Best Questions to Ask During Parent-Teacher Conferences

parent-teacher conferenceMany parents attend parent-teacher conferences when their children are in elementary school, but most stop when their children hit middle and high school. For some parents, it may feel overwhelming to try to meet their teen’s teachers when there are so many of them! And, sometimes parents feel that, by the time their teen is in middle or high school, they should have everything under control. Despite these assumptions, parent-teacher conferences in the later grades can be very helpful. Meeting with teachers communicates to your teen that school is very important and that you’re involved with their education. Additionally, it’s useful to get to know your child’s teachers and to gain an understanding of your teen’s academic potential, social issues, and behavior problems.

Here are the top eight questions you should ask during a parent-teacher conference:

1. What does my teen do well?

You may think you know your teen’s strengths, but sometimes children display different characteristics in a classroom setting than at home. Hearing about your child’s strengths from a teacher can be enlightening. Perhaps the teacher has noticed that your teen is good with organization or always looks out for a child who has special needs. A teacher’s insight can help you gain an understanding of your teen’s school career that you won’t ever learn from a report card. It’s a great idea to share these strengths with your teen to provide praise or encouragement. You can also suggest how they might use those strengths to be successful in adulthood or in a specific career.

2. What are my teen’s challenges?

Embarrassment runs high in the adolescent years, so the majority of teens are reluctant to share problems that they are experiencing. Although you may know your teen’s weaknesses in a home setting, your child’s teacher will likely have a very different perspective than you do. Ask the teacher what personal weaknesses your child needs to work on, and listen to the response with an open mind. You might be surprised that your normally reserved child is a chatterbox in class or your organized teen is struggling to get his/her homework turned in.

3. How can my teen succeed in your class?

It is always helpful to understand a teacher’s expectations. If you can discover what the teacher is looking for from students, you will have a clearer understanding of things your teen can do to be successful. It is also a good idea to ask your student’s teacher if they believe your teen is making their best effort or if they are coasting. A bright teen could pull off acceptable grades with minimal effort, but teachers can often tell if a student is slacking. Finally, you may want to ask the teacher if there are additional things your teen should do to be successful in middle or high school outside of this specific class. For example, the teacher may know of an internship or extra credit opportunities that would take your teen’s academic performance to the next level.

4. What are the most important lessons my teen will learn in your class?

Teens are quick to judge class material as boring and unimportant. It can be useful for you to understand and communicate to your teen the significance of the classwork and how that information will be helpful in their future.

5. How much time should my teen spend doing homework for your class?

Teens will likely never tell you if they have homework or not, which can lead to a couple of problems. First, they may tell you that they have no homework when really they are just not completing it. Second, they could be struggling in a subject, which will become clear when you hear that the homework should only be taking 30 minutes each night, but you know that your teen is spending hours on it.

6. How can I get my teen extra help?

Teachers are a great way to find out the types of resources your teen’s school offers. They can let you know about tutoring, study groups, and when they are available before or after school.

  1. How is my teen doing socially?

Most teens will not share with you how they are interacting with their peers. It can be very enlightening to hear a teacher’s perception of your teen’s social relationships. It can be surprising and helpful to discover the role your teen is playing in a class setting, whether it is the class clown or the class leader. If your teen seems to not want to attend school, a teacher’s insight about their peer relationships might shed light on why they are withdrawn.

8. What’s the best way to contact you?

While some teachers like to respond to a quick email, others prefer to talk over the phone. It’s a good idea to find out the best way to reach out to your teen’s teacher. Additionally, you have the opportunity at a conference to make it clear that you want to hear about any problems. A teacher is much more likely to contact you if they see a problem if they know you are involved and interested. This can prevent nasty surprises when report cards come out.

Final Thoughts…

Perhaps one of the best things you can communicate to a teacher in a conference is that you believe you are both on the same team, and you are interested in working together for your student’s success.

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