From childrenshealthmag.com (one of our favorite sites and publications)
Ask: After you give directions, does my child get right to work?
Here’s why: Children who stall may have trouble processing information or focusing. “They may also lack motivation or simply be defiant,” says Robin London, a fifth-grade teacher in Warrington, Pennsylvania. “Ask if other kids in the class have the same problem, which may indicate weak classroom management skills, or whether other children may be a distraction.” Ultimately, she adds, you want to learn how the teacher plans to motivate your child so you can start duplicating the effort with chores at home.
Ask: How do you encourage positive behavior?
Here’s why: It’s important that children not be embarrassed, especially in front of their peers, says Evy Falcon-Duran, a former special-education teacher in Randolph, New Jersey. “But there must be consequences that are age appropriate,” she says. “The way students are addressed will often make the difference in their reaction or response. I make sure that students are given an opportunity to correct themselves.”
Ask: Does my kid have a hard time finding partners for group work?
Here’s why: If so, your child may have difficulty getting along with others, might be perceived as an outcast, or might just be shy. Ask the teacher if your child is bossy, lazy, or silly in group efforts. “If the teacher hints that your child might be considered an outcast, ask in what ways so you and the teacher can work to change those qualities,” London says. Additionally, if they keep to themselves during recess, this could signal a bullying situation, London explains. “Ask if there was a negative change in your child’s behavior recently that might indicate they’re either witnessing or part of the bullying—as the victim or perpetrator.”
Ask: Do you customize instruction?
Here’s why: “It’s our job to ‘pitch’ in a way students can ‘catch,'” says Frank Meyers, a first-grade teacher in Macungie, Pennsylvania. Education has moved toward differentiation, in which each child can learn in a way that suits them best–whether it’s through touching, listening, reading, or another method. “A keen teacher will identify these traits by midyear, and then adjust their delivery for each child,” Meyers says.
Ask: Does my child take pride in the quality of his or her work?
Here’s why: If the answer is no, it may indicate that your child isn’t driven to do his or her best. You’d then want to know if the teacher accepts your child’s work as is, or if they review it. “If they don’t, they should start so you can see if that improves the work,” London says. “If the child truly is doing his or her best, they might need more support with the assigned work.”
Ask: How do you establish rapport with your students?
Here’s why: There’s no right answer here—some do it through humor, others via one-on-one discussions. The important thing is that students trust their teacher and feel comfortable asking for help. “I want my students to know that they can count on me, even if it means addressing unrealistic expectations from parents,” Falcon-Duran says.
Ask: How would you describe my child’s personality?
Here’s why: Teachers often know a different “version” of the kid than the parents know, because behavior varies between home and school. “Knowing how they’re different can give both you and the teacher a deeper insight into why they may do things the way they do,” Meyers says.
Ask: What’s your unstated goal?
Here’s why: Truly dedicated teachers may maintain “hidden curricula”—values, say, or social awareness—that come as nice bonuses. “Mine is self-esteem, empowering my students to take risks, self-advocate, and do their best in and out of the classroom,” Falcon-Duran says. “If you know the teacher’s hidden curriculum, you can help nudge the kids in those directions at home.”
Ask: Does my child like school?
Here’s why: “This is a simple question that almost never comes up,” Meyers says. “But their enjoyment and motivation toward school is paramount.” If a child’s apparent enjoyment in class doesn’t match what his or her parents hear at home, Meyers says, then both student and teacher can focus on improving the school experience.