By PATRICK MCNAMARA
Ready for another checkup? Only this checkup isn’t at the doctor’s office, it’s at your child’s school: Parent-teacher conference time is almost here.
Did you know that parental involvement is a strong predictor of academic success? Teachers want you to attend conferences and be involved in your children’s school lives. This is an exciting opportunity for both you and the teacher.
To make the most of this opportunity, here are some important questions to consider asking during a parent-teacher conference. Although not all of these questions will be applicable to every student, by coming to a conference with some specific questions, you will have a better experience and are more likely to better understand how your child is doing in school and the values and beliefs of your child’s teacher, both of which will be extremely valuable as the school year continues.
- How do you prefer that we communicate with each other? (Email? Phone? Text? Notes?)
- What do you expect from your students’ parents?
- What do you see as my child’s strengths?
- What do you think are academic challenges for my child?
- What would you do if my child were struggling academically with something?
- What should I do if I see that my child is struggling in your class?
- Are you available for individual help apart from class? When do you offer that, and how does my child access that help? What does it look like?
- What opportunities do the students have to develop socially while learning remotely or in class?
- How can I help support my child’s remote learning in our house?
- Do you think my child is at performing at grade level for your class? Have you seen anything that suggests to you that my child might be missing foundational skills that are required to succeed in your class? If you don’t know now, when will you be able to answer that question?
- (For math and reading teachers.) How do you handle standardized testing and prep for the State tests?
- What are your homework expectations and policies and how my child is doing with homework? How do you feel about us limiting homework time to __ minutes per evening? Will our child’s grades be affected by homework not completed?
- What can I do at home to support what you’re doing in the classroom?
Remember that teachers are people with many demands on them from students, principals and parents. Try to avoid (at least at first) being that parent teachers answer last. Posing questions in a positive manner will go a long way toward being seen as a partner, rather than yet another person who wants something from them. Saying, “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today,” is a good way to start any conversation with a teacher.
Also, before you ask the teacher for help, be sure to tell the teacher what you’ve tried already. That will show the teacher that you see this problem as a joint problem, not just something you’ve dumped in their lap. Ultimately, you want to work with the teacher to find the best solution for your child.
Above all, remember to keep your conference friendly and positive. Just like the adage says, you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Be positive and solution-oriented.
You and your child’s teacher can be a strong team of support for your child. Make this checkup a helpful stepping-stone in a successful parent-school partnership.
Patrick McNamara is the owner and executive director at Sylvan Learning of Albany and Clifton Park. For more information, visit SylvanLearning.com.