Parent teacher conferences, for some parents those words send a shiver of fear down their spines. As a parent we know our children better than anyone. We have a good idea what their strengths and weaknesses are and the things they enjoy more than others. It’s easy to walk into a parent teacher conference and just nod as the teacher goes over things, but to help our children succeed we should have a list of questions prepared to ask the teacher. I find I learn more about my child this way. Being prepared also shows the teacher you are involved in your child’s education and open to communication.
Teachers appreciate it when parents are active and interested in their children. Too many parents do just go in and do the head nod. It’s not much of a conference when only one person is doing all the talking. I understand that it’s not comfortable sitting in a tiny chair looking at a teacher wondering if she’s judging your parenting. It’s even more uncomfortable if your child has been having some issues. Being prepared can really help to make things easier and gives you the upper hand in helping your child succeed in school.
Like I said you know your child better than anyone, but for nine months a year your child’s teacher spends all day with your child. By knowing what to ask you will make the teachers job easier, keeps your child happier, and will make parent teachers conference go quickly and smoothly.
Here is a list of the ten things you should know to ask at your next Parent teacher conference:
- This is the most important. How is my child doing socially? This one question actually asks a lot of questions. By asking the teacher this you can find out a lot of things, if your child is a bully, being bullied, withdrawn, too outgoing, etc. I don’t think nearly enough parents ask this question. I not only ask at the conferences, but check periodically throughout the year. If your child is being bullied they will not be happy in school, they will be in fear. Imagine going to work and feeling afraid. You wouldn’t be a great worker would you? By asking this you and the teacher can try to work out a plan of action. Remember not all kids tell their parents if they are being bullied. If you find out your child is the bully. Don’t be upset. This again opens the door to form a plan of action with the teacher. Knowing if your child is doing okay socially is so important. Social development helps form who we become and you want to make sure your child develops proper social behaviors.
- Where do you feel my child’s strengths and weaknesses are? This is another important question that asks more than one. You will find out where your child’s strengths are academically and what they enjoy to do. These are two very different things. The teacher may say your child excels in science and loves reading and art. This can help as a parent to encourage your child both academically and in creativity. By knowing what your child’s weaknesses are you can help at home to strengthen their abilities in that subject. There are a ton of online activities for you to share with your child. You can find everything from math games to free books that you can match to any child’s interests.
- Do you feel my child needs any extra help in school with anything? This is a subject teachers don’t like to talk to parents about. It’s not easy to tell a parent their child may be lagging pretty far behind in reading or that their may be some delays in other areas. As parents we need to know these things. You are your child’s advocate, which means you have to know what your child needs and make sure they get it.
- Has my child been doing their homework? This is a question I always make a point of asking. I can’t tell you how many times my kids have hidden homework or never brought it home. My son was good for this so the teacher and I worked out a homework journal that I signed so I knew what he had to do daily.
- Does my child see the chalkboard okay? I can not stress enough how important this is since it’s between first and third grade when children are found to have vision problems. My one daughter was seven before we knew. Teachers know what to look for in kids who are having trouble seeing.
- Is my child organized? You can also find this out by looking in your child’s desk. Organizational skills are extremely important. If you’re afraid to stick your hand in your child’s desk it may be wise to work on organization. If your child has everything in place they are much more likely to be prepared and not searching though their desk for what they need still after the teacher starts teaching a subject. This will also cut back on forgotten books or homework.
- Does my child daydream? I can’t tell you how many times we heard this about my seven year old. Her attention is always out the window, on the clock, staring at a picture. I was able to work out where when she was off in space the teacher would touch her shoulder and she’d get back to work. Daydreaming isn’t a child misbehaving. We all daydream now and then. By working out this system with the teacher she didn’t have to say a word just a slight touch of he shoulder none of the other kids even noticed.
- Do you have any class policies I should know about? Some teachers are stricter than others and their rules reflect that. Some may allow children to bring in a toy from home, while others forbid it. Some allow gum and some don’t. If you know the teachers policies ahead of time it can save a lot of frustration later if things get confiscated.
- How do you prefer we communicate on any issues? Some teachers prefer to talk on the phone, some email, and some even do old fashioned notes. All of these systems work and by asking you show the teacher you want to know if there is ever anything they need to discuss. I always write out my phone number and email prior to conferences and give it to them.
- Do you have any recommendations? This opens up a line of conversation on everything you have already discussed. If your child needs extra help the teacher may recommend going to the special education committee, or putting them into an extra class.
Ten simple questions that ask a lot and help you as a parent who wants their child to succeed. You’ll find you will walk away into conferences with confidence and walk away learning even more about your child.
Stephanie Barmann is a mother of seven and an author. She lives in Western New York, which is not known for having a lot of large families. She thinks sometimes people look at us like we are nuts. She has been a writer for over a decade and have five paranormal/horror ebooks on the market. She has stopped writing novels for a while to concentrate on raising kids. Two of her children are disabled so that takes up a lot of her time, but when she's not on mommy duty she loves to read, blog, and organize church gatherings. Read more about her, and about parent teacher conferences, at her blog.