School has been in session for a little over 2 months for most of us. It is now time for progress reports, report cards and parent teacher conferences to begin. At Sylvan we know that this can be a very stressful time for parents, students, and yes, even teachers. That said, we wanted to provide you with some tips and questions to ask at school meetings. Whether your student is off to a great start this year or struggling in school, it is up to us as parents to be advocates for their education. Here are 5 questions every parent should ask at a parent-teacher conference:
1) What do you see as some of my child’s strengths and weaknesses in your classroom?
It is important to make sure that the teacher has taken the time to get to know your child. It is one thing to know how they perform on tests and classroom assignments, but, are they getting to know them as a person, not just a student?
2) Does my child actively participate in class? Do they ask appropriate questions, volunteer answers and seem to be adjusting socially?
This question will help you to determine how comfortable you student is with the content being presented as well as their level of confidence in the classroom environment. It will also help you gauge if there are any beginning concerns with classroom behavior.
3) Are there specific things that we can do at home to help him/her do better in your class? Are there any upcoming projects or topics we should be prepared to support them with?
Things have changed since we were in school. There are new standards, teaching methods and topics being taught each year. Thus, it is important for us parents to do our homework as well. If you want to be able to support your student with their school work, it could be helpful to know ahead of time what will be coming home so you can best prepare.
4) How will my child be evaluated? Are tests weighted? What type of standardized assessments will be given this year and how will those assessments determine future educational placements?
Assessments are given for many reasons. Not only do teachers need to determine if students are “getting it,” but they can also help a teacher evaluate themselves. If an entire class fails a test, the teacher should self-reflect to see how to approach the material differently. While we don’t want to put unnecessary pressure on our students, we do need to know how they are being evaluated and why so that everyone can prepare appropriately.
5) What is the best way for me to communicate with you if I have additional questions or as situations arise during the school year?
Teachers become teachers because they desire to help students and see them succeed. Answering parent questions and concerns is a part of the job. However, parents need to be respectful of teachers’ time also. Discuss with the teacher what will be the most effective way to communicate. Parents must also have realistic expectations. Most elementary teachers teach between 20-30 students. Sometimes those students have multiple sets of guardians. High school teachers have an even larger number of students between the multiple classes they teach in a day. Stay in communication with your child’s teacher, and you will most likely get the best responses working as a team and not against one another.