With the excitement of the new school year often come many changes for your child: a different teacher, classroom, and classmates, for example. Getting on the same page as your child’s teacher—whether through a conference or back-to-school night meeting—is a great way to support your child. Here are five questions to ask your child’s teacher this month.
1. What can my child and I expect regarding homework?
While homework can vary on a daily or weekly basis, asking your child’s teacher about the typical amount can help you and your child begin to develop a time-management plan for the after-school hours—one that includes extracurricular activities and relaxation. Sometimes there will be more or less homework depending on the day of the week (e.g., more on weekdays vs. weekends). It may also be helpful to understand what homework may consist of (e.g., answering questions or reading a text), if there are any subjects/types of homework to prioritize over others, and how homework may be graded (e.g., for completion or correctness). If you’d like, ask the teacher how she sees homework fitting into the overall picture of your child’s education. The answers to these questions can help you create a routine and environment in which your child can best flourish.
2. Are there any major projects or ongoing due dates?
Besides daily homework, many teachers assign large or recurring projects, like book reports, reading logs, and spelling tests. Knowing what larger projects are to come—such as a science-fair project in the spring—can help you figure out the rhythm of the school year. Likewise, understanding regular due dates will allow you and your child to plan around sick days or days you take off for vacation. Keep an eye out for updated due dates because teachers may need to shift dates around to adjust for pacing.
3. What are your classroom values and policies?
Asking your child’s teacher about classroom values and policies will help you understand the environment in which your child is spending time daily. In terms of policies, don’t be afraid to ask about the nitty-gritty—like the late homework policy, for instance. Knowing what to do if your child needs to miss school or gets a bit off track is crucial. Will points be deducted from late assignments, and if so, how many? What happens if your child misses a test? Can it be made up? Your child will have a better chance of success once he knows the ins and outs of these classroom policies.
4. How can I best support my child outside of school?
Speak with your child’s teacher about tips and strategies for supporting your child outside of school. How can you best help with homework or preparing for tests? What outside resources (e.g., online/library resources or educational games) or book recommendations does the teacher have—specifically for your child’s strengths and weaknesses? You probably already know some, but also ask about community events or real-world activities that your child can get involved in, like those at libraries or museums. The teacher may come up with more as the year goes on and as she gets to know your child better.
5. What is the best way for a parent to reach the teacher, and vice versa?
Since you and your child’s teacher are working together to help your child best succeed at school, keeping communication lines open is key. Find out what the teacher’s preferred mode of communication is: email, telephone, a message through the school’s online portal, or a handwritten note. If you’d like, and from time to time, consider scheduling an in-person meeting outside of conferences to check in with your child’s teacher. Also, don’t forget to ask how you can expect to hear from the teacher, whether that’s also through online or other means.
As soon as you can, get in touch with your child’s teacher, whether that’s a simple hello and introduction during back-to-school night or at a sit-down meeting. This will help you and your family begin to create a plan for the year to best help your child succeed.
Lisa Low is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.