Evaluating Your Child’s Teacher

By Judy Molland


Most teachers choose their work because they love children and they love learning, yet these qualities alone will not ensure that your child has a first-rate teacher. In evaluating your child’s teacher, make sure that he or she is properly trained and credentialed and that the school administration values the teacher as a professional. Quality teachers and teaching are the fruit of a supportive school environment.

Listen to the Teacher

Award-winning edication writer and veteran teacher shares insights and practical advice for parents in our exclusive Straight Talk About Schools. Listen Now!
In addition, it’s important that your child’s teacher:

MILY: Verdana">
• Shows knowledge and excitement about the subject matter and encourages your child’s interest and enthusiasm for learning, making it both enjoyable and stimulating.

MILY: Verdana">
• Challenges your child academically and holds high expectations for his ability to learn. Expect the teacher to help your child understand what he needs to learn, encourage him to work hard, and give him clear feedback on his academic progress.

MILY: Verdana">
• Maintains a classroom in which everyone is treated with courtesy and respect. An effective teacher establishes order without being oppressive and treats all students fairly.

• Organizes the classroom to make effective use of children’s time
. Students should know what they are supposed to be doing and should be actively involved in learning.

• Possesses strong diagnostic skills
in order to determine what your child knows and teach him what he needs to learn. By assessing your child often enough, the teacher should be aware of knowledge and skills your child has acquired and be able to follow a plan to help him progress.

• Emphasizes self-assessment
so that students don’t just rely on grades to know how they’re doing. The teacher should help your child learn to recognize when he does or doesn’t understand something and to ask for help as necessary.

• Communicates regularly with parents
and alerts them promptly if there is any cause for concern. You want the teacher to give you clear information about what your child is supposed to learn and about his success in learning those things.

Of course, it’s not reasonable to expect your child’s teacher to demonstrate these qualities five days a week, 180 days a year. Like the rest of the world, teachers have good days and bad. Classroom teachers also face unique pressures and unpredictable conditions: they interact daily with upward of 20 to 30 lively minds and bodies. They are called upon to deal on the spot with a host of personal, social and physical concerns, and to help children cope with the news of national and international crises and natural disasters. A good teacher will maintain high standards and goals regardless of the challenges and will remain generally optimistic and energetic.


If You Have Cause for Concern …

If you have misgivings or concerns about a teacher, seek more information and input. Talk to other parents, to your child and his friends, and maybe even to the school principal. Know, too, that not every teacher clicks with every student. Even the best teacher can have a style or personality that rubs a child or parent the wrong way. In a case like this, don’t jump headfirst into trying to remove your child from the class. An experienced and capable teacher may recognize the situation and be able to prevent a personality issue from getting in the way of teaching and learning.

The teacher’s job is to teach – not to be liked. Parents can help children understand that even if a teacher is not to their liking, this is still someone they can learn from. At some point over the course of 12 or 13 years, your child will more than likely face this situation. Encourage your child to focus on the positive, do her best and get what she can out of the class.

That said, if you continually hear from your child, and from parents of other children, that the teacher treats the class disrespectfully, consistently puts down students in front of the group, allows the students to run wild or teaches inappropriate material, then you need to take action. These are signs of a problem teacher, and it’s critical that you address the matter with the principal promptly. You have the right to request that your child be removed from the class.