High School Parent-Teacher Conferences: What to Ask

Parent-teacher conferences during high school can be fewer and farther between than in elementary school, but can be extremely helpful as you and your teen think toward the future—both post-high school and career-wise. If your child’s teacher doesn’t require conferences, consider contacting them yourself for an informal meeting.

Here are some key ideas to discuss with your student’s teacher during the conference.

1. Your child’s strengths and areas for growth

Ask the teacher about your child’s strengths, beyond grades. Are there concepts or skills your high schooler excels in? Study habits? Units or specific projects? Some of your child’s strengths may be anecdotal, rather than quantifiable through test and or quiz scores. Beginning the conversation here can help ground your discussion and your understanding of how your child is doing in the subject at hand. Similarly, ask where your child can improve. You might bring in an assignment that your child struggled with, or ask if the teacher has any materials he or she can look over with you.

2. How to support your child at home

Think of your child’s teacher and yourself as a team, working together to encourage your student as best as you can. Once you’ve identified areas for growth, ask the teacher how you can best support your student at home. There may be methods that the teacher does in the classroom that can done at home for continuity, or strategies that don’t quite work in the classroom but could be effective in the home setting with less distractions and fewer students. Discuss study habits and organizational tools as well, as these simple changes can often make a big impact. Also ask if the teacher would recommend outside support, like a tutor, or if there are resources you can access online, such as free practice tests or test prep books.

3. Course recommendations

As you’re looking ahead to the next semester or year, you might want to talk to your child’s teacher about potential courses to take next. Some classes, of course, are required or need to be taken in a specific order, while others can be chosen by your child. Ask the teacher what he or she would recommend in terms of content of the course and workload. You might ask him or her to explain the difference between regular, honors, AP, and IB courses, and the possible benefits of each for your child. During your student’s senior year in particular, your conversation might cover your child’s potential or intended college major, as well as how you can prep for college courses.

4. Standardized tests

Starting in sophomore year, and definitely by junior year, standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, and AP exams will likely be on your high schooler’s radar. To help your student prep for these tests, ask the teacher what your child can do to build off of classroom knowledge. This teacher might suggest in-class materials and assignments to look over, or outside resources, like a study guide or online tutorial. This kind of conversation can help your high schooler connect what he or she does in the classroom to test-taking that happens outside school.

5. College or future plans

Lastly, consider discussing college or future plans with your child’s teacher. If your child expresses interest in a certain college major, ask the teacher in that subject matter what your child can do now to work toward that goal. Are there any local organizations your high schooler could volunteer for, internships to apply for, or community college classes to take? Does this teacher know colleagues your child could shadow at work? Your child’s teacher likely has contacts or knows of opportunities that he or she could point your child to.

Scheduling and attending parent-teacher conferences is a great way to get meaningfully involved with your high schooler’s education. These meetings provide a different—and important—perspective for you to view your child as a student and as a learner.

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