Questions To Ask Your Child's Teacher

Sep 16, 2016

As my daughter is set to start 8th grade, I can safely say that communication with her teachers is one of the key ingredients that has helped her have a successful school career thus far. Unfortunately, communication between teachers and parents is not always easy and those who are new to the school may not be sure how to inform, query or contact teachers. Parents can guarantee successful communication by asking your child’s teacher the right questions early in the year.

Before you set out to do that, it’s best to determine your goals for your child’s education and what you want your teacher to know. For example, it’s important to me that my child doesn’t just get academic lessons but also acquires social skills at school. It’s also important that teachers understand my child’s strengths and weaknesses to help them position her in their classroom structure.

Finally, remember that teachers today have their hands full. From new curriculum to larger class sizes, elementary and secondary school teachers are more overworked than ever. It might not be possible for your teacher to answer your questions immediately. My experience has been that they will reply in a timely matter. Urgent questions and emergencies will be answered right away but detailed questions might take a few days or a week.

With these ideas in mind, here are 6 questions to ask your child’s teacher to help set up a successful school year for your child:

  1. What is the best way to communicate with you?
    Last year, our middle school suffered from terrible parent teacher communication problems. This happened on both a large scale (announcements not reaching people) and a personal scale (no response from a teacher). Find out how teachers prefer to be contacted before the school year starts, but if you haven’t done that, make sure you do at the next parent teacher meeting. If your child struggles, you may want to set up a parent communication log. We use one daily for my nonverbal child to assess her and respond with my own comments and suggestions.

    In addition, you should tell the teacher how you prefer to be contacted, when and what you reply to the most. Personally, I prefer emails and I’d rather they reserve phone calls for emergency situations.

  2. What are your goals for the class as a whole for this school year?
    That answer will teach you many things. The answer most likely will be curriculum-based (“this year, we introduce social studies” or “we’ll be exploring Earth systems”). Share what you’d like your child to learn this year and ask them how they will teach and present coursework. Feel free to let them know if they are introducing a topic that your child loves. However, if your teacher seems more concerned with passing state tests or is nervous about new standards, you might want to keep in contact a little more closely.

  3. What is your homework and grading policy?
    Some teachers give a lot of homework while others don’t give any, and schools can take very different approaches to grading. My daughter is moving from a school that rarely did homework to one with daily assignments. I’m thankful that I asked this question so that I am prepared to set up my child for this new routine. You should also take the time to find out the details of the assignments – how long it should take, what sort of work, etc. A friend of mine once had a school year where homework length was calculated by grade, which meant her 7th grader was doing 3-4 hours of it per night. You need to be prepared for that possibility. Finally, ask how grading is calculated, what the marking periods are and where you can find that information throughout the course of the school year.

  4. How will the class and school year be set up?
    While my childhood classrooms were composed of straight rows, one teacher talking and raising hands for questions at the appropriate time, today desks might be arranged in circles, teachers often use more hands-on methods for teaching and class participation may be more conversational. You should also ask how the school day is organized, how the semesters are organized and how many teachers your child will interact with during the day. It’s also a good idea to ask about specific classroom policies such as rules, rewards and bathroom/water/recess breaks.

  5. What is the school policy on mobile devices?
    If your child’s school allows it students to use mobile devices that are not school owned, find out what are the schools guidelines on using mobile device use. Have a conversation with your child on how and when mobile devices can be used on school property. If certain types of websites are prohibited, remove temptation by using a parental control software, such as Net Nanny, to block access to those websites.

  6. What is the most important thing you want to know about my child?
    Some teachers will specifically request you to answer questions about your child’s strengths and weaknesses before the year starts. Other teachers will wait for a parent teacher meeting or back to school night to discuss challenges or struggles they see in your child’s performance. I think it’s good to be proactive and ask as early as you can to ensure that the teacher knows what helps or distracts your child in the classroom setting. That may affect class structure, such as where they are seated and whom they are assigned to for class projects.

Don’t be afraid to ask your child’s teacher questions before and throughout the school year, especially if your child is reluctant to share information about their day. If there are communication problems, ask the teacher if she can meet you for an informal parent teacher meeting. Understanding your teacher’s classroom and style can help you be proactive in your child’s education. Taking the time to ensure proper communication with your child’s teacher is critical to their success.