What happens if you get a so-so teacher?
Take charge of your child's education by making the most of a less than ideal instructor.
By Carol Lloyd
The hour of judgment has arrived. School's back in session. You've heard a few anecdotes about your child's new teacher. You've seen some homework assignments and maybe even met her at a back-to-school night and heard her talk about her plans for the year. What do you think?
Are you impressed? Concerned? Reserving judgment? If you've got a sneaking suspicion that this particular teacher either isn't terribly great or simply isn't a terribly great fit for your child, you don't need to bemoan your child's horrible luck or storm the principal's office.
These four tips can help you make sure this year your child makes the best of a less-than-perfect educational situation.
Message in a bottle
Don't wait for the parent-teacher conference. Although you may sometimes feel like a hovercraft zooming down on your child's teacher, trailing not-so-subtle messages like an advertisement for your child — "She's a hands-on learner!" "He loves being given responsibilities!" — don't underestimate the power of getting your child on the teacher's radar, especially if you think the teacher may not be attuned to your kid.
Offering lots of information about your child's challenges and talents not only allows your child's teacher to "see" your child's strengths and challenges. Giving the teacher the lowdown on your child (who you know better than anybody) will send a clear message to the teacher that a) you care and b) you're aware of how much the teacher is able to influence your child. Or more crudely put: You're watching her.
Play into the teacher's strengths
Every competent teacher has strengths and weaknesses. If you feel uncertain about your child's teacher, you need to make sure your child gets the most from whatever this teacher has to offer. Say the teacher is old school: well-organized, routinized, and academic (if in a slightly boring way). You might wish the teacher designed more hands-on learning projects or even brought a sense of fun into the day. But complaining about these deficiencies to your child will only undermine his learning.
Instead, accentuate the positive in the following ways:
- Articulate to your child why this teacher is so good at what he or she does. If your child's teacher is creative, for instance, point this out to your child. "I love how Mr. Hobson dressed up in a Mars outfit to teach you about the planet's weather and size. You'll probably never think of Mars in the same way again." Do something at home to make the most of the teacher's strengths.
- Maybe a highly organized (but otherwise uninspiring) teacher can inspire your child to organize her own study space or carefully plan a long-term project. "Let's fix up your homework desk the same way Mrs. Ronaldo does. She puts everything in a place you can find it." Maybe the teacher, who has a propensity for funny, inspiring stories about his life (while cutting corners on the curriculum) can offer your child a model for regaling the family with tales over dinner. Or perhaps the teacher who seems obsessed with math (to the detriment of language arts and other subjects) can inspire a conversation about how math applies to so many real life situations and how this numerically laden year can support your child's dream of making a killer lemonade stand or building a go-cart.