If you’re wondering how to switch teachers in elementary school, you should know that it’s not always easy in a public school setting, and for good reason! Occasionally, there are compelling reasons to move a child to a different class.
This post will help parents understand why administrators are reluctant to honor parent requests for a teacher change, and also outline how you can be successful in the event that it’s truly needed.
Note: These same guidelines do not necessarily apply to middle school and high schools, nor will it be relevant to private school families.
Can you request a new teacher for your child?
Absolutely, you can request a new teacher for your elementary school student. However, these requests are rarely honored. You’ll need to have excellent cause and a clearly stated, persuasive argument.
Frustrated about your teacher’s bathroom policies? Check out this post: What to Do When Your Child’s Teacher Won’t Let Them Use the Bathroom (and what you can do about it).
Why do principals rarely allow students to switch teachers?
Most parents don’t realize the mental gymnastics that goes into placing students into their classes each year.
As teams of teachers and administrators work together to assign students into classes, here are just some of the considerations that they must make in preparation for a new year:
- Siblings and cousins are rarely placed in a class together.
- Students who receive special education services are often grouped together to maximize limited SpEd resources.
- The most challenging students in terms of behavior are listed out and divided evenly among the groups so that no class has too many “big personalities” in one room.
- The highest achieving, brightest students are divided equally so that every group of kids has at least one or two high students to serve as pace-setters. Super competitive kids will often grow faster trying to chase the top students.
- Some personalities don’t mix at all. Perhaps Student A and Student B were in the same class in second grade and it was a disaster. Those students will likely never be placed together again under the same administration.
- In small or medium-sized elementary schools, changing the homeroom teacher won’t solve your problem in grades 3-5 or sometimes even in 2nd grade. That’s because these grade levels are departmentalized. Students spend an extra 15-20 minutes each day with their homeroom teacher, and that’s who the parent communicates with regularly. However, switching to a different homeroom teacher would still require your child to spend 90 minutes-2 hours daily with that same problematic teacher if no one else on the grade level teaches that content area.
For all these reasons, it will never be possible to get the perfect mix of students in every classroom. Even when things aren’t ideal for a single student, making a change can almost always make matters worse for the group.
You can certainly reach out to the school administrator to request changes, because your school administration likely wants what’s best for your child. But they can’t compromise the health of the whole group or make classroom changes a habit.
What are some good reasons to switch teachers?
There are times when it’s appropriate for a child to change their teacher, even several months into the school year. If a teacher is consistently unkind or even discriminatory to a child, is not willing to protect a student from a legitimate bullying situation, or if a teacher is not following a child’s IEP or 504 plan (despite multiple reminders and requests) – these are all solid reasons to request a teacher change mid-year.
Anything less than this will likely be met with a great deal of resistance from an administrative team. They’ll want you and the teacher to collaborate to improve conditions for the child.
Here are some reasons parents ask to switch teachers that will likely NOT be honored:
- Parent/teacher conflict or communication failures
- Low grades/poor academic performance
- Unhappy child
- Friends in other classes
- Student keeps getting in trouble in school
- A student who has been mean to your child a few times (note: this is different than bullying)
- Parent disapproval of the teacher’s work habits, lesson plans, off-hours availability, or teaching methods – or anything that else that would fall under the umbrella of “bad teacher” concerns.
Note: Even true bullying (less common than parents think) will not always considered a good reason to move to a different teacher. Instead, an appropriate bullying response from teachers and administrators includes equipping both children with social-emotional learning skills to stop the behavior.
How to Switch Teachers in Elementary School
Consider the following steps if you’d like your request to be met with an approval.
Request an in-person meeting with the teacher.
Remember, before you go the extreme step of switching teachers, you need to try and work with your child’s teacher first. Assume positive intent. Get to know the teacher and understand his or her methods. Share your concerns, and more importantly, be a good listener. Classroom teachers have an incredibly difficult job with a demanding work load in a very high pressure environment. There are times when you may come to an understanding and find ways to collaborate to improve your child’s day without a class switch.
It can be tempting to do all of this over email, Remind, or Class Dojo. I do not recommend requesting a teacher change without attempting to resolve your concerns in a face-to-face meeting first. Ideally, you would have at least two in-person meetings and a great deal of documentation before approaching the administrative team.
If you are going to meet with the teacher about your concerns, it’s wise to request at least one additional party in the room. You can request an administrator or another teacher to join you for the conference. That way, if the conversation doesn’t end in a complete resolution, there will be another witness to exactly what was said.
If you have trouble getting the teacher to agree to an in person meeting, be as accommodating as possible. You may have to take off work to meet during his or her conference hour. Teachers often have multiple meetings after school and before school during the week. If you can be the flexible party and make sure those in-person meetings happen, you’ll be doing your child a great service.
Document each attempt to meet in person with the teacher if you begin to suspect they are avoiding you. Save your screenshots and sent emails. Usually, arranging a parent-teacher meeting is quite easy. Most teachers don’t like to let conflict fester, so you shouldn’t have a problem.
Meeting in person is the best way to work toward resolution. Most people are kinder and gentler when face-to-face and you’ll have a much better chance at building a positive relationship.
Consider your child’s wishes.
Sometimes, a parent sees an easy solution to an existing problem and goes right for “the big guns.” Kids don’t always like the idea of moving classes. Perhaps they’re complaining about something to you, but don’t actually even WANT to switch classes. Listen to how the child feels about possible solutions before trying to fix the problem for them.
There are plenty of times when a child just wants to be heard and understood, without a parent solving the problem for them. Moving a kid into a different class is a bigger deal than most parents realize. Here’s what will immediately change:
- their friendships
- their routines
- their relationship with their teacher
- behavioral expectations
- homework load
There’s also value in teaching kids to persevere in the face of reasonable, age-appropriate challenges.
Parents don’t always recognize how impactful a new learning environment can be for a child, and it’s not always a better change. Moving them to a different class should be a last resort. Children with behavioral challenges have an especially hard time with major transitions.
Once you have a sense for whether or not your child would like to move classes, do NOT promise anything, and encourage your child to continue being respectful, compliant and hard working.
Write a clear, concise and persuasive letter to the administrative team.
Once you’ve done everything in your power to resolve any problems with your child’s teacher, you can write a letter to the administration team at your school.
I recommend you spend a lot of time crafting a letter that recognizes the following:
- the seriousness of your request
- the needs of your child
- your attempts at communicating respectfully to your child’s teacher
Do NOT spend too much of your letter complaining about the teacher – this will not help your case.
It’s important to put your request in writing. Please do not call the principal – these phone calls are almost never efficient and the principal is almost certainly barely keeping their head above water in today’s educational climate. Communicating in writing will also allow you to think carefully about exactly what you want to say, and to be both gracious and direct. You’ll also be leaving a paper trail, which is always helpful when navigating difficult situations.
Sample Letter to Principal Requesting Teacher Change
Here’s a sample letter to ask to switch teachers in elementary school.
Notice the loose formatting:
- Paragraph 1 includes the request and acknowledges the seriousness of the decision.
- Paragraph 2 focuses on the needs of the child rather than the limitations of the teacher.
- Paragraph 3 identifies past attempts at communication and means used to resolve any conflict, without denigrating the teaching staff.
- Paragraph 4 notes the severity of the situation and why a parent would be desperate to make changes.
- Paragraph 5 summarizes the request and identifies next steps.
Dear Mr./Ms. [Principal],
I am writing to request a teacher change for my [grade level] child, [name]. I understand that these decisions are not taken lightly, and that moving a child from one class to another disrupts the flow of learning and relationships across the grade level. Nevertheless, I’m very concerned about my child’s progress and well-being and hope there is a teacher who is a better fit for my child.
[Name] is struggling with some developmental delays. We are open to pursuing special education testing, and he/she is already receiving therapy at [business name]. I am so worried that he/she seems cognitively stuck. These developmental delays seem to be influencing his/her ability to concentrate, control behavior, and accomplish some basic tasks like note taking. I have also noticed poor short term memory. I do not expect my child to be the top student in the class or best athlete on the field, but I’d love for him/her to be happy and healthy. Right now, he/she is neither, and it’s breaking my heart.
[Name] has been getting in trouble quite a bit in class for impulsive behavior and failure to complete classroom assignments. His/her confidence is suffering, and he/she comes home daily feeling defeated. He/she feels strongly disliked by his/her teacher. I have met with [teacher] on two different occasions: [date and time] and [date and time]. I have requested patience and understanding while we do our job at home to help him/her, but our conversations haven’t changed [teacher’s] behavior toward my son/daughter.
[Student] is coming home each day depressed and withdrawn. At home, I’m working hard to teach him/her respect and working to build his tolerance for frustrating assignments. I am very concerned that a poor relationship between my [student] and [teacher] are limiting my child even further.
I am hoping that you’ll consider my request for a teacher change. Perhaps there’s another teacher on the grade level who might be a great match for my child. I believe at this point, a fresh start for everyone would be beneficial.
What if they won’t move your child to a different classroom?
Even if you follow all the steps outlined above, there’s a chance that your child’s administrative team won’t change their teacher. That leaves you with an important decision: whether or not to finish the year with the teacher, home school, or transfer to a new campus or school district.
Unfortunately, your child’s teacher already knows that you’ve requested they be placed elsewhere, so it may feel awkward to remain there. However, I know many elementary school teachers, and none of them would take out a parent frustration on a child, or limit their academic success in any way because of parent/teacher conflict. People become elementary teachers because they genuinely care about kids, even if sometimes it’s not a perfect fit with individual students.
If you move to a different school, you may still risk being placed in a classroom with a less-than-ideal learning environment for your child.
If you were coming here wondering how to switch teachers in elementary school, I hope you got your answer and more! We all want what’s best for our kids, so I hope your mama heart feels better soon.