Student and teacher assignments: A delicate balance
When each school year comes to a close, it is always an exciting time for students and teachers, alike— and not just because summer vacation is around corner. It’s when classroom assignments are determined for the next year.
While children are running about to find out if they will have the same teacher as their friends next year, teachers and administrators are packing away the paperwork and files associated with teacher-student classroom placement.
“Assigning students to a teacher is a task we take very seriously,” explains DES Principal Andrea Conover. “We work together to create balanced classrooms by finding the best possible fit for each student and teacher.”
Best practices/models for teacher-student classroom assignments and optimal classroom productivity methods have been shared among educators for years. Coupling those models and practices with the careful planning DCS teachers use when assigning students to a teacher is why school officials have always refrained from accepting teacher requests from parents.
“We understand that convenience and familiarity play a role in parents wanting the same teacher to educate their other children,” says Superintendent Christine Crowley. “But we have a responsibility to all students to create a well-balanced classroom that takes many factors into consideration.”
Finding a good fit
When preparing for teacher assignments, one of the first things teachers do is meet with their colleagues in the next and previous grade levels to learn and share information about students’ academic and social skills as well as personality trait strengths and areas for improvement. For example, Kindergarten teachers meet with the first-grade teachers and introduce them—on paper— to next year’s first graders.
“The current year’s teachers know their students so well that they
are the best source for pairing them with the next year’s teacher,”
Teachers begin by separating students by gender to ensure there are a similar number of boys and girls in each classroom. Studies have shown that a well-balanced gender population in a classroom can help better prepare children for the social interactions they will encounter in the higher grades and in the world at-large. Additionally, boys and girls can learn from each other by being introduced to other interests, emotions, talents and thoughts.
Teachers and administrators also aim to create a classroom that is academically and socially diverse by mixing high-, middle- and low-ability students and by balancing the number of students with special needs (IEPs, adult support, etc.).
Education experts say the benefits of having a classroom of students with mixed abilities is that they all learn from each other—notably during group projects where every student must learn how to work with others regardless of social and academic levels. In fact, research shows students who demonstrate more intellectual and social maturity benefit by developing leadership and mentoring skills and fostering their self-esteem. Conversely, students with less maturity benefit by being exposed to collaborative activities and being part of a team in a positive and safe environment. Often times they are also stimulated by their peers who may have more outgoing personalities and a wider-range of abilities.
“Past practice has shown that one teacher request can easily alter the classroom stability we worked so hard to create,” explains Conover. “That’s why our goal is for all of our students to be placed in a well-balanced and supportive environment with classmates who encourage and motivate each other to learn, foster their independence and advance their developing social and academic skills.”
[Note: This article was originally posted online and published in the Winter 2013 DCS newsletter]