Editor’s Note: These questions are focused on general in-classroom learning, we encourage parents to voice any COVID safety questions and concerns with your child’s school or teacher.
Sending your not-so-little child off to school can be overwhelming and worrisome, whether it’s their first time or their fourth. Each new year brings changes—new friends, teachers, environments, and expectations. It’s normal to be concerned for your child and to wonder how they will adjust and respond to the new school year.
As a parent, what you can do is be an informed and active participant in your child’s education. Parents play the most major role in a child’s life, regardless of how many hours they are away from you during the day. How you react and respond to school, teachers, and learning will directly impact your child’s views of the same things.
Having a strong relationship with your child’s teacher is one of the most important things you can do. By keeping good, positive, open communication with your child’s teacher, you will learn how to better support your child’s learning throughout the year.
If you’re at a loss for what to ask your child’s teacher to get the conversation going, here are 15 of the questions we love to ask at the beginning of the school year.
1. How do you assess student progress?
Many schools have formal academic assessments, while others assess more informally through student work and observations. Some schools do a combination of both. It helps to know how your child will be assessed, so you know what to expect.
2. What one thing should I help my child improve and work on?
The answer to this question might change as the teacher gets to know your child more throughout the school year, but even in the beginning of the year, having a general focal point for what to encourage at home (i.e. following directions, mealtime routines, literacy, etc.) is a good starting point.
3. What can I do to support the work you’re doing in the classroom?
This question lets the teacher know you’re on their side—that you simply want to help your child in any way that you can.
4. What is the best way for me to contact you?
When I was teaching, so many parents would innocently try to have a serious conversation during drop-off or pick-up times. For many reasons (the main one being there is a slew of other children around to keep an eye on), this was not a great time. So, be clear on how or when is the best method of communication between parents and teacher. This way, your child’s teacher can give you thoughtful, relevant feedback to your questions without feeling harried or caught-off-guard.
5. What are the most important ideas or concepts my child has to understand by the end of the year?
This will give you a good gauge of what’s most important for this school year, whether it’s an important social skill, a method of thinking, or an actual academic concept.
6. How are creativity and innovative thinking promoted in the classroom?
Creativity and innovative, critical thinking are both skills that set the foundation for learning and ability to problem-solve in the future, so they are definitely ones that you want to be prioritized and pushed in the classroom.
7. How can I support literacy at home?
Sometimes parents think that promoting literacy at home consists of pushing your kids to learn to read and setting aside time for extra practice for reading and writing. But, it could just mean making sure that reading and writing are respected at home and that your child uses foundational skills (like, flipping through books on their own and drawing/painting regularly) are encouraged.
8. What questions do you suggest I ask my kids on a daily basis about school?
We’ve all been caught in the “So, how was school today?” cycle, and let’s face it, nothing good ever comes from that question. Your child’s teacher can guide in what sort of specifics you can ask about, making those after-school conversations with your kids so much more meaningful.
9. How is learning personalized in your classroom?
Every child learns in a different way, so differentiation of instruction and appealing to multiple styles of learning is really important. Hearing your child’s teacher speak to this will give you a little peace of mind that your little one’s needs are accounted for.
10. What are common barriers to overall classroom success that you often see?
To be completely honest, common barriers to success often have nothing to do with the children themselves, but sometimes their environments and, ahem, their parents. External environmental stress and pressure can have a huge impact on a kid’s ability to learn, so being clear with the teacher about your child’s life is always a good idea.
11. What’s your perspective on homework?
Hearing what your child’s teacher says about homework will give you a good idea of her perspective on teaching and learning, overall. Homework can be a polarizing topic in the education and parenting realms, and many early childhood and elementary teachers feel very strongly about it.
12. What is your approach if a child is struggling socially?
Social struggles are very common amongst young children—this is the age where they are learning how to be people and succeed in a group setting. There will be ups and downs when it comes to your child’s social life, but knowing your child’s teacher approach to these things can help you feel reassured.
13. How universally accessible and culturally relevant is the curriculum and instruction?
As we know from our own childhoods, textbooks and curriculum are typically on the conservative side and may not include relevant facts or important areas of study. Because your little one is young and impressionable, it’s important to know what sorts of perspectives and concepts their early learning will bring.
14. What am I not asking but should be?
Be honest with your child’s teacher—if you want to be a constructive and involved member of your kid’s education, make it known that you, too, are there to learn and help and grow.
15. How can I help you?
Teachers have a lot on their plates—many students, hectic days, and often very little support. If there is any way that you can support your child’s teacher, know that you will be supporting your child’s education, as well. Any little bit helps, and even just the offer of help can mean the world to a teacher.
This article was originally published in 2018 and has been updated for timeliness.