This year, as you sit down with your child’s elementary school teacher during conferences, think of both of you on the same team rooting for your child. The conference is an especially great time to discuss how each of you can best help your child, as well as to get to know the adult whom your child spends much of the day with!
Here are five topics to discuss with your child’s elementary school teacher during parent-teacher conferences:
1. Your child’s strengths and challenges
You know what these are at home, but you’ll want to ask the teacher what he or she observes in the classroom. Do those strengths and challenges look the same in the classroom, or do they translate differently based on the setting and peers? Focus on core subjects, but you’ll also want to know if there’s an elective or another class that your child has particularly taken to. In addition, ask the teacher about your child’s work habits, including how your child approaches school work during independent class time, as well as turning in homework assignments on time.
2. Your child’s social development
Social development can be easy to forget amidst the academic requirements of school. School is one the primary places where kids naturally learn about socialization, so ask the teacher about your child’s social behavior. How does your child get along with other students? Does he or she participate often in class discussions? Does your child generally appear engaged, even if not vocally? Does he or she express frustration in the classroom, and how? You may be able to offer what works for your child at home — as an added perspective — even if the teacher cannot react in the same way at school. In addition, knowing how your child behaves socially at school can give you ideas of what you may want to discuss with him or her at home.
3. Classroom norms and environment
Each classroom has its different rules and regulations. Discuss with the teacher what his or her policies are for turning in homework (including late work), as well as make-up assignments and tests. What happens if your child is absent or needs to leave early or arrive late? What can you expect in terms of homework? Additionally, ask if there are any class rules that differ from typical classrooms. If your child struggles with getting used to class norms, you’ll be able to reinforce them at home and be on the same page as the teacher.
4. How you can support at home
Ask the teacher how else you can help your child adjust to any school challenges. This can include setting up homework space, prioritizing homework time, encouraging time management throughout the week, as well as any resources the teacher can suggest. You might be looking for online resources or book recommendations for your child. If you’re interested, you could also ask if the teacher knows of community activities, like events at the local library, that would benefit your child. The teacher may also have some good tips for studying or seeking tutoring.
5. Preferred method of communication
Depending on the school, you’re likely to have a handful of required parent conferences. Beyond those, however, ask the teacher how to best contact him or her, as well as how the teacher will contact you if needed. Often, teachers provide general info through letters, online announcements, or assignment notebooks — know what to look out for. In addition, some teachers prefer email (nowadays, some may even text!), while others prefer phone conversations. Ask your child’s teacher what the protocol is for setting up meetings with him or her outside of conferences.
For your parent-teacher conference, use the guidelines above to come prepared with a few insightful questions you’d like to ask the teacher. Take notes if you like. A clear and open line of communication will put your mind at rest, and it can help you help your child.
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