.  And, like it or not, you have to find a way to make it work. We talked to a parent, a teacher, and a principal about developing a working relationship that benefits the child.

Monday was Meet the Teacher Night at USD 437’s Jay Shideler Elementary.

“We try to look at personalities, we try to look at needs, we try to make all of our classrooms very balanced,” Principal Jeff Freeman explained.

Freeman says they do their best to vet both students and teachers when making class assignments. Still, it’s up to the adults to make the relationship work.

“We always tell our parents that communication is a two-way street. We want to hear from them just as much as they want to hear from us,” he said.

While in-person meetings are still an option, phone calls and email are now the fastest form of communication for parents and teachers. Just ask 4th grade teacher Kelli McKenzie.

“I check my email throughout the day and always respond within that same day. That’s probably the best way or a phone call right to our classroom. It rings and leaves a message.”

Mr. Freeman says the school encourages everyone to communicate.

“It’s very important that the child knows that we’re all on the same page,” he told Kansas First News. “We’re all on the same team. That nothing that happens at school that parents aren’t going to know about and basically that what happens at home if it’s going to affect their school life we really encourage parents to let us know about that as well.”

Parents and teachers say they see a difference in the children when they work together.

“She grows,” Julienne Blake said of her daughter. “If she has issues or problems they’re met and additionally, if she’ doing well, everybody knows”.”

Her child’s new teacher, Ms. McKenzie agrees: “You just see them have such a positive attitude, and they feel safe and confident.”

In the end, you don’t have a choice when it comes to your child’s teacher, but Blake says that’s just fine.

“They know who can suit her and help her the most in the next year so they communicate between themselves, and I’m good with that,” she said matter-of-factly.

Ms. McKenzie reminds all adults involved that it’s not about you.

“We just work together to figure out what’s the best plan for the child,” she said.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal quoted a poll by the Cafe Mom website which said 43% of parents surveyed report they are “extremely worried” about their children’s elementary school teacher assignments. Principal Freeman says they work hard to address parents’ fears with events like Meet the Teacher Night and the Upcoming Parent Night.

The question many parents have is: how are classroom assignments made? We talked to several large districts including Auburn-Washburn USD 437 and Topeka USD 501.

Auburn-Washburn spokesman Martin Weishaar says students are divided up by the principal using notes prepared by the teachers from the previous year. They too look to balance number and gender. The principal also considers students who should or should not be together for various reasons. Lastly, teachers are assigned to the groups based on their various strengths and teaching styles.

Meanwhile, the selection process is similar at 501 according to spokesman Ron Harbaugh. He says teachers from the previous year give input about the students. Teachers in the new grade are also consulted. Placement cards containing student state assessment scores and other information are also used as part of the process. Harbaugh says they try to balance classrooms as much as possible when it comes to gender and academic performance.

The Seaman School District also handles their assignments much like the other two. Additionally, spokesman Jeff Zehnder noted that for incoming classes of Kindergarteners there isn’t a prior academic year record to go on. So, they try to balance students who have IEP’s (individualized education program for students with special educational needs) with those who don’t. Each school handles their own class assignments with the ultimate decision being made by the principal. However, Zehnder says that if parents have a concern that needs to then be brought to the school’s attention, assignments can change.

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