Do the words “parent-teacher conference” stir feelings of trepidation? Are you worried you’ll be scolded for your child’s academic challenges?
In reality, there’s no need to dread the next parent-teacher conference. Today’s parent-teacher conferences are valuable tools for building relationships and cementing the partnerships between families and teachers. Parent-teacher conferences open new doors for communication and academic progress, letting parents and teachers share their thoughts and ideas as they personalize a learning plan that suits the child. Parents can make the most of the meeting by knowing the right questions to ask at parent-teacher conferences, for a productive, stress-free experience.
Ask Questions at Parent-Teacher Meetings to Ensure Student Success
First, you might be wondering about the purpose of parent-teacher conferences. Your active participation and prepared questions are extremely valuable, because parent-teacher conferences help families get more involved in the classroom and promote academic achievement for your child.
Parent-teacher conferences prepare your child for success through:
- Teachers sharing academic progress and growth. Report cards don’t tell the whole story. A trained teacher can see what is holding your child back and where they excel.
- Parents sharing their thoughts. You know your child best. You see the things that make them struggle and the things that capture their enthusiasm.
- Discussing ideas for enrichment or intervention. Teachers know the resources available to help children overcome obstacles and build their unique talents. Parents have ideas on what would help. Put two heads together, and great strategies emerge.
- Discussing issues that could interfere with the child’s learning and growth. Are there challenges at home that are weighing on your child’s mind? Do you fear that your child is being bullied? A frank, confidential discussion can help the teacher develop responses to help your child overcome hurdles.
New Teacher and Beginning of the Year Questions
Getting to know the teacher and what’s expected of your child is one of the best ways to start the school year on the right foot. Knowing what to say at parent-teacher conferences, with these questions, is a great way to solidify the relationship:
- How do you prefer that I contact you with questions?
- How can I make your job easier and support your style of teaching?
- What can I do at home to keep my child on track, academically and behaviorally?
If your child is in elementary school, arrive with these questions:
- What five skills do you hope children will gain this year, and how can I help?
- How can we encourage growth at home in a fun and stimulating way?
- How can I help my child be more organized with school assignments — without me taking over?
For middle and high school children, ask the teacher:
- How do I help my child gain independence?
- What is your policy on late assignments and makeup work? How does it affect grades?
- What will have the biggest impact on my child’s grades in your class?
Academic Performance Questions
Parents play a pivotal role in their children’s academic progress. They provide encouragement, support and a guiding hand. Most important, they send the message that school matters.
The right questions help parents gauge progress and plan next steps.
In elementary school, ask:
- How is my child performing in relation to grade level standards?
- What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses academically?
- How is my child’s behavior?
- What tests and evaluations will happen this year, and how does the school prepare my child?
For middle and high school students, ask:
- Do you think my child is reaching their full potential?
- Are there essential life skills for after graduation that are still growth areas for my child?
- How do I encourage my child to be accountable for school expectations?
- Are there support groups or tutoring available, if needed?
Social Skills Questions
As children interact, they learn to navigate and interpret social expectations. They learn to make friends, collaborate with others, and build healthy relationships. All of these skills will serve them well in careers and in life.
Learning the teacher’s thoughts can give you a new perspective on helping your child with sociability problems and challenges, so ask:
- Is my child having difficulties socially?
- How are conflicts between students addressed?
- Who can my child talk to about social issues or concerns? What is being done to make sure my child knows it’s safe to talk to someone?
- Is my child participating in class discussions?
- Is my child being cyberbullied? How can the school help put an end to it and help my child heal?
- How can I help my child make friends and interact with others more productively?
Children can behave differently in school and at home. The behavior parents see might not be what teachers observe. It’s also possible that parents and teachers see the same behavior but interpret it differently.
Ask these questions and give yourself time to reflect on the answers you hear.
- How does my child appear emotionally during class?
- Have you observed anything my child does that reflects — negatively or positively — on classroom standards and behavioral expectations?
- Is my child following directions?
- Does my child seem happy during classes? Is my child getting along with others?
- Are there behavioral modifications we can make at home to reinforce expectations at school?
Special Needs Questions
Children with special needs bring a unique set of challenges and talents to their schoolwork. Carefully constructed learning plans succeed only when parents, teachers and children are diligent and attentive in their implementation.
The parent-teacher conference offers an important opportunity to assess progress, ensure that everyone is on the same track and make any adjustments necessary. Ask the teacher these questions for better understanding of how your child’s special needs intersect with school.
- How is my child’s IEP or 504 being activated in the classroom?
- Will there be modifications to my child’s standardized testing?
- How are you adapting lessons and assignments to reach my child’s particular learning patterns?
- Are there tools my child needs in school or at home to succeed academically?
- Is it time to reassess my child’s abilities?
- Is my gifted child getting the resources needed to excel? Are there extra enrichment opportunities available?
Teacher Meeting Tips
As a parent, you view your child through a different lens than the teacher. The parent-teacher conference offers the chance to see your child more objectively, while it gives teachers a view into the child’s character that might not be apparent in the classroom.
Parent-teacher conferences can, and should, be positive and cooperative, always putting the best interests of the child first. Use these tips for a productive encounter.
- Write your questions in advance, so you don’t forget the important points you want to discuss.
- Teachers make decisions based on their training and experience. Even if you don’t understand their choices, ask questions that help you see the reasoning.
- Phrase difficult questions in ways that don’t seem confrontational or accusatory. Don’t ask, “Why would you even think of failing my child?” Instead ask, “What were the reasons my child got a failing grade on that assignment?”
- Turn the teacher’s answers and your own thoughts into action steps. If your child failed that assignment because the work was incomplete, work with the teacher to develop strategies that ensure completed assignments from here on.
- When discussing behavioral issues, take good notes. Hold off from responding immediately to the teacher’s observations, to keep the conversation from getting heated.
- Not every great idea will emerge in those 15-20 minutes. Keep the dialogue going, even after the conference is over.
CCA Encourages Strong Parent-Teacher Relationships
At CCA, parent-teacher conferences are a reason to celebrate the partnership between families and teachers. Every encounter, including scheduled meetings, is an opportunity to forge a strong bond and build a learning plan that’s personalized to the strengths, talents, passions and challenges of your child. CCA’s parent-teacher conferences aren’t lone events where strangers meet. They’re productive get-togethers that emerge from preexisting relationships. Contact us to learn how CCA relies on solid parent-teacher partnerships as the starting point for personalized learning that guides your child toward academic and lifetime success.