Having a parent teacher conference is important for students, caregivers and educators alike. By preparing in advance, parents can make the most of the time with their child’s teacher.
20 questions to ask at your parent teacher conference
With so many parents and guardians to see at these events, teachers don’t get to spend as much time as they’d like with each student’s parents. If caregivers identify what they want to focus on in advance, it can help to ensure parent teacher conferences provide value for all involved.
Questions about your child
Giving and receiving about your child is crucial at parent-teacher conferences. As well as obtaining information about what’s happening at school, parents can help teachers by providing them with key information regarding their child’s personality, strengths, weaknesses and home life.
Examples of helpful questions include:
1. How is my child emotionally?
Ask your child’s teacher whether they appear happy at school and whether they’re playing an active role in class and in the playground. Ensuring your son or daughter is happy is vital to a fulfilling school experience so don’t be afraid to voice any concerns you may have.
2. What are my child’s strengths?
Teachers should tell you about any issues your child may be having but it’s important to hear the good news too. Ask your child’s teachers what strengths they’ve identified and in what areas they are performing particularly well.
3. How does my child perform socially?
Knowing how your child interacts with his or her peers is important so ask your child’s teacher how they’re getting along socially at school. Find out whether your son or daughter plays with other students in the playground and whether participation in an after school activity may help them to develop socially.
4. May I tell you what’s happening at home?
Any changes in a student’s home life can have an impact on their behavior and attainment in school. If anything has changed at home, let your child’s teacher know so that they can offer extra support when appropriate.
5. May I tell you a little more about my child?
If you’re son or daughter is starting a new class or grade, the teacher may not know them very well yet. Telling the teacher how well your child focuses, what their strengths are and when they might need additional support can help to foster a good working relationship.
6. What needs improvement?
Asking your child’s teacher to tell you what areas require improvement will ensure you can provide relevant at-home support. If your child is struggling with spelling, for example, you can spend more time on this at home.
Academic performance questions
Once you’ve obtained and disclosed relevant information about your child, you can begin to focus on their academic performance and attainment.
These questions may include the following:
7. What extra help shall we provide?
If your child needs help from a tutor, extra encouragement with homework or help staying on track, the teacher will be able to work with you to create an effective strategy. This will ensure you’re able to deliver the additional help they need, regardless of what area they’re struggling in.
8. Is my child staying on track?
Ask your child’s teacher what your child’s attainment goals are and where they are performing now. Find out if this performance is what the teacher expected and, if not, what you can do to help improve your child’s attainment level.
9. Is my child falling behind in any subjects?
If your child is struggling at school, it’s important to know as quickly as possible. By identifying any potential problem areas you can work with your child’s teacher to help them.
10. What do these results mean?
Students take various tests and carry out numerous assignments at school, so it can be hard to know which are most important and what the results actually mean. Always ask the teacher if you’re unsure what your child’s results mean and whether you need to take any action.
11. Is my child putting enough effort in?
Find out if your child is rushing their work, slacking off or putting minimal effort into their studies. If so, you can offer structured homework time when your child returns home from school and help them stay on track.
Special needs questions
If your child has been diagnosed with any special needs, a parent-teacher conference provides a great opportunity to ask specific need-related questions.
These specific special needs questions include:
12. Are you aware of my child’s IEP?
If your child already has an IEP in place ensure the teacher is aware of it and its contents. The IEP should set out your child’s objectives in school and strategies to achieve them so it’s vital their class teacher is fully briefed on what it contains.
13. How is the school accommodating my child’s needs?
Ask your child’s teacher how they’re implementing their IEP on a daily basis and whether your child is on target to achieve his or her goals. If you’re not happy with the existing routine, ask how it can be improved so that their IEP goals can be met.
14. How does the school deal with special needs?
Finding out how your child’s school responds to special needs diagnoses is essential. If your child doesn’t have an Individualized Education Program yet, ask your child’s teacher when the assessment will take place and what it involves. It’s a good idea to do this in writing as well, so you can keep track of when things should be underway.
Tricky situation questions
From time to time students may face issues at school and a parent-teacher conference may be a good time to raise them. Collaborating with your child’s teacher and taking a joint approach can help to resolve issues far more quickly than being combative, so work with school staff if you can.
When a pupil is facing a tricky situation in school, the following questions may help:
15. Can you tell me more about this situation?
Children aren’t always adept at giving their parents the full story so if your child is complaining about school you may want to check what’s going on. Asking a teacher to clarify the details will ensure you have the full picture and gives you a way to broach the subject without apportioning blame.
16. Can you tell me more about the teaching method you’re using?
If parents have concerns about the way their child is being taught, it’s appropriate to raise them at a parent-teacher meeting. However, criticizing a teacher may make them defensive and this isn’t the best foundation for a good parent-teacher relationship. Instead, ask your child’s teachers about their teaching methods and how they work in the classroom. If your child isn’t responding well to current teaching methods ask how you can support your child and whether any variations on content delivery are available.
17. What do you advise?
Asking your child’s teachers for advice is a great way to find out how you can support your child. It’s not unusual for children to face difficult situations at school and experienced teachers are familiar with the issues which may arise in a school setting. Getting advice on how to cope with a specific situation will ensure it’s resolved as quickly as possible.
18. May I tell you my concerns?
If you’re worried about your child or aware of a tricky situation they’re experiencing, share it with your child’s teachers. If they aren’t already aware of it, this information can help them to put a problem-solving strategy in place and if they are aware of any issues, addition information can be helpful.
General information questions
Before you leave a parent-teacher conference it can be helpful to confirm a few general details. It’s easy to forget these types of questions so you may find it useful to jot them down before the conference begins.
These may include:
19. Can I contact you?
Asking whether you can contact your child’s teachers and what their contact details are gives them the opportunity to tell you their preferred contact methods. Phoning the school may not be the best way to contact your child’s teacher, for example, as it’s likely they’ll be in class when you ring. In non-urgent situations, teachers may prefer you contact them by email so that they respond outside of teaching hours.
20. How can I help?
Ask your teacher what support you can offer your child, his or her class and the school as a whole. In general, schools require assistance from parents on a regular basis so there are likely to be numerous volunteer opportunities for you to get involved with.
Concluding parent teacher conference
Remember – parent-teacher conferences are usually limited by time and you may not have the opportunity to discuss everything you want to with your child’s teacher. If there is more ground to cover, ask the teacher if it is possible to have a follow-up meeting so you can discuss any issues in more detail.
Parental involvement in schools is a hot topic and students tend to perform better when their parents or caregivers take an active role in their education. If you’re unable to attend a parents’ evening or meeting, contact your child’s teacher and let them know why. In some cases, teachers will be able to offer you a meeting on an alternative day or at an alternative time.
Parent teacher meetings are an opportunity to discuss your child and his or her performance with school staff. Although this includes positive feedback, it’s also a chance for both parties to raise any concerns or issues they have. When doing so, remember to do so calmly and with an end-goal in mind. Your child will be under the supervision of their teacher for an entire academic year and it’s always best if parents, caregivers and teachers can work together in partnership.