As Fikayo brought out the parent-teacher conference reminder letter out of his bag, Mrs Adesanya’s already stressed day turned darker. In her mind, she hissed in contempt for an activity she considered unproductive and time-wasting. “Why should I go and spend 30 to 40 minutes of my precious time with a teacher who will basically repeat information I can glean from Fikayo’s bi-weekly report card?” Besides, she could not think of anything new or different she wanted to know about her son’s welfare in school beyond what the teacher already sends to her weekly via email. Crumbling the letter into a ball, she dropped it in the bin with a mental note not to spend beyond 15 minutes at the conference, just to fulfill her quota of ‘mommy duties’.
Contrary to what many believe, there are some pertinent questions parents can ask teachers to keep them abreast of developments in their child’s learning progression. Suffice to say that the ultimate support system for a learner is not an expert teacher, but a well-informed and supportive family. Hence, the home front counts.
Here are some meaningful questions parents should be asking their children’s teachers to put them squarely in the ‘well-informed’ parent category.
Most times, we are inundated with a deluge of shallow recommendations from various ‘educational experts’ on the internet when it comes to the role parents should play in monitoring children’s learning. Terry Heick, blogger at Teachthought, one of America’s foremost educational blogs, lists some of the most common parenting tips found on the internet and underlines the disconnect to the actual process of learning and development for kids. They include comments like:
- Ask them what they did today
- Help them with homework
- Talk to them about their struggles
- Get them a tutor
While these may work at a surface level, they fail to plumb the depths of an informed interaction between teacher and parent, which will in turn lead to a more active participation of parents in the learning and development process. Try these insightful questions below with your child’s teacher the next time you have a chance to sit and chat.
- What are the most important and complex (content-related) ideas my child needs to understand by end-of-the-year: For example, a six-year-old Primary One pupil should be able to write from 1 to 500 by the end of the year.
- What academic standards or curriculum do you use and what do I need to know about them?
- How are creativity and innovation used on a daily basis in your classroom?
- How is critical thinking used on a daily basis in your classroom?
- What can I do to support literacy and numeracy skills in my home?
- What kinds of questions do you suggest I ask my child on a daily basis about your class?
- How do you measure academic progress?
- What are the best school or curriculum resources that we should consider using as a family to support our child in the classroom?
- Is there technology that you would recommend that can help support my child in self-directed learning?
- What am I not asking but should be?
A cursory glance at these questions will reveal that they are spot on, in mining for crucial information that can directly impact parental contribution to children academic development. Feel free to use and modify them in your next chat with your child’s teacher and you will be surprised at how willing teachers are to divulge such information.
However, a note of caution, you cannot possibly use all these in one discussion as it would probably alienate the teacher rather than draw them in. So, two or three at any given time is enough to set the ball rolling and help you on your path to becoming more involved in this journey of learning and development.
Photo Credit: Stefan Dahl Langstrup | Dreamstime