Monday, July 25, 2011

Picking teachers for your children.

Even though we homeschool, I have still had a number of teachers instruct my children in addition to the subjects we covered at home. Mainly these have been in art and music, but also academic subjects like reading, writing and math. Most of the teachers my children have had have been wonderful! Izzy's current art teacher is guiding her to become a very good little artist. She treats us all very graciously and even affectionately! Our Math tutor has been coming to the house for four years now and he gets along very well with the boys and even manages to joke around with algebra and pre-calc. I didn't even know it was possible to joke around with algebra and pre-calc! Gabe's last drum teacher brought himn a long way and I really miss sitting in his driveway listening to them "jam" on some kind of drum beat. Sam's guitar teacher has taken him from being a strummer and given him some technical challenge. And of course our former piano teacher will be very much missed - Sam, Gabe, Noah and Izzy all benefited from the discipline and musicality she instilled in them.

But we've had some duds too and in many ways, the effects of one bad teacher can be very harmful to kids - a music teacher who sacrifices technique for trends, or a writing teacher who thinks it is more important to have her rules followed than give helpful feedback to her students. So here are some tips that I have developed over the years in determining who would be a good fit for our family and a good person to instruct my children.

  • This is kind of basic but, do you like this person?  Sure there are going to be differences of opinion from time to time, but if the teacher rubs you the wrong way, or if you dread seeing them face-to-face, why are you subjecting your kids to them?
  • Young teachers are very enthusiastic.  That can be great for kids to pick up on!  But in my experience young teachers tend to be very focused on getting established and being respected and sometimes that is more paramount to them than the welfare of your student!  Any breach by you or your kids could look like you are trying to be disrespectful. Also in my experience, this has been more of an issue with young women than young men.
  • Does the teacher have a plan? It's nice to have a teacher that likes to wing it once in a while, but if you want your student to make progress, especially in things like music, writing or math, it's important that they know where your student is going or else you're wasting your money.
  • Speaking of money - make sure you are very clear on what you are willing to pay and on when they expect to be paid.  Check around too and know what the average payment is in your community.  I know Sam's guitar teacher is about $5 more per lesson than the average in our area, but he is also an experienced professional and a professor so he's definitely worth it.  (Sam is paying for his own lessons now so that helps too!)
  • Don't take any crap.  I once had a writing teacher that talked about Sam's work in front of other students and parents. She also made him cry which I found to be very unnecessary.  She never corrected his work in a timely fashion so that he could learn from his mistakes before he did the next assignment and in fact called work corrected in a timely fashion " a luxury."  I should have dumped her there and then.
  • On the other hand, if you know your student isn't trying his/her hardest, be supportive of the teacher in correcting the student.
  • Lastly, make sure the teacher you hire does not breech your own moral code or beliefs.  A teacher may be the best in their field, but if they are asking your kids to do things that make you uncomfortable then it's probably time to find a new teacher.

Mother Helping Daughter With Homework

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