Many parents attend parent-teacher conference expecting the teacher to give them feedback on their child's academic performance. They see the conference as a one-way street in which the teacher controls the agenda. That is a myth. I think parents need to be fully prepared to ask specific questions about their child's academic performance and social interactions. Please remember that you have only been allotted a limited time, so get organize and prioritize your questions before your appointment.

At the appointed time of the parent-teacher conference, greet the teacher and let the teacher initially run the meeting. She or he will tell you how your child is doing in the class and any particular problem. During this phase ask questions if something is not clear, but don't start a new topic until the teacher is finished.

Now it is your turn to ask questions about the wider subject regarding your child's attitudes and behaviors. You may find the following suggestions helpful in articulating your concerns and having a meaningful dialogue with the teacher on these subjects. However, not all the suggestions listed below may apply to your child.

Classroom assignments

• How does your child complete classroom assignments? Are they handing the assignments in on time? Are they completing it sooner than others, or taking longer?

• If they complete the assignment sooner than other children, do they hand in an assignment that is sloppy because they are rushing to be done? Or is their assignment to the teacher's satisfaction?

• If they are taking longer to complete assignments, is it because they are getting distracted? If they are getting distracted, can their desk be moved to the front of the class to minimize distractions?

• If they take longer to complete assignment because they do not know the concept, what can be done to help them? How is the teacher going to help, what can you as parents do at home to help the child?

Classroom participation/behavior

• Is your child getting bored in the classroom? Do they need more challenging work or extra assignments to keep interested?

• Is your child eager to answer questions and is actively participating in classroom discussions? Are they motivated to learn?

• Is your child making their best effort?

Peer interactions

• How does your child interact with their peers in the classroom and at recess? Do they have many friends?

• Are they cooperating while playing with other children? Are they a leader or a follower?

• Are they isolating themselves at recess? If they isolate themselves what are they playing or doing at that time?


• What are your child's strengths? How does the teacher perceive them? What do other children say about your child?

• Make sure you do talk about your child's strengths from your point of view. This will help the teacher better understand your child.

• Before the meeting time ends, get information on the best way to communicate with the teacher during the school year - by e-mail, telephone or written notes? Parents can prevent many potential problems by keeping open lines of communication with their child's teacher. Your child's social and emotional development is as important as their academic performance, in order for your child to grow up to be a happy and well-adjusted adult.

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Salma Bhalla, Ph.D., is a parent and psychologist. Her book, Cues and Clues to Children's Behaviors: A Guide to Raising a Happy Well-Adjusted Child was released Nov. 1. Contact her at


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