How can you get the specifics you need about your child's school progress? The key lies in asking the right questions. We've compiled comments often heard at conferences and targeted questions you can ask to obtain more detailed information:
Teacher: I wish all my students were like Jane.
Parent: That's nice to hear! What makes Jane a good student? Which are her best subjects? How can I help her improve where she's weak?
Teacher: Tim is so good. I never hear a peep out of him.
Parent: Do you think he's too quiet? Does he involve himself in class discussions? How do you know Tim is listening? Is he quiet at the playground, too?
Teacher: Shelly gets along so well with others.
Parent: Yes, she's always done well socially. My concern is that Shelly has no interest in reading. Do you see any progress in that area? What can we do at home to help her?
Teacher: Greg is a real leader.
Parent: His mother and I are pleased about that. But have his study habits improved? Are there any ways we can help him be more organized?
Teacher: Megan always does what I ask.
Parent: I'm glad she respects your authority. But does Megan show any signs of self motivation? Can you think of times when she's gone beyond what's expected?
If you preface your questions with a positive comment, teachers are less likely to feel defensive. Try to avoid questions that can be answered with a "yes" or "no." "How," what," and "why" usually elicit specific answers.
If you feel intimidated during parent-teacher conferences, remind yourself that the school and the teacher are working for you and your child. In a manner of speaking, you are the consumer. Don't be afraid to ask challenging questions to get the answers you need. The more open the partnership between you and the teacher, the more successful your child will be.