How did you select your child’s teacher?

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I’ll never forget the moment when I realized who my “unborn” child’s pre-school teacher would be, if the powers to be gave me the opportunity to become a mother for the second time.  The year was 2004, and I was entering my 7th year of teaching. I had recently transferred school sites, and was teaching Kindergarten . As usual, we began the year with the standard academic/needs assessments to determine goals and objectives for the year.  There were 3 students who stood out from the rest in terms of their preparedness for Kindergarten, and I remember asking them where they went to pre-school.  In unison they all said, “Mrs. Del Toro.” I quietly took note and moved on.  The following school year, it happened again.  I asked a small group of students where they had gone to pre-school, and once again, they all said, “Mrs. Del Toro.” I remember going home and telling my husband, “when we have kids they are going to Mrs. Del Toro!” Students from her pre-school had already mastered all of the 1st trimester Kindergarten standards upon entering Kindergarten! I knew then and there, this was a woman I had to meet.

So, in the fall of 2005, when I was 3 months pregnant I began to form a relationship with Mrs. Del Toro, and when my son was 9 months old, I loaded him in his stroller and we would walk to Marcy’s Day Care and Pre-School to learn about her curriculum, training, and more importantly to get to know the woman who would become one of my child’s teachers. For the next 4 years I would periodically drop in and observe all the wonderful developmentally appropriate activities she did everyday to engage student learning. I’m happy to say that this year, 2013, my youngest son is graduating pre-school and will miss Mrs. Del Toro and Ms. Mendoza. Through the years, they have been over for dinner, helped with birthday parties, and we even attended her daughter’s wedding.

Our parent/teacher relationship has molded the way I view student placement in our schools, and the importance of matching student needs to teacher strengths. Long gone are the days when we send our children to school, and place our children’s future in the hands of strangers, some of whom are very unqualified to teach.

Case in point, I recently met the mother of a 7th grader who was reading at a 3rd grade reading level. By the end of our conversation, I discovered that since this student had entered Kindergarten, all of his teachers had been new to the grade level and lacked the experience one acquires after working a few years in a particular grade level.  Through no fault of their own, these teachers had been pink slipped and re-hired year after year.  On one side it was wonderful that the teachers were re-hired.  The other side is that when they were re-hired the majority were placed at new grade levels. Anyone teaching in the classroom can testify that it takes a couple of years to understand not only the curriculum for the grade level, but also the social, emotional, and developmental needs of students.

Of course this is no ones fault.  When there is a budget crisis, the effects are felt at all levels, but the ones who seem to find out last are students and their parents.  You see, many parents today still believe schools will do what is best for their kids, because we are the experts.  But in the case of the 7th grader, someone did not know that it was not a good idea to put a single subject teacher, who recently acquired their multiple subject credential in order to stay employed, in a first grade classroom. You see, teacher programs (depending on the school) for the most part give teachers an “over all big picture..this is what teaching is like education.”  Once in the classroom, we realize that in order to become an effective teacher there is a strong need to specialize, by specialize I mean become an “expert” in Math, Reading, Science or History, however this specialization, although necessary, is not mandatory.

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