Parent-teacher conferences can be stressful. There’s so much information to trade and so little time. You want the teacher to like your kid. You want the teacher to like YOU. You think they are missing the point. You realize that you may be missing the point. Your kid’s happiness and well-being might ride on this one meeting. Better not screw it up!
So much pressure, it’s like an audience with the Pope!
So what can you do to prepare? What questions should you ask?
no expert an expert. As a mom of four, I’ve got a few of these under my belt. Believe it or not, your child’s whole future doesn’t entirely hang on this one ten minute conference. But there are a few questions you must ask and topics you really should try to cover. I’ve got your back. Here’s a parent-teacher conference question guide for you.
How is my kid doing socially? Emotionally? Academically?
It’s important to ask how your child is doing socially and emotionally, because they are unlikely to do well academically if they are struggling in these areas as well.
What sets my kid apart: strengths? What needs work?
These are great questions to get an overview of your child, and how your child’s teacher feels your child is doing.
What are your behavior expectations? How do you discipline and reward students?
It’s a good idea to get a feel for your child’s teacher’s disciplinary style so that you know what you are dealing with and whether it is a good match for your child. You probably can’t change how your teacher runs the classroom but you can provide insight into how your child reacts to discipline and rewards and be ready to address any misunderstandings. Example: My son’s teacher provides rewards for good behavior and docks points for bad behavior. There is a constant accounting and this is stressed in the classroom. He is a well behaved student but the constant attention and competition for rewards and fear of punishments this year has created a great deal of anxiety for him.
What’s your strategy to help my child reach their potential?
Every kid is unique. Here’s your chance to find out what your child’s teacher has in mind specifically for your kid. Or to challenge him/her to think about your child in this way, if they are not already.
What lights my kid up? What shuts my kid down?
This is a double edged question. First, it’s a litmus test of how tuned in your teacher is. They should be able to answer this and the answer shouldn’t shock you. On the other hand, it is a great opportunity to learn something new about your kid and see them through someone else’s eyes – someone who is there when you are not.
Do you think that my child is presently working to their potential?
This question is really two questions because it forces the teacher to assess potential, as well as assessing whether you child is reaching it. It’s likely to make your teacher uncomfortable as no teacher wants to set the bar low, but no teacher wants to be the reason a kid doesn’t live up to their potential. If the teacher knows your child well, they will be able to tell you a lot when you ask this question.
Who are my kid’s friends?
Teachers may have some interesting insight on your kid’s friendships. This is your chance to learn about that.
What are your expectations for parent participation, homework help, and volunteering?
This is a SUPER important question and you must ask it. It’s key to know what the teacher’s expectations are, as your child will inevitably be judged somewhat by your compliance with classroom/teacher expectations.
What do you like most about being a teacher?
You need to ask this question because you need to care about the person who cares about your kid, many hours each day when you are away. Why did he/she choose this profession? What lights THEM up?
What questions do you have for me?
A good teacher will probably have some questions for you, and will want to learn more about your child from you.
How can we work together?
Setting up an agreed upon channel of communication is THE most important thing you can do at the conference. Conferences are often rushed and this is your opportunity to establish an open line of communication with your child’s teacher. Agree on how often you will communicate and via what method (email, phone, in person etc).