Parent-teacher conferences. For some parents, those words are enough to send a shiver of fear down their spines.
As a parent, we believe we know our children better than anyone. We have a good idea of what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what things they enjoy more than others.
It is easy to walk into a parent-teacher conference and just nod along as the teacher reviews everything, but to help our children succeed, I recommend having a list of questions prepared to ask when you get there.
I find I learn more about my child this way. After all, how your child fares in a different environment to the more casual one at home, and what the trained eye of a teacher picks up, might surprise you.
Being prepared also shows the teacher you are involved in your child’s education and open to communication, as well as highlights any areas in your child’s progress that deserves your attention.
Teachers appreciate it when parents are active and interested in their children. Too many parents merely go in and nod along to everything the teacher has to say. 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.
You know your child better than anyone, but for nine months a year your child’s teacher spends all day with them. By knowing what to ask, you will make the teacher’s job easier, keep your child happier, and make parent-teacher conferences go quickly and smoothly.
So let’s dive straight into it.
The Ten Most Important Questions to Ask At Parent Teacher Conferences
1) How is My Child Doing Socially?
This is the most important question, in my opinion. By asking this one question, you are actually asking a lot of other questions too.
By asking the teacher this, you can find out a lot of things: if your child is a bully, is being bullied, is too withdrawn, too outgoing, etc.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. Together, you can decide on the best corrective approach to fixing this behavior.
If your child is too quiet in class, you can figure out with the teacher whether it is due to a lack of confidence, or due to shyness.
Helping and encouraging your child to grow out of their comfort zone is imperative at an early age, so they can conduct themselves with confidence later in life.
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 at an early age, when they are the most receptive.
2) Where Do You Feel My Child’s Strengths and Weaknesses Are?
This is another important question that asks more than one thing. 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.
As a parent, this can help you to encourage your child both academically and creatively.
By knowing what your child’s weaknesses, are you can provide the help and support they need at home to strengthen their abilities in that subject.
Often, parents only realize their child is doing poorly when the report cards come in, or at the parent-teacher conference.
Checking up regularly with teachers allows you to pinpoint these weaknesses early on, and work with your child to overcome them.
There are also 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 your child’s interests, supplementing their learning at school with interactive and fun activities at home.
3) Do You Feel My Child Needs Any Extra Help with Anything?
This is a subject that 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 there 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.
If they are not doing well in any subject at school, you can help them at home, or enlist the help of tutors or a plethora of online resources out there to help students and teachers alike.
Asking this question may also help you to identify early signs of any reading difficulties your child may have, such as dyslexia.
Recognizing the signs early enables both you and the teacher to adjust the method of teaching to suit your child’s needs, so they don’t risk falling behind.
4) 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 had a tendency of doing this, so his teacher and I worked out a homework journal that I signed, so I knew what he had to do daily.
Again, if your child is having difficulty doing homework or studying at home, you’ll know to give them some time and help them out when they need it.
If you’re a working parent and don’t get as much time at home, you can also introduce your children to helpful online study resources.
5) Does My Child See the Chalkboard Okay?
I cannot stress enough how vital this question is, since it’s between first and third grade when children are found to have vision problems. My daughter was seven before we knew.
Teachers know what to look for in kids who are having trouble seeing.
Getting your child to the optometrist in time can help correct vision imbalances and prevent them from getting worse.
They can also improve your child’s attention span and performance since they don’t have to struggle to read in the classroom.
6) Is My Child Organized?
You can also answer this question for yourself by looking at 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 through their desk for what they need well after the teacher starts the class.
This will also cut back on incidences of forgotten books or homework.
7) 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 that 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 on her shoulder none of the other kids even noticed.
8) 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 teacher’s policies ahead of time, it can save a lot of frustration later if things get confiscated.
9) How Do You Prefer We Communicate on Any Issues?
Some teachers prefer to talk on the phone, some via 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 before conferences and give it to them.
10) 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 but important questions can help you out more than you can imagine as a parent who wants their child to succeed.
You’ll find you will walk into these conferences with confidence and walk away learning even more about your child.
Write in and let us know which questions you’re planning to ask when it’s time for the next parent-teacher conference!
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.