How did your last parent-teacher conference go? Did you walk away from your 20-minute slot feeling like you actually learned something about your child’s behavior in the classroom? Or, did you feel like you got the same stock answer as everyone else:
Johnny seems to be doing ___-ly in the classroom. While he is excelling in ____, it seems that he could spend a little more time on ____. I’m hoping that by doing _____, he’ll be brought up to speed with everyone else in the classroom!
If you’ve heard that routine time and time again, then maybe you should start learning the effective questions that experienced parents know to ask! Here are a few of our favorite questions, which you can certainly use in your next parent-teacher conference….
#1 What can I do at home to make your job, as a teacher, easier?
Drop this question, and wait for the teacher’s jaw to drop. Teachers hardly ever hear this question, but they love it. Unfortunately, many teachers are used to receiving the blame for everything, from behavior to reading comprehension. By actually admitting responsibility for your own child, two things will happen:
You’ll be on the teacher’s good side (which always helps!).
You might actually learn something about your child’s classroom behavior that you wouldn’t otherwise know.
If the teacher does offer you some suggestion or strategy, take it gracefully, and then enact it.
#2 Can my child see the marker board clearly?
Many children with vision problems can easily live the first 8 or 9 years of their life before they realize that their vision is not up there with everyone else’s. These days, more teachers are on the lookout for potential vision problems. However, it’s good to ask the teacher for confirmation either way.
#3 Where should I go to get extra support for my child in [fill-in-the-blank subject]?
Teachers are usually fabulous (and underused) resources when it comes to getting advice about tutoring and extra support programs. Instead of striking out on your own in search of a great tutoring program, ask the teacher instead. Chances are, he or she will be able to recommend a tutor or at-home learning program that never would have crossed your radar!
#4 What kind of learner is my child (visual, kinesthetic, auditory, etc.)?
This is another two-fold question…
It demonstrates how closely the teacher is observing your child.
If the teacher has a well-supported answer, it can help you make better decisions about helping them learn at home.
Even if you already know the answer to this question, go ahead and throw it out there at your next parent-teacher conference!
#5 Is there anything my child does at school that you think I might not know about?
Once you’ve asked all of your questions, this is a good one to bow out with. It gives the teacher a chance to cover any bases that might not have been touched. Since your child’s teacher could very well spend more time with your child than you do, this can be a very revealing question. No matter how well you know your child, you’ll probably be surprised by at least one facet of their behavior at school!
Julie Pelligrino is a reading specialist and consultant. She enjoys writing about early childhood education at Reading Row. Follow her on Twitter @readingrow.