When the fit isn't a good one

Whodya have?"

It's a question that turns most schools into a chat room at the close of every school year. Kids hold their breath for a classmate's answer, poised to be ecstatic or maybe envious. Everyone is abuzz with analysis of who's with whom and what to expect in homework and grading. Parents, of course, are no less eager to hear the news.

The reason, of course, is that teachers are a make-or-break issue for most kids. They rule students' worlds, dispensing humor or prompting the dragging of feet in the morning. When I ask my kids how school was, after all, I typically don't hear first about the day's intellectual discovery. It's more like, "Ms. X was a bum," or "Mr. Y is sooo funny."

Which is why a year of a poor teacher is so frustrating. Really bad ones are few, but they exist (see story, this page) - and getting a child out of their classes, or them out of school, is a tough job.

Former teacher and principal Guy Strickland knows that. So in his book "Bad Teachers" (Pocket Books), he counsels parents on alternative strategies if they feelthe fit with their child isn't good.

Start with the teacher. Try to understand what's causing a problem, and look for a teacher's desire to fix it rather than assign blame. Discuss a change in the teacher's attitude, or maybe more attention from teacher or aide. If a chat with the principal seems needed, show that you tried working with the teacher. Go into that meeting with goals formulated, supporting requests with documented evidence, not personal opinions. Such actions may not yield a perfect year, but they're a start toward improvement.

*E-mail newcomba@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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