Establishing a relationship with your child’s teacher is a great way to ensure that you know how they are doing in the classroom. But knowing what to ask can be difficult. You are looking for a little more information than ‘Is my child doing okay in class?’
Consider asking some of the following questions of your child’s teacher:
What is the best way to get in touch with you?
If you need to get in touch with your child’s teacher it is wise to know his or her preferred method of contact. For most teachers, e-mail is the most efficient way to reach them. However, your child’s teacher may not be a frequent user of e-mail, in which case calling the school and leaving a message might be the best route. Perhaps your child’s teacher has an e-mail address they use frequently that is not in the school’s directory, but that they feel comfortable sharing with you. Just asking this simple question can do a lot to keep the lines of communication open.
How will you keep me updated on my child’s class work and progress throughout the year?
This is a concern for many parents, particularly parents of middle and high school-aged children who are much less likely to report their progress. Some teachers have chosen to set up class web pages or blogs where parents can easily see what material is being covered that week or unit, and many have a running list of homework assignments and due dates. Ask your child’s teacher if they have anything like this in place. Even if they don’t, perhaps your suggestion will spark their interest! Additionally, most teachers are happy to report a student’s progress on a weekly or monthly basis to parents who are interested. Since many grading systems are automated, you could even ask the teacher to e-mail you a grade report on a regular basis, rather than waiting for interim and report cards.
Are there any specific subjects or learning tasks in which my child is struggling?
Your child’s teacher is spending a significant amount of time interacting with them in a learning environment. This allows them to gauge where your child is at developmentally, and also to notice when your child experiences learning struggles. While most classroom teachers are not permitted to comment directly on whether or not a child is exhibiting characteristics of things like learning disabilities, your child’s teacher may be able to mention if they seem to be struggling with things like reading, writing, or organizational strategies. This allows you to focus on strengthening those skills and areas with your child in a way that is most helpful.
What can I do to support learning at home?
If you want to help your child with his or her schoolwork at home, it might be helpful to touch base with their teacher and see what material the class is covering at that time. If (based on question number 3) you discover that your child is struggling with a study skill, your child’s teacher may have some recommendations for things you and your child can do at home to improve these areas. The teacher may also be able to provide a variety of activities or resources you can use to maintain practice of class subjects at home.
Are there any opportunities for students that you are aware of?
Teachers will often receive notifications of opportunities for students through word-of-mouth, newsletters, and public postings. Since they may receive several advertisements per week, they are not likely to share every announcement that is presented to them. Some examples include: gifted and talented programs, magnet programs, summer camps, after-school clubs, internships, college and career fairs, and scholarships. These can be great ways to strengthen a student’s experience, provide them with an educational reinforcement, and even provide financial support. By asking your child’s teacher about these kinds of opportunities, you can give your child the chance to do something different that may be beneficial to them in the future.
What can I do to support you in the classroom?
This question just might make you the teacher’s favorite parent. Parents are often concerned with their child and forget that, sometimes, the best way to support their child is to support their teacher. In an era of increasing budget cuts to education, class sizes are increasing and resources are decreasing. This puts an even bigger burden on teachers who are already stretched thin. Ask your child’s teacher if there are any supplies you can contribute to the classroom (tissues, hand sanitizer, and art or writing materials are always in short supply!). It may seem small, but it can be a big help since many teachers contribute supplies that are paid for out-of-pocket. If you have the time, you could also ask your child’s teacher if they would like you to volunteer to help out in the classroom one day a week. Not every teacher is comfortable with this, but for some classes having an extra set of hands is a life saver.
By engaging with your child’s teacher, you are showing that you are invested in your child’s education and in their classroom. Your interest does not go unnoticed and any support you provide will certainly be appreciated.