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Mindset & Motivation, Teaching Tips & Tricks   |   Aug 28, 2014

When parents want to move their child to another classroom

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Having a parent ask to move a child to a different classroom can be a huge blow to a teacher’s confidence. And it’s an issue that nearly every educator will face at some point–if not at multiple points–in their career. Sometime parents don’t like the fact that you are forcing them to address issues they’ve tried to sweep under the rug. Other times it’ s a personality conflict, a disagreement over your teaching style, or simply an attempt to get their child into the classroom of a teacher they think will do a better job.

Regardless of the reason, a parent requesting to have a student transferred to another classroom is enough to shake any teacher’s morale. Here are 6 strategies to help you handle the situation effectively:

Consider the element of truth in the parent’s criticism and disregard the rest.

Think deeply about your teaching practice. What is the heart of the issue that the parent is complaining about? On what points is she or he correct? Everyone has skills which they can improve, and if the parent has identified some legitimately weak areas of your teaching, you owe it to yourself and your students to consider that. Discern for yourself which pieces of information are insults/exaggerations and which pieces have an element of truth that needs to be dealt with. Don’t get so caught up in being offended that you miss the opportunity to reflect on your teaching and improve it.

Don’t go on the defensive.

The first time a room change is mentioned, you might want to try smoothing things over: “I really love having __ in my classroom, and she’s adjusted really well and made some great friends. I’d love to keep her in my room. I feel confident we can come up with a solution together and move forward.” But if the parent is insistent, don’t fight tooth and nail over every complaint. Resist the urge to call the parent or write a 5 page letter defending yourself. Tell yourself, This parent thinks the child will do better in another classroom, and he has the right to think that. I wish the family the best. I’m moving on and focusing on the needs of the kids who are still in my room.

Remember that the parent truly believes s/he is acting in the child’s best interests.

In Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching, I wrote a lot about the principle of separate realities. Other people will never the see world as we do, because they haven’t had all the same experiences we’ve had. That means trying to understand why they “don’t get it” will result in frustration every time because we each truly live in a separate reality. If a parent is requesting that his child be moved to another classroom, it’s because he sincerely believes that his or her child would be more successful there. You don’t have to agree with his position, but if you understand that the parent believes it deeply and is trying to advocate for the child, it’s easier to accept.

Let go of the offense: stop thinking about it, and stop talking about it.

Don’t tell everyone in the school about what happened. Don’t repeat the incident to all your friends, your spouse, your mom, and your neighbor. Don’t think about it, and don’t talk about it. The less you allow thoughts about negative situations to stay in your mind, the fuzzier your memories become, and the weaker your attached emotions get. Each time you are tempted to replay what happen, say to yourself, It’s over. I’m choosing not to think about that anymore.

Accept the fact that some parents are never going to like you.

I wish someone had told me that when I started teaching. I thought if I worked hard enough, they’d have no choice but to love me. But every year, I had at least one parent who gave me a hard time about pretty much everything, questioned my every move, and basically made me feel incompetent. No matter how accommodating I was, there was always a parent I could. not. please. Once I accepted that reality, it was a lot easier to handle. Instead of thinking, Why am I not good enough for her? I would think, There is no law of the universe stating that every parent is going to like me. This year, she is the parent who does not. That’s okay. It makes my job a little harder, but it won’t deter me from doing my very best each and every day.

Focus on the affirmations you’ve received, not the criticisms.

If the majority of your students’ parents think you’re doing a good job, why should you give one naysayer the power to destroy your self-esteem for the rest of the year? Reflect on and plan for areas that need improvement, but don’t replay your faults over and over. It’s human nature to put more weight on criticism than compliments, so we have to actively fight that tendency. At the end of each school day, make a mental (or written) list of all the things that went right and all the successes you had with kids and their families. Don’t lose sight of the progress both you and your students make throughout the year as you learn from your experiences. Repeat those small wins to yourself when you feel discouraged.

Have you had parents request to transfer their children to another teacher’s classroom? How did you handle it?

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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  1. This year my principal removed a child from my room before school even started. The reason? The parent called and told her he did not want a black teacher for his child. I told my principal, “His loss.”
    Personally, I wouldn’t have moved the child. I teach in a public school, he could have taken his child to another school. I can’t dwell on it though, I have the remaining students to worry about.:) I just feel sorry for that child and how she is being raised.:(

    1. Oh my, Lisa, that’s terrible! I see what you mean about that not being a valid reason to move the child. For your sake, I’m glad that the child was moved. Wow. Just wow.

    2. Oh My! Had you said that, you’d have been fired!

      So sorry that you had to experience that. I remember being glad when my son finally had a male teacher; my daughter was excited this year to ‘finally’ have a black teacher; there have been a number of African American teachers in her school, the dice have just never rolled her way.

      1. Thanks Lisa. It’s always a great experience when we allow our children to benefit form the diverse society we live in.

    3. I get the opposite. I’ve had a parent tell me and my principal that I don’t understand their culture. Bullying a teacher and disrupting class daily by laughing at during lessons is not in anyone’s culture. It’s just rude! No excuse. But as you said….their loss. My classroom is always better off its out this type of parent influence. Keep calm and teach on!

    4. I told a parent (whose child wanted to transfer to another classroom because all of her friends were in the other classroom) that it would be sending the wrong message to her daughter. I told her that allowing an 8 year old to change classrooms simply because her friends were in the other class would give her the mistaken notion that all she had to do to get her way was to throw a tantrum. Luckily, I knew the parent well from having taught two of her other children and the parent came around. She later thanked me for NOT allowing her daughter to switch classrooms because she made many NEW friends.

    5. what do you do as a parent when your child is mixed(father black) and you feel the animosity or dislike for your child.I want my child to learn and understand there is prejudice every where. I let her know she is a child of God and ” it is nothing wrong with your beauty”. I tell her getting her education is the number one tool for success,but it is hard when I see the pain in her eyes. I don’t want to be a tattletale, just want the teacher to understand she does want to learn because she can.

  2. I just retired in June after 43 years of teaching, mostly first grade. Before you think, “There’s an old lady who must have been stuck in her ways,” I changed with the times and was always ready to try new ideas and was flexible in my teaching styles because every class is different. (I once had a colleague who had not changed his lesson plans for ten years!) and believe me parents and students certainly changed since I started teaching in 1971!
    I have always been proactive when I knew that a “difficult” parent, or parents, were moving up to my class. I met with them before the end of the previous school year to introduce myself and get a “feel” for them and their child. It did ward off many negative feelings on the part of the parents. I also made them feel like we were partners in the education of their child, and invited them to assist in special projects when I needed more hands to help the students. I made sure that they knew that they were there not just for their child, but for the benefit of all the students.
    Did this work all the time? Of course not; sometimes a student would transfer in from another school, so the situation might be an unknown. But I always tried to remain positive for the sake of their child, and usually ended up with the parents feeling that I was willing to work with them. I never had any parent request a move, but sometimes that was because I was the only teacher of a specific grade, so we had to learn to work together! I never placated them either or gave into their wants/requests. We would talk it out and come up with a solution acceptable to both of us. Other teachers would often cringe and go on the defensive before a difficult student/parent even entered their class. I just found that it was easier and better for all of us to be proactive rather than reactive.

  3. This is just what I needed to hear! Especially reading Karel’s comment. I just had a very difficult student move into my class who I will have for science for the next 3 years. I went in terrified of how she was going to be in my room, but internalized it. When she came into my room the first day, I treated her as though I didn’t remember anything that had happened the year before and told her I was glad to start a new year with her. She hasn’t responded positively yet, but she didn’t respond negatively either. I’m excited to see how this year is overall. My new motto, thanks to you, is “Stop thinking about it and stop talking about it.” Thank you!

  4. My daughter was just moved from a grade 4/5 classroom she loved, two weeks into school starting. I was told by the principal that it was to accommodate the influx of new students and that she couldn’t move her back….I believe it was because the teachers/principal were fulfilling other parent’s requests for their children to be moved from the other grade 4 class… My daughter was devastated. Every parent who requests their child to be with friends in another classroom, or because they’ve heard negative things about a teacher don’t realize that to fulfill their complaints, they completely devastate another child who is forced to move out of a classroom they loved.

  5. I was a first year classroom teacher this year. I had a very difficult class. But my principal didn’t have my back, and wasn’t willing to help me be a better teacher. I had a parent request a move to the other teacher, it was granted without my principal even batting an eye due to the social status of this particular family, and what would happen if she didn’t do what was asked. My principal started to make asked mountain out of a mole hill, and just decided that I wasn’t a good fit for her building. My district is allowing me to finish out the school year as a full time sub jeep in my same salary and benefits. But this whole ordeal has been such a blow to my self esteem and my confidence as a teacher. The hard part was I came from a different district last year, I was running the home school program and the RTI program. I was part of the district team. I was highly recommended, and when I decided to leave so I could have my own classroom the superintendent personally came to offer me a position at any school in the district just so in wouldn’t leave. Now I am really kicking myself for turning down the offer. But I had already accepted the other job and I wasn’t going to go back on my word. Needless to say I have learned a lot about the ridiculous politics and I have created some great friendships.

  6. This is happening to me now. I just want to see how to address this with my class. I know they’ll ask when they see this child in another classroom. Our classes see each other a lot and we have recess together. Any advice?

    1. Hi, Margaret! Just tell them “___ is going to be in ___’s class now.” If they like the child, many of them will probably groan or whine when you say that, so tell them, “I know, I’m sad, too. But the good news is that we get to see ___ every single day at recess and sometimes at lunch and specials, too, so you can still be friends and play together.” If anyone asks why, just say, “It was a decision our principal made” and change the subject.

  7. Sorry! I just now saw this. My students came in first thing in the morning and already knew about it. Guess the parents all talked to each other. When I had my whole class together, I said exactly what you told me. No one asked any other questions. It was weird for me the first couple of days but now it’s fine. Thank you again for your help.

  8. As a principal, I have never moved a child in mid-year but I have considered it. I have moved students in August before school starts when a parent is carrying on about why the child shouldn’t have a certain teacher, even when I don’t agree with what the parents are saying. This is because I don’t want the teacher’s every move questioned all year long and for the student to be questioned everyday when he/she gets home. When parents are so far gone in their thinking, the placement can be a detriment for the student and the teacher. Sometimes this kind of decision is made to save the teacher.

    1. Thanks for chiming in from a principal’s perspective. I think it’s wise of you to be pro-active when you anticipate a problem, and I really applaud you for considering the teachers’ needs as well as the kids’ and parents’. It must be incredibly tough to balance them all.

  9. I have a sibling who is in kindergarten and has loved school ever since she started pre-k . She didn’t even cry on her first day like some other kids she was excited about school we never had a problem with her crying or anything but this year when she started kinder her first week was okay she didn’t cry but now she’s terrified of going to school it’s so hard for her she crys every morning and comes back home really sad. My mom called the office and tried to talk to someone but when they finally got a hold of her teacher she got very rude and even said my sibling was lieing we tried to see if it would help but it has only made things worst to the point where my sibling tells my mother not to call her teacher again because she will get in trouble . We know how my sibling is, not a lier, not a trouble maker, and she lov”Ed” school until she got this teacher. HELP PLEASE! I want my sibling to enjoy school again and not be terrified of it.

  10. I had my twins moved from one classroom to another in the same school. It was mid year. Both of their grades dropped and I thought it was the teacher, not to mention I didn’t like some of the discouraging comments she had said to them. I just hope their grades get better with the other teacher. Either way I caused many tears between the teacher and my twins. This happened just yesterday, the classroom switch.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Crystal. I hope your twins do better in the other class. My best advice is to address the root problem of their grades dropping and make sure they’re doing the work necessary to succeed with the new teacher.

  11. i have been on both sides of this being a teacher and a parent. My feeling is if a parent really feels it’s not a good fit, move the child. Don’t take it as anything if you are the teacher, it doesn’t mean your not a good teacher or person. You don’t want a year of trauma for the child or uncomfortableness between the parent and teacher. Parents, kids and teachers may have many reasons for the move. Respect that everyone is usually trying to do the best for the child!

  12. I have had two years in a row where parents have requested a move mid year. We are a multi – age school with grades1, 2 & 3 in the environment. My 3rd graders have been a challenging group for 2 years now. I know that I always have things to work on and are quite reflective in my practice. My parent communication is something I work hard on. I have a feeling that until this group of 3rd graders move on ( individually they are challenging-collectively a terrible combination) that parents will have concerns. What I don’t appreciate is that the parents never addressed it to me but went to my principal. I have felt blindsided by the requests each time. In one case it was very manipulative saying they were
    going to pull the child from our school causing our principal to ask what it would take to get them to stay. Switch classrooms of course. Another parent requested “closure” before her daughter left our room. This was difficult because of how emotional and drawn out it was. She did not want to go. I don’t appreciate being out of the loop. I know I have things to work on, but how about helping with the group of students who are not healthy together? Good advice to not think about it but it has been hard to do. Of course I take the high road when I see them around the building and they awkwardly avoid me. You made the decision. Own it and be cordial parents!

  13. Is moving a student to another classroom legal without having a teacher, parent & principal meeting. I was out on Friday when all this happened. I was notified by a co-worker who was just told that my student would be in her room on Monday without any further explanation. Do I have a right to still meet with the parents and principal?

  14. I’m dealing with this issue right now. I’m taking a mental health day today to try to move through the moment. This article is medicine for my heart. Thank you for sharing all of your past and present insights to this issue! Now, time for a hike and rejuvenation and back to the grind and minds tomorrow.

  15. I have had that happen a few times mostly because the parent didn’t like me letting them know about academic or behavior issues. I’ve learned that you can’t take things personally and I was fine with them moving. It relieves stress for me and the parent especially with the disagreements we would have so I was fine with the change. The behaviors and academic problems were still there with the new teacher. Sometimes the parents just need to see their child’s performance from another perspective.

  16. I had a mother of a student move her child and the child’s cousin out of
    my room, after observing me. She is the director of a pre-school, and was taking notes on me on her laptop. The principal was with her too.
    I feel completely devastated. I am in a program new to me, and the students
    are quite challenging to me.

    Perhaps, I should quit before they fire me.

  17. I have a parent moving their child because she is “uncomfortable”. I have had to call cps before and mom was furious (they told her it was me, or so she says). I am only in my first year and feel like i failed. This child is amazing but obviously needs better care. Why is it so hard to let this go?

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