Questions to Ask at a Parent-Teacher Conference

How to Identify and Overcome Challenges at School

Hispanic counselor discussing something during group therapy session
Steve Debenport/Vetta/Getty Images

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 go in with the right questions to ask.

General Parent-Teacher Interview Questions to Start

Before you've had a chance to learn about any challenges your child might be having, it's always a good idea to have a grasp of the school curriculum and learn how the teacher approaches teaching in general. Some of the questions you can start with include:

  1. What is the best way to communicate with you? Do you prefer email, phone, text message or notes passed between child?
  2. What are some of my child's strengths?
  3. What skills are being addressed in class right now, and how do they tie into the overall goals of the school year?
  4. Could you outline the schedule of a typical day or classroom period?
  5. Does my child have any academic challenges and how do you manage their struggles?
  6. What is my child's social interaction style? How do you deal with social challenges that may arise during recess or in the classroom and what type of discipline do you use in the classroom?
  7. Is my child keeping up with the curriculum and how is my child doing in reading, writing, math, and science?
  8. How often you do you schedule tests?
  9. Are there standardized tests that I should be aware of? How do you prepare students for those tests?
  10. What are your views on homework, what is your homework policy, and how does my child do with the assigned homework?
  11. How can I better support what you are doing in the classroom?

    Since not all students have the same academic challenges, being specific and tailoring a list of questions to your child's specific needs can be an effective way to facilitate an understanding between you and the teacher. That way, you can better work together to help your child succeed in the classroom.

    Student-Tailored Questions to Ask

    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. Time is always limited at teacher-parent conferences, go in armed with only the questions that you deem essential. With this mind, the following categories provide you with several questions based on specific problems facing students:

    If Your Child Isn't Being Challenged

    While some parents approach parent-teacher conferences as a means to identify their child's strengths and weaknesses, there are some kids who are not being challenged enough by the school curriculum. 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

    There are ways to participate if your child is struggling with school work. Don't be shy to ask the hard questions, such as:

    1. At what level should my child be performing in his or her studies?
    2. Where specifically is my child is falling short?
    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. Might my child have a learning disability?
    7. What types of supports are available to help my child keep up with his or her classmates?
    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 arbitrate if the problem is ongoing.

    Here is what you should ask:

    1. What is my child's attitude like in class?
    2. Do you believe that you and my child are getting along productively?
    3. What do you think is causing my child to feel frustrated or unhappy?
    4. What challenges are you finding difficult to overcome?
    5. How do you traditionally respond to these challenges?
    6. Can I offer my own insights as to what I see at home?
    7. What can we do, as the teacher and parent, to overcome these challenges?

    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's true potential and needs to be addressed if your child is either distressed, withdrawn, or failing to meet his or her academic goals.

    You should take the time to ask:

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

    Tips for a Smooth Meeting

    When it comes to parent-teacher conferences, there are ways you can express your concern without coming across as angry or confrontational. Keep the conferences positive and no matter how difficult it is, do not make accusatory comments to the teacher. 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.

    Was this page helpful?