By Vicki Little
Any time you meet with someone at your child’s school, the common goal should be to help your child. School conferences can be a blur of test scores, rankings, grades and questions. Going in prepared is the best thing that you can do to make the most out of your limited time with the teacher. Here are 6 questions to ask at every conference, plus a few extra ones for middle and high school students.
1) Is my child performing at the appropriate level? If your child is below grade level, he or she should be on a performance plan. If they are on grade level, it is important to make sure your child stays on track to grow at the same pace over the the next year — or a year’s growth from where that child started. Think of the growth charts in the pediatrician’s office. As long as they stay on the curve, they are doing pretty well.
2) What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses in each subject? Typically we know what our kids are good at overall, such as math or reading. But you may be surprised to hear that your child, who hardly never listens to music at home, shows a talent for singing. Or maybe the child who is fantastic at multiplication gets lost when it comes to algebra.
3) What can we do at home to support classroom learning? You and your child can spend hours getting frustrated during homework time, but your teacher may have some tricks to help it go more smoothly. If they are studying fractions, for instance, the teacher may recommend baking together and doubling the recipe. Perhaps the teacher would prefer if your child spent 15 instead of 20 minutes reading and spent an extra five minutes on writing.
4) How is my child doing socially? This is important to ask, but beware that you may not like the answer. If your child is a bully, be prepared to handle it. And if your child is painfully shy, find ways to help.
5) How is my child’s classroom behavior? Your chatty Cathy may be extremely shy in class or the exact opposite. Many kids are very different at school than they are at home, which is great, as long as they are doing what they are supposed to.
6) How much time should my child be spending on homework? You probably got the general answer for the class on back-to-school night. However, the teacher knows your student well, and the teacher knows if your child can finish 20 minutes of math in 10, or if there is no way your child could do a good job if he or she only spends 15 minutes writing answers.
If your child is in middle school, ask the above questions PLUS-
7) What are the popular tween/teen trends you are seeing? Keeping up with the latest trends can make anyone cra cra! Totes! But your child’s teacher will have a better idea than anyone else since the teacher sees it all and will most likely know the warning signs of more dangerous trends.
8) Is there something I should be keeping an eye on? Middle school is a scary, changing time. Every child is different and will go through their trials and tribulations at different times and deal with them in different ways. Your child’s teacher may have spotted some signs that can explain any mysterious behavior.
9) How can I help prepare my child for high school? Middle school teachers have seen many kids graduate to high school and have seen them come back to visit. They can spot which kids are more prepared for the giant leap. Whether it be studying more, choosing better friends, or talking less in class, the teacher can give you insights on how prepared your child is.
If your child is in high school, ask the above 9 questions PLUS-
10) What courses should my child take to satisfy graduation requirements? Hopefully your child knows this and is staying on track. It can be confusing, though, so all the better if the two of you are monitoring progress.
11) What additional things does my child need to do to remain competitive for college admissions? Your child may have straight A’s… and absolutely no volunteer work. Or your child may be a master mathematician, but essay writing needs some work. Possibly your child just needs an additional extra curricular activity to spice up their resume.
12) How can I help my child? As your children get older, they become more independent and much more of a mystery to you. They may need a tutor, a counselor, a shoulder, or a “mental-health” day. Whatever it is, your teacher probably has at least one suggestion on how you can help.
Do you have a “must-ask” question during your parent/teacher conferences? Join us on Facebook for a discussion!
Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two young kids. A Colorado native, she is the Publisher and Editor of Macaroni Kid Aurora and Downtown Denver. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering, reading, camping, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends.
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