Should I Move My Child to a New Classroom?

What to do if your have concerns about your preschooler's learning environment

Pre-School classroom with puzzles and artwork
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Question: Should I move my child to a new classroom?

My four-year-old daughter is in her second year of preschool. Last year she she did beautifully. She made lots of friends, learned a lot of great things and simply enjoyed going to school. This year however, is completely a different story. There have been a number of reasons why she hasn't adjusted, including a (small) run in with a bully (now taken care of) and my overall feeling that she and her teacher simply don't mesh. Her teacher is nice enough, but I don't feel like she is a good fit for my little one. She can be a little blunt with the children and I think my daughter would do better with someone "softer." My child is starting to show signs of separation anxiety and it is breaking my heart. I'd like to change her classroom but I'm not sure how that will go over. What should I do?

You don't say how far along in the school year you are but that certainly is a big factor. A mid-year switch can cause a lot of upheaval. Remember, the teacher isn't the only one in the classroom who your child interacts with. At this point, she has probably made a lot of friends, so switching her could be traumatic. That's not to say you shouldn't do it, you just need to weigh your options.

Before you make any major decisions (and changing a child's classroom is a major decision for sure), have you spoken with your child's teacher? It could be uncomfortable for you, but a sit down conference, scheduled after or before the school day begins, could go a long way to easing your fears. Don't point fingers or accuse the teacher of anything, but simply summarize what you've written above: that last year your daughter loved school and this year she isn't as enthusiastic. You know that the incident with the bully may be causing her some distress, but that you fear there is something more.

See what the teacher says. She may say that your child is doing fine or she may agree that Sally is having trouble coming out of her shell. See if you can come up with a plan together to help her adjust.

If after your conversation you are still unhappy, approach the director or principal of the school ask if switching classrooms and teachers is a possibility.

Be prepared to answer a lot of questions and defend why you think this is the best course of action. Remember, switching a child into a new classroom doesn't just affect you, it also affects the balance of the classes in the rest of the school, so the principal may be reluctant no matter what your reasons are.

Again, don't accuse the teacher of anything or turn over a laundry list of complaints. A simple, "I feel like Sally would do better in a classroom with a teacher who has a different learning style," should convey your message enough. If the principal presses and you have a specific incident, relay it, but don't turn the meeting into a teacher bashing session. If the principal says she'll look into it, try to get a specific date or deadline. The sooner you switch classrooms the better, simply because it will give your child more time to adjust to the new room.

If the principal or director agrees to the switch, you'll have to explain the situation to your preschooler carefully. Even if you are certain the move will be a positive one for her, understand that she may be nervous about it.

You should also assure her that she has done nothing wrong and that the new classroom will be a place where she will make lots of new friends and have lots of fun.

If a classroom switch is not possible, then know this is something you'll have to live with for the next few months. Make the best of the situation. Do not bash the school or the teacher in front of your child, as this will only make the situation worse. In the meantime, find out if it is possible to volunteer as a class parent or work in the classroom in some capacity. Continue to stay on top of the situation. If there is another incident or if your child is still unhappy, don't be afraid to broach the topic again.

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