Sunday, July 11, 2010

cool-cartoon-751710 I remember the “What on Earth are they talking about???” moment when we chatted with our neighbor who has school-age children. She casually mentioned that she doesn’t like the new teacher their second-grader got. I asked what happened to the previous teacher. Mom looked at me as if I just came from an outer space and said, Well, you know, they get a new teacher every year!

This came as a rude wake-up call to both me and my husband. Both in Germany and in the former Soviet Union the system was quite different. As a rule, all teachers taught more than just one year and moved along with the students for 3 or 4 years before transitioning them to the next teacher. One of the teachers was assigned as a “class teacher” who was leading all extra-curricular activities and was leading parent-teacher conferences for this class.

As a student, I found the whole transitioning process a bit difficult, since I had to reestablish the relationship and get to know this new teacher’s quirks. Now I can see my daughter struggling with the same issue while moving from her “Green Frogs” teachers to the new Pre-K classroom in her preschool and having a completely new set of teachers. To add insult to injury, the kids got reshuffled too “to promote group dynamics”. And as an outsider to this system I am completely flabbergasted. So many efforts and so much money is spent on figuring out the way to improve scores and promote learning and nobody is willing to admit that children, especially young children, get attached to their teachers and need a bit more stability in their learning process? Or is there a powerful lobby of teacher unions behind this rigid system? I can see that it’s probably easier to feed the same content year over year than to be prepared to teach a different level. I also think that American grade system protects bad teachers from scrutiny – they can always claim that a particular child is difficult or that he/she didn’t learn something in the previous year that he/she should have learned. And I feel sorry for good teachers who have to correct the mistakes of the past in a very short window given to them before the next big test.

I am curious to hear your points of view. Do you think it’s good or bad to have a new teacher every year? If you are/were a teacher, can you explain me the reasons behind this model? I admit that I am now more motivated to at least look into private schools who use European principles of keeping the same teachers for several years before I plunge my daughter into a public school whirlpool.


Christie - Childhood 101 said...

I think any 'school' transition for a small child should be handled very thoughtfully and with sensitivity to the child's needs.

I too favour the system of a teacher moving with his/her students and actually taught this way for many years within the Australian private school system, it certainly made the teaching/learning process for children, families and teachers.

Christy said...

When a teacher stays with a class for more than one year in the US, it is called "looping". It is extremely rare. I begged Collin's K teacher to stay with them, but it wasn't something she could do. The first grade teachers have safe positions and the union protects them. Unless one of the first grade teachers is leaving, they have their spots. I didn't know that teachers stay with classes in Europe. Collin has trouble with transition so that would work well for him. I have a feeling, however, that parents would not be happy about this. People love to complain. You know what drives me crazy? Parents write letters requesting specific teachers for their children. My husband and I prefer to let the teachers and administrators figure out what teacher will be best for our kids. So far, this has worked out great. I know people who requested specific teachers and ended up miserable. WE kind of think you get what you get; you can't always pick who you work with or who your boss will be. I would request to not have a teacher if I knew of a problem. Anyway, the parents that request teachers have made remarks to me that I should be requesting if I love my children. Ugh - where do these people come from? That's why I keep my distance from the PTO. I used to think I would be done with cliques when I left high school, well the PTO clique is the nastiest, meanest clique I have ever encountered. There is my rant for the day.

TheRockerMom said...

I don't know why our school system is so grade-oriented (for both teachers and students). I am not a fan. I think that the type of relationship you have mentioned that would develop between teacher and student over 3-4 years would be wonderful... unless it was a bad teacher. 3-4 years with a horrible teacher would be horrible. I wish our schools had more options for education. I suppose these are some of the reasons we plan to homeschool. Good luck finding a school that is to your liking!!

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

You need to read the Beverly Cleary Ramona series. It gives a really clear, insider's view, of a little girl moving up through the grades in school, and struggling, but then adjusting to each new teacher along the way. Anna might be a little young for the series, but she might still enjoy it. I know Cleary seems to have hit my school experiences on the head :)

Debbie said...

I don't know the reasons behind our school system's choices. To be honest all I have ever known along with my siblings we've never had the same teacher for more then one year. I know some schools are trying the multi leveled teachers, but there are few of those. I sometimes think it has to do with the education of the teachers themselves. They choose a grade they will teach in college and that is the grade they learn to teach. Even with that sometimes a teacher ends up teaching a grade level they are not educated to teach. The multi level teacher teaches two years like 3rd and 4th grades, but they have mixed classrooms of 3rd and 4th graders.

I hear your concern about the Union involvement in this system and believe this to be one reason, for job security. Yes, the system does protect the bad teachers. I have seen it happen, when a child isn't performing to the teacher's expectation or misbehaves, they get labled. Sometimes that label goes with them throughout the rest of their education. I've known parents who have had to remove their children out of these schools to a different chain of schools to stop the labeling.

From a personal aspect, I know it was very difficult to adjust each year to a new teacher. I would have been quite happy to have had any one of my teachers, teach me through out my younger years in school. The children shuffling, around every year, again I believe is a union play on this. All our names got put in a hat (so called) and was just drawn to be assigned to which teacher we got. Unless a parent spoke up and absolutely no way will my child have this teacher or be in class with this particular child that was just the way it worked. PBS just had a discussion on this same issue this weekend, I didn't catch it all, but I know they were sure trying to blame charter schools, but we didn't have charter schools when my siblings and I were going to school, so it can't be the charter school's fault. They did however point a finger at the Unions as well.

Debbie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim said...

Wow, I love the idea of the European system. Here, I've seen so many kids end up in a class with a teacher that they just don't click with, and it makes school and learning miserable. Often, principles are reluctant to move a kid to a different classroom, no matter what the reason. I don't know why we do it this way - we just always have...Good luck in your hunt for a private school! there are some interesting options out there...

Joyful Learner said...

The cartoon made me laugh! I always thought having the same class for another year would be beneficial to me, the teacher as well because then I didn't have to relearn every child's needs and personalities from scratch! In an ideal world, this can happen as there will be no bad teachers and therefore no child would be stuck with a bad teacher for more than a year. A year is bad enough to be stuck with a bad teacher.

I read up on the Japanese school system and found some of their ways more enlightening. Their master lessons which has been proven successful are reproduced that way it's not a trial and error like in the US. They have a very thin manual (unlike in the US which are like tomes!). The new teacher learns from a veteran teacher and the great lessons get passed on!

I have also looked into the Australian model and what they do well is have the assessment match the curriculum. In the US, teachers are mandated to assess using ECLAS or other assessments but it does not necessarily mesh with the curriculum which follows other publishers and guidelines. It's more of a hodgepodge of new ideas, new curriculum, new political agendas every so many years.

When I suggested certain changes to the administration, they just told me to follow what is mandated. There is no respect for teachers or what they believe is helpful to the children.

Okay, that's my rant for today. :)

Some people may believe it's good to be exposed to different teachers so they learn to adapt to different personalities. That's one way of looking at it. In our fast paced society where they encourage people to change jobs every few years, this might serve as preparation? This might also be the reason parents send their kids to school so train them to be prepared for the school environment. It didn't occur to me until we tried a taekwondo class and JC broke down with, "But I'm too young to take classes!" Luckily, there's no worries of starting school so I told her she didn't have to take any classes she didn't enjoy. She was relieved. I wonder how many children would choose to take classes instead of playing outside with their friends? Just thinking out loud.

Thanks for opening up a forum for discussion!

Terra said...

As a former student (about a hundred years ago) it didn't bother me to change teachers. In fact, I loved the idea of having a new teacher and new classmates each year in order to learn how to socialize better...I guess. In college, you have to get new teachers each semester, so it may be preparing for that as well.

I'm a certified EC-4 teacher. We do not get to pick the grade level that we want to teach, as mentioned by a post above. They have very specific categories in which you can be certified in. I can only teach early childhood through fourth grade. I do not get to choose which grade level I want to teach though, unless I want to be jobless for a long time waiting for a specific grade level to open. I have known teachers to move around different grade levels until they find the right one that fits with them. I prefer the lower grade levels because you can do more hands-on activities with them.

By the way, I'm passing along the Versatile Blogger Award to you because I love following your blog.

Waterdreamer said...

The schools argument its what if the student and child clash. They think they are setting it up so if there is problems they will only last a year then they will have a new teacher. I reality when children get older they will not have a new boss every year.(well maybe but its not likely lol)
I think it would have been nice to have the same teacher two or three years in a row. They would already know what areas the child needs help in, and the children would know right off the hop what that teacher expects. However it would be a shame if the class got stuck with a bad teacher.
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Raising a Happy Child said...

@Joyful Learner: I think you are raising interesting points. I don't think that anyone is expected to change jobs every year, at least not someone under 10. And as a parent, I would raise a much bigger hell if I knew that my child will be stuck with a bad teacher for several years. I think a lot of parents now just shrug off bad teachers like our neighbors do. They are saying, "Oh well, it's only for a year, why rock the boat, I don't want to be perceived as a troublemaker, I'd rather help my child out at home". Or, like Christie said, they start requesting specific teachers. What frustrates me now is that the system is so entrenched while maybe it explains why America lags behind the rest of the industrial countries in education.

Christy said...

I loved reading all of the comments.

I love your hot topics because they really encourage me to think through different topics and find out what other people around the country think of those topics. I'm glad you don't shy away from writing about the controversial topics that we are all passionate about. I also love to come back and read what other people wrote because once in a while I learn something new or understand something from a different perspective.


The girl who painted trees said...

In a Montessori classroom you stay with the same teacher for three years. In Canada, where I taught, they have split classes (for example grades 3 and 4 together) and so sometimes a child did have the same teacher for two years (it happened to me for 3rd and 4th grade and thankfully she was my favorite teacher).
I know that as a teacher there are students I wouldn't want for longer than a year. Sorry! But that's the truth. It's rare, but it happened twice in the six years I taught where I was very thankful that a certain child was moving on.

Mom and Kiddo said...

This is interesting. I'd never thought about it before. I suppose there are good points and bad points on every side.

Jackie H. said...

I have taught 1, 4, and 5th. I would have love to loop with a group of students but was never given the option. Like Joyful Learner said, Teachers are told to do it this way and often their ideas are shut down. I think a teacher could be MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE if she knew her students for a period of development instead of just a set calendar school year. The people who DO have the power to change the system are the parents. Adminstrators/School Board/ legistlatures will listen to the parents (to some extent). If enough parents demand a change, they would do it. However, most parents aren't like you, asking questions, trying to make it better. Many of the parents are satisfied with the status quo or view the school system in the US as "free babysitting".

Pathfinder Mom said...

I always changed each year - sometimes multiple times since we moved so much. I did like having more freedom to select a particular teacher in high school and college. I honestly have never thought much about it, though.

Multi-years sounds great if you get a great teacher, bad teacher - not so much.

Tornado Boy changed teachers/rooms 3 times in less than a year and a half in preschool. They didn't change the entire class, either, so it was a mix of new students and new teachers. I felt like it was a constant state of flux. I had no say about when he was switched or to where, the list just came out and you abided by it. I finally pulled him when they didn't have room in their pre-K class, but told me that they couldn't support him academically in the class that he was in. Why pay for this? This was a high-end private pre-school. Not good.