Fall conferences are around the corner. As a parent I get excited about that 15 minute slot allotted to have a one-on-one with my child’s teacher. I look forward to hearing about the progress, struggles, and strengths more in-depth than what I see in homework worksheets. Sometimes a conference goes great, but sometimes we walk away thinking we just heard a script that is being repeated for every student.

Starting the conference with specific questions gives you the opportunity to focus on what is important regarding your child. Areas of study covered or assessment scores can be done quickly and even in other communications. Addressing the following questions will give both you and teacher a better understanding of the child throughout the year.

Here are five questions you can ask to help you get the most from those minutes with the teacher.

1 | What do you see as an area of strength for my child?

This question focuses the discussion on your child specifically while still giving the teacher the opportunity to evaluate all subjects. Sometimes parents find this answer surprising as kids can show different abilities in the classroom than at home. Fostering a love of learning can help bring these hidden strengths out in the home as well as at school.

2 | What is one area to focus on improving for my child?

Sometimes it is difficult to think about all areas of learning at once. Focusing on one area at a time helps define the priorities within the classroom. It also gives something concrete to work on at home.

It’s great to update this question with the teacher throughout the year. Sending an email or utilizing school communication apps is a great way to check in regarding progress as well as give the teacher the opportunity to shift the focus to something new as your child improves.

3 | How does my child contribute to the class atmosphere?

This may seem like an unusual question, but it can provide a lot of information. Different personalities shine in different ways independently, but as you blend twenty of those unique personalities together new things can be revealed.

This will give you an idea of how much your child contributes to class discussions or how she may be a great helper for another student. Maybe you’ll discover that your child is great at following directions and modeling good behavior for other students or even that she provides a funny idea to give everyone a laugh.

Asking this question gives insight on how your child’s personality comes through in an academic environment. This is especially useful to understand as kids approach middle school and issues like popularity can impact their learning experience.

4 | Who does my child work well with?

Giving the teacher the opportunity to look at the social element of learning is just as important as the academics. This can be a good barometer of how a child is doing socially as well as give parents insight.

Understanding who your child is able to work well with at school compared to the friend that is fun, but may actually be a distraction when it comes to school work, will help everyone create a more successful learning environment.

Vanderbilt University has shown that increasing social skills results in students who are more responsive to academic learning.

5 | Do you have any concerns about my child?

This question can never be asked too much. Sometimes we are so busy getting through the list of assessments, reading levels, and academic achievement that we can miss the bigger picture.

Giving teachers and parents both the pause to consider any areas of concern emotionally, socially, or developmentally addresses the whole child in his or her learning environment.