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Parent-teacher interviews can be a daunting experience. Both parties are nervous about meeting each other and about what to say in the short time allocated — usually ten to fifteen minutes. For parents, the problem may be an uncertainty of what to say, or of how best to approach the meeting. Or, perhaps the most important of all, finding the right questions to ask to get the most out of the process.

Preparation, as we’ll see, is the key to success.

What are parent-teacher interviews?

Schools arrange a night for the interviews, usually after the release of report cards. Typically, this may be at the end of the term or school year. However, they may also be held at the beginning of the school year, to give you a chance to meet the teachers. Here teachers can give you a broad outline of the year, what they will introduce during the year, and the standards expected of your children.

In certain circumstances, either you or a teacher may request a special interview to discuss your son or daughter’s progress.

Why go to the interviews?

These meetings are invaluable in the ongoing educational progress of your child. They open communication between you and your child’s teachers. Schools will encourage feedback from parents, and you will gain a better understanding of the school’s programs and methods.

You get the chance to talk with your child’s teachers and learn your child’s strengths and weaknesses. This gives you an insight into the parts of their learning where you can assist your daughter or son. For example, if your child is in primary school, his or her teacher may suggest putting aside time to read to them to improve their comprehension and vocabulary.

Going to an interview with your child’s teachers also opens up communication between you and the school. This will give you a better idea of the academic and classroom support that’s available and the expectations for homework and conduct. If required, you can also enquire about special support services.

Your teacher will be able to ask you questions about your child’s home life. This will give the teachers a better understanding of the child’s behaviour patterns, which will be helpful in directing your child’s development and education.

Top 7 questions to ask

Understanding which questions to ask the teacher is the key step to making the most of the interview. Here are some questions to consider asking.

How is my child doing at school?

If the interview is at the end of the school term, you would have gained an idea of their aptitude and level of achievement from their report. For older students, this lists your child’s grade (from A to E), depending on the standard they have reached. However, this will only give you a broad outline. Talking with the teachers will help give you a sense of the overall direction, enabling you to work with the school to assist in the learning process.

What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses?

This is a key question. Learning what your son or daughter’s strengths and weaknesses are means you are better positioned to help them. While learning about strengths is important, make sure the teacher covers the weaknesses too. Once you’ve established where the child needs to improve, work with the teacher to understand how you can help.

Does my child contribute to class discussion and appear happy in the subject?

While every student has classes they like and dislike, it is still important for your child to be happy when studying all their subjects. This is because your child’s happiness in class is linked to how effectively they learn. Use the interview to establish whether your child contributes and enjoys class discussion and work.

How can I help at home with my child’s education?

As parents, you want the best for your kids. Helping them with their schoolwork at home will often give them the boost they need. Talking with their teachers will help you specify where to help. Even if your child is doing well in a subject, helping and supporting them at home will still be effective in furthering their learning.

How does my child interact with other students?

Ask if your child gets along with others in the class. Your teachers will help you to understand whether the student is happy in their social environment. Their learning may suffer if they are anxious about other students.

Does my child need special support for their learning?

It may be necessary for your child to take advantage of special support services to gain the most out of their time at school. The teacher will help you to understand the options open to you. It may be necessary to organise a meeting with the school counsellor to explore these choices further.

How does my child’s performance compare to that of previous years?

This is crucial to understanding where your child is at with their learning, and whether any further support is required. Where high school students are concerned the answer to this question may also give you an idea of your child’s future career aspirations.

After the interview

Make sure you have asked everything you want to ask, and that you’re clear on any advice given to you by the teachers. If time ran out before you could ask all your questions, schedule a second interview. You may also decide to follow-up with a phone conversation or email.

Interviews are invaluable opportunities to gain an insight into your kid’s education, communicate directly with teachers and develop an understanding of how you can help your child’s learning.

Make sure you know exactly what to ask, and be prepared to listen to advice on what you can do to assist with your child’s work at home. Take notes where you can, and if something is unclear, ask the teacher to explain. Clarity is key, here.

Teaching staff thrive on feedback, so offer your points of view where you think it will help your child’s teacher.

Maths Words Not Squiggles deliver maths and english tutoring to primary and high school students. Attend one of our 4 Sydney learning centres or take advantage of our live online tutoring service.