What High School Teachers Wish Parents Asked at Conferences

Showing up to parent-teacher conferences is an important step, but so is asking the right questions.

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Asking the right questions can help parents and teachers get the most out of conferences.
Asking the right questions can help parents and teachers get the most out of conferences.

Parent-teacher conferences give parents some much-needed face time with their teen's teacher, but many parents don't take advantage of the opportunity.

"Parents need to be just as involved in teacher conferences, if not more, at the high school level as they are during the elementary years," says Rebecca Thiegs, a language arts teacher at Red Lion Area Senior High School in Pennsylvania. "The sad reality is showing us that it's the opposite in many public schools."

As high school students inch closer and closer to college, parents can help ensure their student is on the right path by participating in teacher conferences. If a student is headed in the wrong direction, teachers can use the time to advise parents on how to help their teen change course.

While showing up at parent-teacher conferences is an important first step, asking the right questions will help both parties have a productive meeting. Here are some questions teachers say they wish parents would ask:

1. Is my student giving his or her best effort?

Conferences are typically a time for teachers to walk parents through their student's grades, progress, and areas for growth. But grades don't always tell the full story.

[Get three tips to decide if your teen needs tutoring.]

A bright teen could pull off acceptable grades with minimal effort, but teachers can often tell if a student is phoning it in. If this is the case, parents and teachers can work together to help the student work up to their potential.

2. What could my teen do that he or she is not already doing?

Almost every student has room for improvement, and in an increasingly competitive college admissions landscape, each grade or activity could count.

Whether it's taking advantage of internship or extra credit opportunities, filling out college applications, or simply turning assignments in on time, teachers can tell parents what their student needs to do to take his or her academic performance to the next level.

3. What can I do to make your job easier?

Parents and teachers should be on the same team—the student's team.

By investing time at home to ensure homework is done and teaching the teen to take ownership of his or her schoolwork, parents can help teachers do their job more effectively, says Kirk Mango, a health and physical education teacher at Downers Grove South High School in Illinois.

"Place the responsibility for 'doing well' and turning in work on time right on the person who has the most control over making that happen—the student themselves," Mango said via E-mail.

[Learn why students perform better with engaged parents.]

4. How are you doing?

Teaching can be a thankless task. Many teachers are managing dozens of students on a daily basis, and take on responsibilities that extend far beyond classroom instruction.

"I'm a teacher, a psychologist, a security guard, a babysitter, a bank, a chef, and countless other jobs. And it's not like I'm doing it all for one child; no, I'm doing it for 70," says Vin Testa, a math teacher at Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C.

While the conference is about your student, Testa and several other teachers put this question near the top of their wish list.

"I want parents to realize what we're doing and how we're doing through it all, so that we can work together to provide the best education for their children," Testa says.

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