Questions to Ask at a Parent-Teacher Conference

Make the most out of this precious time

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Parent-teacher conferences can provide much-needed insight into your child's learning style, growth opportunities, social and interaction styles, likes, dislikes, and the myriad of challenges that you may otherwise not know about. The trick to maximizing your very limited assigned time is to have a sense of what questions you deem essential before heading to the meeting.

Questions About the School Day

It's always a good idea to have a grasp of the school curriculum and learn how the teacher approaches teaching in general, if this hasn't already been made clear to you.

Some questions you might consider asking include:

  1. Could you outline the schedule of a typical day or classroom period?
  2. What skills are being addressed in class right now, and how do they tie into the overall goals of the school year?
  3. How often you do you schedule tests?
  4. Are there standardized tests that I should be aware of? How do you prepare students for them?
  5. What are your views on homework? What is your homework policy?
  6. How do you deal with social challenges that may arise during recess or in the classroom? What is your classroom discipline philosophy?
  7. What is the best way to communicate with you? Do you prefer email, phone, text message, messaging through a school-approved app, or notes passed via my child?

General Questions About Performance

Of course, parents are usually most eager to learn about how their child is doing specifically. You may already be aware of some challenges you want to inquire about. But if not, some general starter questions can help guide the conversation:

  1. What are some of my child's strengths?
  2. Is my child keeping up with the curriculum overall and in individual subjects (reading, writing, math, and science)?
  3. What are some challenges you've observed in my child? How do you help him manage these struggles?
  4. How does my child do with the assigned homework? In-class assignments?

Issue-Specific Questions

Tailoring further questions to your child's specific needs can be an effective way to facilitate an understanding between you and the teacher so you can better work together to help your child succeed. The following categories provide you with several questions based on specific problems that students may face.

Remember, too, that parent-teacher conferences are designed to be a dialogue wherein parents can offer insights and advice to teachers if they feel an academic opportunity is being missed.

If Your Child Isn't Being Challenged Enough

You may suspect that your child is not being adequately challenged for a number of reasons, including breezing through homework or expressing that they are bored at school.

In cases like these, it is important to ask:

  1. What can be done if my child is not being challenged enough?
  2. Does the school have a gifted and talented program?
  3. What type of testing is required to see if my child qualifies?
  4. Can you recommend some enrichment activities to support my child's learning?
  5. What opportunities does my child have for independent, student-led learning?

If Your Child Is Struggling Academically

Hearing this is never easy for a parent, but learning more about what may be at the root of your child's challenges can help you better understand what you can do to help.

Consider the following questions:

  1. At what level should my child be performing in his or her studies?
  2. Where is my child is falling short specifically?
  3. Which subjects are the most challenging for my child?
  4. Is my child having problems just on tests or with school work in general?
  5. Does my child respond better to certain types of teaching (like oral instruction) and less so to others (such as reading)?
  6. What types of supports are available to help my child keep up with his or her classmates?
  7. Might my child have a learning disability?
  8. Do you think a special education evaluation is needed?
  9. What should I be doing as a parent?

If Your Child Is Not Getting Along With the Teacher

These types of meetings provide you the opportunity to intervene if any school relationship is standing in the way of your child's academic goals. This includes problems with teachers. While the subject should never be approached as a confrontation, you may need to seek arbitration if the problem is ongoing.

Here is what you should ask:

  1. What is my child's attitude like in class?
  2. Does his attitude seem to vary due to certain factors? (e.g., types of activities, proximity to certain individuals, particular times of day)
  3. Do you believe that you and my child are getting along productively?
  4. What do you think is causing my child to feel frustrated or unhappy?
  5. What challenges, in terms of a relationship with my child, are you finding difficult to overcome?
  6. How do you traditionally respond to these challenges?
  7. What can we do, as the teacher and parent, to overcome these issues?

You may also find it helpful to offer your own insights and a sense of what you observe at home.

If Your Child Is Having Trouble With Peers

These meetings should not be about grades and grades alone. School life can often stand in the way of a child achieving his true potential, particularly if your child is distressed or withdrawn.

Take the time to ask:

  1. How is my child getting along with others in class?
  2. What is his social interaction style? Does he have problems socializing?
  3. Is my child being bullied or is my child bullying others?
  4. How do you deal with bullies, and does the school have a bullying policy?
  5. Who can I speak to if a bullying problem is not being resolved?
  6. Are there peer group skills programs that can help my child?
  7. What can I do to help my child make friends and interact more productively?

It's always helpful to ask how you can better support what a teacher is doing in the classroom.

Tips for a Smooth Meeting

When it comes to parent-teacher conferences, there are ways you can express concerns without coming across as angry, confrontational, or accusatory. Keep the conferences positive and collaborative. Remember that your child may see this person for many hours a day, and you want to show how intent you are on helping your child succeed. Be sure to look for solutions and make a concerted effort to work in partnership with your child's teacher.

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