For many school-aged students and their families, it’s that time of the year where reports have been sent home and Parent-Teacher Interview (PTI) bookings have been opened up.
PTIs, or your school’s equivalent, are an opportunity to discuss your kid’s progress at school for the past six months – or sometimes the entire year.
Although they seem to come at the busiest times of the year (read: Christmas) they are still so important to try and get to. Yes, even if your kid’s report was overwhelmingly positive.
As an ex-teacher and mother of two, I cannot encourage participating in the process enough, for both parents and students alike. But it’s important to make the most of it.
The first step (and yes, it seems self-explanatory) is thoroughly reading your child’s report. Believe me, some parents don’t.
Reading it by yourself and then with your kid is key, and so is discussing the comments and results together before attending the PTI. It’s important as a reflective process in itself, but also because most schools now encourage students to participate interactively – which makes sense given it’s their learning.
As well as this bit of preparation, asking the right questions is crucial. And the best thing is you don’t even have to ask a lot of them.
Here are five questions that teachers like me would love you to ask us.
1. What are my child’s key strengths?
Sometimes when you read your child’s report, unless you work in education yourself it can be confusing to understand.
The graphs, numbers, letters and terminology can be tricky to grasp and often they’re not overly specific.
Asking your child’s classroom or subject teacher to identify your child’s specific strengths, in particular areas like reading or even socially, can be a great way to find out that specific info that you might not know from just reading the report.
It can also be a way to hear some of the positive achievements of your child if they have struggled in other areas, and didn’t get loads of positives in their report.
2. What does my child struggle with?
Like the strengths, finding out what your kid struggles with specifically can be really helpful so you can support them at home.
Understanding struggles is important even for those children who excel in many areas. There’s always something they get a bit stuck on; it might be in non-academic areas like within social interactions or their confidence in participating in class discussions.
3. How has my child improved?
Usually a school report will include a graph with the student’s improvement from earlier in the year up until now. But the graph doesn’t always explain how a child has improved in that area. This is where asking for specifics can be valuable.
For example, if your child has improved in writing, asking how they’ve improved, or in what ways have they’ve shown improvement (e.g. punctuation or vocabulary). This will shed more light on what otherwise might be a vague assessment.
4. What can I do to help my child improve?
This is probably the most important question on the list.
Because ultimately your child’s education isn’t just about the teacher, the school and them, it is about all of those factors – as well as yourself – working together as a team.
Finding out from their teacher some key areas to focus on, questions to ask them, and tasks or activities you can do with them at home will help you manage where to direct your energy to assist them as best you can.
5. What is your contact information and when is best to contact you?
Lastly, if you don’t already have the teacher’s contact information, this is a great time to ask for it and find out the best time to contact them.
That way if you have any other questions or concerns you can follow up later (I suggest exchanging numbers so they can contact you too.)