Most parents see the importance of attending parent-teacher conferences when their children are young. It’s the best way to gain an understanding of your child’s academic potential, social issues, and behavior problems.
But once teens reach high school, many parents stop going to school meetings. They either assume their teen has everything under control, or they don’t see the value in hearing the teacher say what they already know – that their teen is lazy or unmotivated.
Here are the questions you should ask during a parent-teacher conference:
1. What does my teen do well?
Hearing about your child’s strengths can be enlightening.Perhaps your child is well-organized, or maybe he always looks out for a child who has special needs. Talking to the teacher can help you gain insight that you won’t ever learn from a report card.
2. What are my teen’s challenges?
While your teen may tell you about the things he’s doing well, he may be reluctant to reveal the problems he experiences. Asking about your teen’s challenges can help you uncover whether your teen is a chatterbox who can’t pay attention in class, or he’s struggling to get his homework completed on time.
3. How can my child succeed in your class?
Find out what the teacher looks for from students. Perhaps homework assignments are key. Or maybe, staying after school for extra help goes a long way toward improving student’s success in a particular subject.
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4. What are the most important lessons my child will learn in your class?
It’s also important to know what your child is going to learn in a specific class and more importantly, how that information will be important to your child’s future.
When you understand the significance of the material, you’ll be better equipped to talk to your child about how that information pertains to his future career or his life after school.
5. How much time should my teen spend doing homework for your class?
The answer to this question can help you understand if your child is having difficulties with a specific class. If his calculus teacher says homework should only last 30 minutes a night, but your teen struggles to get his work done in 4 hours, you’ll know there’s a problem. Similarly, if your teen never has chemistry homework, you’ll know he’s not being challenged enough.
6. If my child doesn’t understand the work, what’s the best way to get extra help?
Get to know the types of resources your child’s school offers. Is tutoring available? Are there after school study groups? Is the teacher available before or after school to help students? Make sure you know how your child can get help if necessary.
7. What’s the best way to contact you?
Find out how the teacher prefers to hear from you. While some teachers are happy to respond to a quick email, others want to talk over the phone. Make it clear that you want to hear about any problems and explain that you’re planning to support your teen’s education any way you can. A teacher who understands your level of involvement is more likely to contact you when problems arise.
Don’t forget, you can always contact the teacher with good news too. A simple thank-you email for going above and beyond in helping your child with a problem or an acknowledgement that your child is learning a lot in a particular class is likely to be appreciated by a teacher.