Updated: Jan 11
Parent-teacher meetings provide a tremendous opportunity for you. Use the time wisely to gather practical information about your child's academic performance and behaviour.
Pre-plan questions and write them down in a notebook.
Record the teacher's responses.
Check each question off as they are answered
Always ask for examples when words such as 'better than last term'; 'much improved'; 'having difficulty'; 'poor social skills' – I think you get the idea.
Be courteous to your child's teacher. They is your advocate within the education system.
Your listening skills are a powerful tool for gleaning information. Ask questions for clarification.
If you are getting lost in all the information, say that you do not understand and ask if the information can be told in a different way; ask for the speaker to slow down and/or provide examples.
The following provides a selection of questions that your child's teacher will probably cover. There may not be enough time allotted to answer all questions therefore consider prioritising them. Unanswered questions can be responded to at a future meeting convenient to both parties.
1. What are my child's strengths?
This is information that you can share with your child focusing on their accomplishments. Ask for specific examples. Of course, the insights that the teacher provides are insights about the teacher. For example:
How well do they know your child?
How easily can they give examples of praiseworthy behaviours?
2. What are your areas of concern regarding my child?
This information may reflect some of your concerns. This is an excellent time to exchange insights and strategies that can be useful both at home and at school. The following four points should be explored, if necessary.
How does my child interact with you?
The teacher's response provides initial insight into their relationship with your child.
Does my child follow instructions?
Does your child listen to the teacher and follow instructions? Do they put work away when asked? Do they follow rules as requested?
How do you administer discipline?
Consistency of disciplinary tactics between teacher and parent helps the child learn consequences and avoids a child believing they can act differently with different authority figures.
Does my child complete assigned work?
Does your child finish work in the time expected? If they are asked to complete a project, do they complete it or become bored easily? What is their attention span? Can your child follow simple/complex instructions (two or more steps...first this, then that)?
Sometimes, children need additional explanations or prefer a certain learning style. These discussions can help encourage techniques to create success and follow through in both the classroom and at home.
Your insights into your child's behaviour, particularly strategies that work, will be helpful to share with the teacher.
3. What are my child's strongest subjects?
Responses can provide you with insights into an area of information that is important.
For example: Why is my child strong in art but not reading? Why math but not creative writing?
What skills should my child master by the school year-end?
While every child is different, there are essential skills and developmental milestones within
each age group. Use the key stages outlined on a previous report card.
What is my child's performance in comparison to same-year students?
I am referring to the same-year students as a group rather than the level/class that your child has been placed in.
4. What is my child's dominant learning style?
This question will grab every teacher's attention. Pay particular attention to which learning modalities* are mentioned (auditory/hearing, visual/seeing, kinaesthetic/ physical movement, tactile/touching).
Examples: The student is
particularly good at remembering instructions said to him but has difficulty reading instructions and following through
learns best when written instructions or explanations are provided
no strategy when it comes to writing a story
difficulty with mental maths
looking into space
not consistent in text results in maths – seems to forget and so on.
5. Describe my child's social interaction in the classroom and how my child handles social conflict?
Does my child share with others?
Does my child share and take turns? The answer to this question helps parents to learn their child's basic social skills with same-age friends.
Does my child find a work partner in class/ in sports easily? Does my child work well within a small group contributing (giving and receiving information)?
How does my child handle disappointment and stress? For example: Do they become weepy (or x) when they get the answer wrong (or x).
6. Ask the teacher if there is specific information that they would like to know from you about your child.
Many teachers will be delighted to get your insights.
*LEARNING STYLES/ MODALITIES
Most students learn using all four modalities to understand their surrounding environment and learn from it. Commonly some modalities are more dominant and others weaker.
In traditional classrooms, lectures and discussions are delivered verbally. Children will respond differently depending on their auditory skills to understand, assimilate and remember new information. This becomes the more typical style of teaching the older the student is. Visual, kinesthetic, and tactile modalities also play strong roles in adolescent lives. If your child's school experience incorporates all four learning styles the teacher is to be congratulated.
Knowing how your child prefers to learn or process information is important. This information will help to understand what are the best strategies to boost their learning style and learning potential both at school and at home.