Jan | 2016
Three of the best questions to ask teachers to REALLY KNOW how your child is doing in school (Grades do not tell a story)
Let’s be honest, only looking at your child’s grades will tell you very little about what you really need to know in order to help your child develop to their full potential, preparing them to handle even higher level challenges, and eventually be successfully employed.
The three questions leading to you being armed with in-depth and precise information to make any home-based educational tweaks, or which may stimulate further communications with teachers are as follows:
— Are there any specific academic skills (e.g., organization, focusing, conceptualization, synthesizing, memorization, etc.) that my child should further develop to be performing at a higher level in your course?
— Are there any content areas that my child appears to have noteworthy trouble with?
— Are there any social or behavioral or teamwork issues that my child needs to work on to improve their classroom functioning?
Why are these three of the best questions you can ask teachers or even tutors or coaches working with your child?
I have come up with these three main questions after over a decade of working with children, parents, teachers, and educational consultants. These three questions, to me, do an optimal job of comprehensively but concisely capturing a full array of information you want to be aware of.
The first question about academic skills is critical to learn from those professionals who are with your child all day long – where, in the learning process, your child struggles. Learning is a process that begins with the ability to attend and focus on the learning environment, and involves many steps including (but not limited to!) the following:
— ability to manipulate information in one’s head on their visual spatial “scratchpad”
— ability to store away information
— ability to conceptualize ideas
— ability to compare and contrast current ideas to the storehouse of ideas in one’s memory
— ability to do all of this cognitive processing even under pressure (e.g., in testing format)
What do grades tell you about your child’s ability in each of these learning steps? Almost nothing!!! That is why so many children can obtain really good grades and then when they enter high school or college hit the wall and end up in my office or struggling very significantly. So much gets missed when there’s an over focus on grades and an under focus on precisely analyzing your child’s skills and skill gaps. Your goal as a parent is to be constantly helping your child fill in their skill gaps so their learning process is optimized.
The second question (“Are there any content areas that my child appears to have noteworthy trouble with?”) does a great job of complementing the first question by taking the focus off of PROCESS and putting the focus momentarily on CONTENT. That is, you also want to know if there are particular content areas your child struggles with or excels with. Often, a learning disability or giftedness is discovered after a child’s pattern of struggles or talents are recognized in an area of content. As you become aware of any struggles with a certain content area, you can enrich your child’s exposure to that content area at home through Internet-based materials as well as any learning games or tutoring.
This is particularly important for you to take ownership of as the educational system seems to be guilty of, at times, simplifying the curriculum and under-stimulating your child. Remember, teachers do not see as one of their primary roles of identifying learning disabilities or problems in your child. It is delivering curricular content to the general student population.
And finally, the question “Are there any social or behavioral or teamwork issues that my child needs to work on to improve their classroom functioning?” is critical especially as children are spending more time in isolation on computers. It is even more vital that parents constantly be assessing their child’s social development and helping their child constantly sand down any “personality thorns” and continually enhance their ability to have enough “social grease” that they are likable and that they can become an influencer in life.
Remember, what your child KNOWS is going to become decreasingly important as computers and robots “know” more. So, just because your child is a content expert on the culture in Asia, it does not mean they are destined to work for the State Department.
The way your child will have to compellingly distinguish themselves in the employment market of the 21st century is how well they can work with teams. So they will need to have even more social grease than the children have needed in the past to be successfully employed. And the competition for whom will get a job is international, even in Main Street USA. There is no place where your child has a guarantee of employment. Now that the playing field has been leveled, getting a job means you must be extraordinary, maybe even more extraordinary than ever before in the history of the workforce on our planet.
That “Great Parent” will email these three questions to each of their child’s teachers once an academic term, preferably later in the term after teachers feel like they have really gotten to know your child. I personally use these questions and have reaped incredibly rich information from teachers.
What I tell parents is the same philosophy I practice: keep your questions brief and concise, and focus on hitting the sweet spot of communication style with teachers were you’re not emailing them too much but also you are making sure to check in at least once a term and covering all your bases. These three questions allow you to cover all the bases succinctly.
And remember: let teachers know that you value their perspectives and you want them to be brutally honest. We live in a world where people are decreasingly willing to really tell you what they think.
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