Questions You Need to Ask Your Child’s Elementary Teacher Today!

As an elementary school principal it amazes me how different what we offer at my school is from other schools, even in the same district. Also amazing is that parents sometimes are clueless as to how their children’s school days are being spent. If you are parent, arm yourself with these questions to ask your child’s teacher today!

1. Do you work with a teacher assistant? What training and experience does she have? How often is she alone with the students? Younger grade students may spend a significant part of the day with a paraprofessional such as a teacher assistant. This person often is just as important in your child’s life as the teacher. See if you can get a feel for how well the teacher assistant works with the teacher.

2. What home work do you have, and how does it enhance my child’s learning? How is it graded? Regardless of the school’s policy for homework, philosophies differ greatly among teachers. Some teachers don’t value homework at all, and they believe that children should have some time off after school. Other teachers depend on the child getting extra reinforcement at home.

3. Will my child be taking field trips? How do they fit into the curriculum? How much will they cost? Who will supervise them? Who approves field trips? What percentage of the class will go on the trips? Field trips are important, because they add valuable context to what your child will be learning. Your first priority is to make sure children are properly supervised when off campus. Your second priority is to make sure field trips appropriately enhance what your child is learning in the classroom.

4. How often will my child participate in phonics instruction compared to whole language instruction? A great divide exists among teachers when it comes to how much phonics instruction should be available to students. If the teacher looks at you like a deer in the headlights, assume she relies mostly in while language instruction, since phonetics takes quite a bit of expertise.

5. What is your philosophy on classroom discipline and management? Are students rewarded for good behavior? Are they punished? What kinds of incidents warrant office referrals to the principal?

6. How are children recognized for their academics? How a teacher recognizes children might provide you with insight on what to focus on at home. The fact that students are rewarded with points for reading library books, for example, but not even given a grade for most writing assignments gives you important information about what is valued at the school.

7. What math manipulatives will my child be working with? How often are students working with real world math problems? Math should always be put into context for children. Otherwise it won’t mean anything. Likewise student should often be using small props, called manipulatives, so that they can learn math concepts by physically precipitating the concepts.

8. What summer enrichment activities do you recommend to prepare for your grade level and for the next grade level?

9. In what grade levels and schools have you taught previously? A kindergarten teacher who has also taught first or second grade probably has insight on how to prepare your child for the years ahead. A third grade teacher who has taught only kindergarten in the past may struggle with the change,

10. How will my child be assessed? What kinds of reports will I have access to? What resources are available to helping me understand the reports?

11. How much time will my child have in each subject area, especially science and social studies? Reading and math subject areas get the most emphasis in elementary school. This is partly because they are foundation courses and partly because they are tested. Even so, science, social studies, and the arts are important and should have a regular presence in the school week.

12. How much nonfiction will my child be exposed to? Traditionally, the emphasis in reading was on fiction. Teachers love to teach short stories in the elementary grades. However, the federal government’s Common Core curriculum emphasizes informational sources. After all, adult readers are more likely to be reading instruction manuals, recipes, lists, magazine articles, and instructional websites, and students should be familiar with this kind of reading in addition to fiction. Be sure that your child’s teacher has made the switch!

13. How many books can my child check out from the media center? How do you monitor the reading of library books? How do you know the books are on the appropriate reading level?

14. How do you communicate with parents? What information can I expect to see on your web page?

15. What technology is available to my child? Is there an interactive white board in the classroom? Do students get to use it? Are the textbooks online? Are there free online resources we can use at home? Are quarterly benchmarks online? Is the school participating in a one to one computer initiative or planning to?

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