When it comes to parent-teacher conferences there is a fine line between helpful and humiliating as awkward silences suffocate classrooms Australia-wide. Schools are the primary environment for child development both mentally and socially, hence, these conferences are vital to engage in your child’s growth. However, as an independent party uninvolved in the education system, it can be exceedingly difficult to know what questions to ask and where to start.
Engaging in your child’s learning goes beyond just inquiring whether they got an ‘A’ or a ‘C’, it means fully understanding what areas they excel at, where they struggle, their general attitudes towards education and even how they’re coping socially. So, here are the ten most vital questions to ask at a parent-teacher meeting:
1. How is my child doing socially?
Schools teach more than just maths and English, they teach essential social skills. Unfortunately, some children struggle to connect with their peers and it is possible that you, as a parent, wouldn’t even know. Luckily, you have the opportunity to check in and ask their teacher how they’re going, whether they sit with friends at lunch and thrive in groups or whether they prefer to isolate themselves, all you have to do is take it.
2. How is my child doing emotionally?
High schoolers often struggle emotionally under the weight of their schoolwork. As a parent, you would not be there to witness them stress out in the library or cry after a particularly difficult lesson, but their teacher is and would likely be more than happy to let you know.
3. In what areas does my child struggle?
Teachers see your child from a different perspective than you, as such, it is vital to ask them in what areas your child could improve both personally and academically.
4. Does my child need extra help in any areas?
Oftentimes, children struggle with specific concepts regardless of their teacher’s efforts. As such, it may be fruitful to check on their progress and see if they are struggling with anything.
5. What can we do to provide that extra help?
If the teacher recommends seeking extra help in certain areas, you may want to ask how you can provide this help. It could be anything from working through homework together to seeking external tutoring.
6. How is my child’s attitude and behaviour towards learning?
Marks don’t reflect a child’s attitude towards learning. An A+ student may be disengaged and bored and a D- student may have a true passion for learning and work as hard as they can. It could be valuable to comprehend your child’s attitude in order to understand them if a problem arises.
7. Could you tell me about your teaching method?
If you have any serious concerns regarding the teacher’s techniques, you may wish to ask about their methods. This may help you understand it better and how it benefits your child. Alternatively, you may wish to ask what they plan to do if it proves ineffective with your child specifically.
8. Is my child doing their best?
In terms of education, marks mean nothing. An A student who barely works may be neglecting their potential and a less-academically inclined student may be working as hard as they can. In these cases, it is important to know when to praise your child (a C-grade child achieves a B) and when to encourage them to work harder (a B-grade child who is not paying attention in class continuing to achieve Bs).
9. May I share a concern with you?
If you have any specific worries regarding your child’s social, behavioural or academic learning it may be useful to share these concerns with their teacher. Parent-teacher conferences are a two-way street when it comes to providing understanding regarding your child.
10. Do I have any need to be worried?
This is perhaps the most vital question as it encompasses all aspects of your child’s education. If they are seen to be disengaged socially, misbehaving emotionally or falling behind mentally, their teacher can let you know and you can seek solutions to improve this behaviour.
As long as you ask them respectfully and kindly, teachers are more than happy to answer these questions and all you as a parent need to do is consider their advice and listen with an open mind.