It’s been noticed that I haven’t really written anything education related for a while. So with many parents about to have parent-teacher interviews soon, I thought now was an about time to write something.
Tis the season for parent-teacher interviews!
They’re often conducted anywhere from pre-school to year 12, and while I’m sure there will be subject specific questions you’ll want to ask, there really are only two questions you need to ask. Only two?? Well after being a teacher for many more years than I’ve been a parent, I’ve always been confused as to why parents are so keen to ask about handwriting lessons and if times tables are still taught, when I think there are much more important things to know. So this is my advice, not as a parent, but as a teacher… and if your child’s teacher is a good one, they shouldn’t have any difficulty answering these questions.
1. How can you demonstrate the learning gain my child has made while in your class?
Whether your child starts the year knowing everything that is on the curriculum planned to be taught that year, or still struggling to come to terms with what they were taught the previous year, you want to know that you child now knows more than what they knew before they entered the class. For example, a teacher might give you a writing sample from the beginning of the year, and a recent example to demonstrate the improvement in the child’s grammar, or how they are now using much more descriptive language, or perhaps how they now understand how to structure their writing so that they can communicate their ideas more effectively.
I suppose this question is really targeting how effective the teacher has been. You want to know that your child’s teacher has correctly ascertained what your child can and cannot do, and what they do or do not understand, when they’ve entered their class, and then that they have adjusted the curriculum and what is being taught to build on that. You don’t want a teacher who teaches the same thing and the same way to all students. In teacher speak – it’s called differentiation. You don’t want content your child already knows to be taught again (unless it is intentional revision for a purpose).
But it’s also more than just ensuring the teacher is differentiating what they’re teaching and accurately assessing where you child is at – it’s also finding out what skills and knowledge they’ve been taught. This question should also give you an indication of where they are sitting in relation to the expectation of what an average student in that subject should be achieving.
2. How is my child coping socially?
This can take two forms – in the classroom or the playground.
In the classroom you will want to have feedback about how your child interacts in group work. Do they have opportunities to display leadership qualities. Even a shy child should have an opportunity to be a leader. Not all leaders lead from the front, loud up on their soap boxes. The qualities of leadership can take a variety of forms.
Equally, how does your child follow the leader? Do they understand how to genuinely listen to others? Are they able to take on ideas and opinions of others, to help them form theirs? Do other children want to work with them?
In the playground, do they have people to play with? Do they have a firm group of friends? Or do they choose who they play with depending on the activity?
How your child interacts socially is really important to know about because it tells how your child relates to people. In business we know that this can often mean the difference between getting that promotion you’re after, or being turned down in favour of someone who is better at managing other people, set backs and challenges.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s it. You’ve usually only got 10-15minutes with each teacher. These questions get to the heart of any issue you might need to be aware of. And remember my favourite ‘add on’ question – if the teacher sums up where you child is, such as, “Your child is struggling to make friends,” or, “Your child hasn’t met the grade outcomes for this subject,” a good question to follow up with is, “How do you know?” This will ensure you are given evidence for why they think this, learn what the teacher’s expectations are, and help you to understand exactly what they need to do in order to remedy this.