Points to discuss and questions to ask to make your next parent-teacher meeting valuable

Student sitting at laptop

Questions are questions; well, most of the time. 

What I mean is, while questions are obviously asked in order to obtain information, they can also be used as an asset in a different regard. 

If you want to show you care, or want to display attentiveness, a question can help get the job done. From a work meeting to a conversation with your child’s baseball coach, and of course, when talking to your child’s teacher—asking questions can be interpreted as “OK, this person cares.” 

And, not that you’re expecting favoritism from your boss (or the teacher or coach) because you asked a question, you are opening  up the lines of communication. You’re giving the signal that “Hey, if something comes up, let me know.” 

Teachers have a lot on their plates, with many students and parents to juggle. It’s not that some parents don’t care about their children, but they may be perfectly fine letting school run its course free of their involvement. Many students have gone on to live successful lives without their parents actively asking questions of their teachers.

Other parents though, maybe because they know their student needs it, want to be more involved. 

No matter which group of parents you find yourself in, you’re going to want to ask questions of your child’s teacher at some point. It could be part of your parent-teacher conference checklist, or perhaps you’ll want to uncover details after a specific incident, etc. 

So, we’ve compiled a grand list of questions you might want to consider. It is my long-term goal to make this the biggest list ever, so don’t be surprised if you come back next month and see a handful of new questions added!

Questions to ask your student’s teacher

How do you assess student progress besides grades?

One criticism of everyday schooling is the fact that so much is tied up in a final letter grade. This is a measure made up of things like homework, participation, and tests. Unfortunately, some students flat out hate classroom discussions, and others don’t test well. 

So, while the final letter grade is an important metric, ask your child’s teacher how else progress is assessed, and if there are particular areas you should be checking in with your student about. 

When is the best time to check on my student’s  progress?

Listen, if you’re a parent who likes to keep tabs on your student, embrace it. Meaning, if you know you’re going to be keeping in constant touch with the teacher, let them know beforehand. 

But when doing so, ask when is the best time of the school year for you to get in touch with them in order to gain valuable insights. It could be a few weeks after the new year begins, before a particular testing period, etc. 

What should I be doing at home to help my child in class?

Succeeding in school is only partly based on what takes place in the classroom. And, let’s face it, homework is never really personalized, potentially making it difficult for  students - and parents - to hone in on specific areas of focus. Ask this question to receive some type of personalized direction. 

What can I do to help the classroom?

This might be less of a thing the older your student gets, but either way, teachers can always use support from parents. Maybe it’s a donation, or even just time to help organize, decorate, chaperone, etc. I’d be shocked if a teacher didn’t take advantage of a parent willing to give their time. 

What’s the best way to get in touch with questions?

If you’re looking for the easiest way to aggravate a teacher, it might be calling, texting, or emailing over and over again. If you get the privilege of having a teacher’s contact information, respect it. That means allowing for ample response time, and not trying to repeatedly circumvent structure and measures to get their ear. 

Is there any STEM learning taking place?

It’s no secret that most schools aren’t able to provide coding classes for kids, or courses in game development or robotics. But it’s worth noting that certain STEM concepts can be taught without expensive equipment. Or, perhaps there are relevant extracurriculars your teacher can point you toward. They may even be able to give guidance on how to start a coding club, etc.

Do you hold classroom discussions?

Back to the point above, class participation typically makes up a large percentage of a student’s grade. So, ask your teacher about the different opportunities students have to earn participation points. 

If you know your student isn’t one to jump at the opportunity to participate, having a better idea of how they can participate will help you coach them through it. 

What should my student be doing during school breaks?

Preventing the summer slide should always be top of mind when it comes time for school to let out, but remember, it’s not just summer. Spring and winter breaks are plenty long enough for students to get rusty, so ask for your teacher’s suggestions regarding how students can stay sharp during time off. 

What should I ask my child in order to get a valuable summary of the day’s experiences?

We’ve all been denied access to information. “What did you learn today?” Silence. “How was your day?” Silence. You might be lucky enough to receive a “nothing” or “fine” in response, but still not very helpful. 

So, ask your teacher if there is anything else you can be asking in order to encourage more thoughtful responses. 

What’s the process if you see my student struggling?

Even excellent students will struggle at some point, or in some facet along the way. So, ask your teacher what the process is once they begin to notice a trend forming. Do they point it out? Do they let it slide? Do they tailor homework at all? 

It might be difficult for teachers to personalize teaching for every student, but if they have the bandwidth to sometimes do so, you can bet they’ll attempt to for the student of the inquiring parent. 

What do successful students do in your class?

Every teacher has an understanding of what success in their classroom looks like. Perhaps it’s based on preparation or classroom participation. Maybe the most successful student is the one who takes materials a step further through study outside of the classroom and through alternative experiences, whether that’s face-to-face or online learning.

Success mostly depends on the class subject and teacher’s style of teaching, so it’s valuable information to uncover. 

What do unsuccessful students do in your class?

Just as valuable, besides the obvious factors of not doing homework, failing tests, and being mischievous, are there any potential “gotchas” or pitfalls your teacher sees well-intentioned students falling victim to?

How can I get such info so I don’t have to bug you?

Some questions will be better received than others, and I’m sure this is one your teacher will love answering. 

Because, while asking questions offers many benefits, asking questions that don’t need to be asked because information can be found elsewhere can totally backfire. The last thing you want to do is exhaust and annoy, so, communicate that fact by asking this question. 

What questions do you have for me?

There isn’t any harm in putting the spotlight on the teacher. They might be wondering about something themselves, or have a point about your student rattling in their brain they’ve been wanting to bring up, but just haven’t had the chance to do so.

What else should I be asking?

We’ve already gone through 14 questions above, but you can bet there are many more points to touch on. Try as you might to rack your brain, you’ll naturally miss a few. So, ask—what other questions should an invested parent be asking?

As you can see from the above, a lot more goes into school success than grades and homework. We have to remember, these are kids in classrooms with other kids, being asked to learn new things from virtual strangers. Not to mention all of the other potential distractions taking place outside the classroom. 

So, while being a good student falls squarely on the shoulders of your kid or teen, there is no harm in helping. Asking questions is a great start! 

A photo of Ryan

Ryan manages blog content at iD Tech, starting with the company in 2008. He earned his MBA from Santa Clara University after obtaining his Bachelor’s degree from Arizona State. Connect on LinkedIn!

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