What To Ask During A Parent-Teacher Conference

Not sure what to say to the teacher during those pesky annual conferences? Here are suggestions about what to ask.

As that time of year rolls around once more, you wonder for the umpteenth time what you're supposed to say during a parent teacher conference. After all, you get quarterly grade reports. You trust the school to teach your child. Isn't that enough?

Not really. Face to face communication can be more effective than a number or letter on a card. Body communication also can help you decipher a teacher's impression of your child's academic performance.

As you get ready for the meeting with your child's teacher, here are a few things to keep in mind:



1. Ask how your child is doing overall. This means that you want to know how your child's performance as indicated by grades compared with the average student at the national level. Is your son or daughter ahead, behind, or right on target? Watch the teacher's facial expression. Does she smile, wince, frown, or maintain neutrality in describing your child's assessment? Does he seem comfortable discussing your child's performance, or is there a note of anxiety or sympathy in his voice?

2. Ask how your child compares to classmates. Some classes overall can perform a little above or below the national average. Find out how this class is doing in general and where your child ranks accordingly. Then ask the teacher's opinion about why your child is at that particular level and if he or she is likely to remain there. Also inquire about grading criteria, reliability, and validity.

3. Ask about your child's personal performance. Is he or she working to potential? Could the student do better? What is the holdup? What can you do to help push for improved performance? Should you engage a tutor? Does your child enjoy school or seem to be bored? Can the teacher or you offer learning incentives?

4. Ask about your child's social behavior. Does he get along with others? Does he demonstrate courtesy and respect? Does she seem to have friends? Do others like her and choose her for team games? Which attributes seem to impress others? If none or few, what is lacking? What can a parent do to enhance a child's social acceptance?

5. Ask about your child's emotional development. Does he or she respond appropriately to a variety of situations that stimulate anger, revenge, guilt, and embarrassment? Is there evidence of ethical standards when cheating temptations occur? Does your child exhibit a sense of personal values? How about social skills?

6. Ask about your child's physical development. Do vision, speech, hearing, and motor coordination skills seem in line with others his or her age? Does the school provide testing of these and other health related concerns? When should your child see a doctor for an examination?

7. Ask how you can help to support classroom learning. Perhaps you can volunteer to be a reading monitor or class mother. You can help your child do more reading, writing, or math exercises at home. You can encourage more physical activity and less television watching.

By coming prepared with questions like these to a parent teacher conference, you can make good use of the teacher's time and maximize benefits to your child's educational development.

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