Talking with teachers
October 18, 2010
by Jenni Sebora

OK. You have 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes to establish rapport with your child’s teacher, become acquainted, make small talk and, oh yeah, determine how your child’s school year is going to go. While that might not seem like a lot of time, much can be accomplished.

Come with questions. Some of the most logical areas to talk about might be:

• Expectations for your child. How is the teacher going to evaluate your child? What are the teacher’s policies on grading and homework? How much are tests and quizzes used in determining grades? What state or federal tests are going to be given, and what skills need to be mastered to show proficiency on those tests? How much time will be expected to be spent on homework per night/week?

• Meeting those expectations. What are the standards set by the school or state to show that they are making adequate progress? What areas does your child need assistance with? Where do her strengths lie? Does your child participate in class? Is there extra credit that your child can take advantage of? Are some components of the class weighted more heavily in terms of grading than others? If your student is struggling, does the school offer tutoring or other services to assist the child? Is there a behavior or physical problem that makes it hard to meet expectations?

• Communicating expectations. In addition to report cards, how will the school and your child’s teacher let you know how (and if) your child is meeting expectations? What should you be communicating to the teacher that can help your child’s school experiences? What is the best way for you and the teacher to communicate (e-mail, phone) and what is the best time to communicate?

• Ongoing involvement. What level assistance can you, or should you, give your child at home with their homework or projects? How can you help your student get organized? Is there a syllabus or course schedule that can be shared with you to assist your student in completing assignments and projects in a timely fashion? In areas that your child is weak, how can you help him? Will there be any follow-up conferences?

Even if your child is doing well in school and their teacher assures you that there are no problems or concerns, you can take this opportunity to find out what challenges your child, what subjects they like and which ones they don’t. Establish goals for your child that will challenge your child and like all students, discuss areas they can still improve upon.

By getting and sharing the information that both you and your child’s teacher need, your child will be well on the way to a successful school year.