Conferences are around the corner, and with the ups and downs of school during the pandemic, it is especially important to make the most of this time to connect with the teacher.
As a parent I get excited about that fifteen-minute slot allotted to have a one-on-one with my child’s teacher. I look forward to hearing about progress, struggles, and strengths. Sometimes a conference goes great, but sometimes we walk away thinking we just heard a script that is being repeated for every student.
Asking specific questions gives you the opportunity to focus on what is important regarding your child. Areas of study covered or assessment scores can be done quickly and even in other communications. Addressing the following questions will give both you and the teacher a better understanding of your child throughout the year.
Here are six questions to consider, to help you get the most from those minutes with the teacher.
1. What do you see as an area of strength for my child?
This question focuses the discussion on your child specifically while still giving the teacher the opportunity to evaluate all subjects. Sometimes parents find this answer surprising as kids can show different abilities in the classroom than at home. Once you know these hidden strengths, you can help bring them out in the home as well as at school.
2. If you could pick one area to focus on improving for my child, what would it be?
Sometimes it is difficult to think about all areas of learning at once. Focusing on one area at a time for improvement helps define the priorities within the classroom. It also gives something concrete to work on at home.
It’s a good idea to revisit this question with the teacher throughout the year. Sending an email or utilizing school communication apps is a great way to check in regarding progress as well as give the teacher the opportunity to shift the focus to something new as your child improves.
3. How does my child contribute to the class atmosphere?
This may seem like an unusual question, but it can provide a lot of information. Different personalities shine in different ways independently, but as you blend 20 unique people together, new sides can be revealed.
This will give you an idea of how much your child may contribute to class discussions or how they may be a great helper for another student. Maybe you’ll discover that your child follows directions and models good behavior, or that they provide a funny idea to give everyone a laugh.
Asking this question gives insight on how your child’s character comes through in an academic environment. This is especially useful to understand as kids approach middle school, where issues like popularity can impact their learning experience.
4. Who does my child work well with?
Researchers at Vanderbilt University contend that increasing social skills results in students who are more responsive to academic learning. Giving the teacher the opportunity to look at the social element of learning is just as important as the academics. This can be a good barometer of how a child is doing socially.
Understanding who your child is able to work well with at school will help everyone create a more successful learning environment.
5. How is my child handling the emotional elements of the pandemic?
Beyond following pandemic guidelines, asking specifically about the mental health components of your child is essential. Frequent, open discussion about his or her mental health in relation to the pandemic and overall has never been more important. Talk about any emotional struggles you see and ask the teacher what they see in the classroom. This is a great opportunity to discuss resources like school counseling or lunch groups that may help your child process complex feelings.
6. Do you have any concerns about my child?
This question can never be asked too much. Sometimes we are so busy getting through the list of assessments, reading levels, and academic achievement that we can miss the bigger picture.
Giving teachers and parents both the pause to consider any areas of concern emotionally, socially or developmentally addresses the whole child in their learning environment.
It is important to note that a conference is not an invitation to debate pandemic guidelines or other policies. It is likely that the teacher has little say in what the guidelines are; those discussions should be between you and the administration. Likewise, if you have specific concerns that you know will take more than the time allotted, ask if you can schedule a conference at another time. Remember there is likely another parent waiting in line behind you who wants to get the most out of their conference, too.
Rebecca traded the classroom for writing when she stayed home with her three children. In real life, she can often be found typing words, driving her kids places or wherever there is chocolate. You can find her at rebeccahastings.net.