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The 5 questions you should ask your child's teacher.

Catholic Education WA
Thanks to our brand partner, Catholic Education WA

Daunting, nerve-wracking and overwhelming - these are just some of the words I would use to describe my emotions when my first child started school (and then again, when my second did too).

As a parent, watching your child starting school or even going back to school for a new year can be full of unknowns. But one thing I did know, as an ex-teacher myself, was that establishing an open and reciprocal relationship with my children’s school and their teachers was key.

Doing this would help me feel much more confident and assured as I waved goodbye at the school gates as my children head off on their learning adventure.

Siobhan Allen (Executive Director of Catholic School Parents WA) and Laura Allison (Team Leader of Psychology, Catholic Education WA) believe that staying connected and being proactive by asking your child’s teachers questions can be a powerful and informative action.

I spoke to both of them to see what questions they feel would help benefit the parent-teacher relationship throughout the year, to set your children up for success. Here are their top five questions to ask.

1. Can you tell me the best time and way to contact you? (Not just to address concerns but to check in from time to time on how my child is tracking.)

Siobhan tells Mamamia that asking this question "demonstrates from the outset your commitment and willingness as a parent to engage in your child’s educational journey".

"It also tells the teacher that you respect the fact that it is best to talk at a mutually convenient time rather than to interrupt the start of his/her day by approaching them at drop off time or some other time when the teacher is busy teaching," she says. "This helps everything to start on a positive note."

Siobhan Allen is well known as a parent advocate in Catholic schools around Western Australia. Image: Supplied.


2. What are my child's strengths?

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Coming from a psychologist's perspective, Laura says that this question can reveal some really specific insight that will benefit both your child and their teacher.

"Having this conversation with your child’s teacher is important because often the focus is on weaknesses and deficits, yet it is your child’s strengths which can be best leveraged for their own success," Laura tells Mamamia.

"Discovering a student’s strengths can be a great resource, this may be academic skills, but also could be their talents, character or other attributes."

3. What does my child enjoy most/least at school/in your class?

"It is important to know that you cannot separate emotions from learning," Laura elaborates. "We want to ensure there is emotional engagement and investment and finding out what your child is least enjoying can be related to this. When children are bored or avoiding something, it may be an indication that there are skills they are struggling with, or where they may need extra support. 

"And on the flipside, if a child is coming home emotionally invested in their learning it can show how much they are enjoying it."

Laura Allison is a registered psychologist who works for Catholic Education WA. Image: Supplied.

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4. Is there anything you would like to know about my child so you can understand them better?

Laura identifies student wellbeing as imperative to their learning success, and she says at the heart of this is how productive the teacher-student relationship is.

"The students are saying that it is the teacher that knows them and takes an interest in them outside of learning that allows for better learning to take place ," Laura explains, adding, "Parents can be great advocates for their children and have the expertise which can help the teacher. When a teacher knows the student better it improves not only their relationship but allows for them to cater to their learning better."

5. What's the one thing I can be supporting my child with that would make the most difference?

According to Laura, this question holds more value than asking teachers just about lessons or the curriculum.

"Often parents are encouraged to ask teachers about their teaching practices and methods, but to maximise the value of the limited time often available for parents and teacher to communicate, I would be encouraging parents to utilise this time to be curious regarding if the teacher knows their child, if the teacher likes their child, and if the teacher would advocate for their child," she says.

"Asking questions to teachers allows you to work together as a team. This may be setting learning goals but could also be personal development or wellbeing goals which are all vital to success in learning. Asking what the most impactful thing is I can do to make the most difference and working on that one thing with the teacher can make a big difference."

Coming from the parent's perspective, Siobhan explains that as well as asking questions, it is important for you as a parent to keep the teacher updated with any relevant information.

"In addition to asking questions, it is important to let your child’s teacher know if there is anything happening at home that may affect your child’s ability to fully participate at school," Siobhan says. "These may include, illness, job change or loss, a death in the family or even of a loved pet or perhaps a change in living arrangements due to a relationship breakdown. Any of these life events can have an impact on children’s mental health and wellbeing.

"When teachers are aware of what is going on at home, they may be in a position to provide additional support to assist children through difficult times. This, in turn, will lead to enhanced outcomes for all."

For more information on Catholic schools in WA, enquire here for 2021 enrolments.

Feature image: Getty.

Catholic Education WA
Catholic Schools are great places to learn and belong Western Australia has 163 Catholic schools and colleges providing extraordinary learning opportunities for more than 76,000 students across our state. Underpinned by evidence-based research and drawing on the experience of some of the world’s leading education experts, our child-focused Vision for Learning ensures every child has the opportunity to learn, grow and belong. Our dedicated teachers partner with parents and encourage students to think independently and to learn to know, love and respect themselves and others. By providing engaging, inclusive learning environments Catholic schools support all students to discover their potential.
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