Students really need their teachers and their parents to work together as a team in order for them to do their best at school. Consequently,  near the beginning of the semester, I invite parents to work together with me as a team. I’ve often found parents are willing to do this, but they aren’t quite sure how to go about it.  I try to find out more about their child from them and use that information to inform my teaching practice. I also want to know what they’re  doing at home and what routines are in place to support school. Once I have this information, I can make suggestions about what other things they could do to help their child.  I don’t always ask all parents all the same questions or the questions all at the same time. It just depends on what’s going on with their child at school at that time.

Over the years, I’ve found certain questions that I ask parents useful. I’ll share these with you below. I’ve probably forgotten some of them I ask as I write this post, but the ones I’ve included are a good place to start.

I teach high school so these questions are geared toward high school students and their parents, but I’m sure most of the questions could apply to younger students as well.

Questions about the student.

1. Is there anything I need to know about your child that is important?

2. What is it that I could do to help your child be as successful as possible in my class?

  • Parents know their child best. They know their strengths and weaknesses. After all, they were the child’s first teachers and have valuable insight into how their child learns best. I want to know that so that I can use that information to inform my teaching practice.

Questions about homework

1. Do you supervise your child’s homework?

  • When parents supervise their children’s homework, it sends the message that school is important and that parents value school.

2. Does your child have a certain time set aside for homework each day?

  • Homework is more likely to get done if a time is set aside to do it. Children can then tell their friends that they are busy at that time and can’t take phone calls, have visitors or go anywhere until after that time. The amount of homework time, of course, will depend on the grade level of the student.

3. Does your child have a specific location to do homework away from the distractions of  TV, computers, games, cell phones etc?

  • If students are distracted by TV, computers etc. while doing homework, students cannot do their best.  However having  just said that,  some students can concentrate better if they do their homework while listening to music. Music can act like white noise to drown out any environmental noises that students find distracting.  Many students have told me they can concentrate better while listening to music. I have to agree with them because they I see the results for myself.  They stay on task longer and produce better quality work.

4. Do you encourage your child to review her notes or practice answering questions from the textbook or other sources if she has no homework that day?

  • Reviewing a day’s lesson within 24 hours increases the likelihood that students will remember what was taught that day at school. So, it’s really important to do that review even if there isn’t any formal homework.

6. Do you or do you have your child post school assignmens due dates and test dates on a calendar placed in a prominent place?

  • Posting due dates for assignments and test dates in a prominent places at home, helps students meet deadlines. The student could have a calendar in her room with the dates on it as well as another calender in the kitchen with the same due dates.  The more often the student sees the dates, the more likely she will remember to do the assignments or study for tests.

5. Do you check your child’s agenda to see that she has entered assignment due dates and quiz and test dates?

  • Students sometimes remember they have homework but forget what page it is on or what questions need to be done. Recording all this specific information will ensure that the students know exactly what to do for homework.
  • Some students refuse to use an agenda.  These students could record assignments etc. on a page in their notebook or they could send themselves an email with the information.  I’ve had students do all of those things.

6. Does your child have a homework buddy she can call  to get homework or notification about upcoming quizzes or tests when she is absent from class ?

  • Completing homework while absent helps students stay on top of things. Of course if the student is too ill to do homework, then the homework will have to wait until the student gets well enough to do homework.

Questions about sleep habits.

1. Does your child have a regular bedtime?

  • A regular bedtime helps students fall asleep better.

2. Does your child seem well rested in the morning?

  • Sometimes students have difficulty falling sleeping or staying asleep and do not get the rest they need. Teenagers are especially prone to these problems.

3. Does your child have a TV, computer or games in her bedroom?

  • Students could have regular bedtimes and yet not actually go to sleep at a regular time. If students have a TV, computer etc in their room, they could get distracted from going to bed because they are watching TV, using the computer or even their cell phones. Students often tell me that they are up until 2:00 am or even later on the computer or even texting on their phone. Of course when they’re up until 2:00 am, they’re too tired to do their best in class.
  • I do ask students these questions about sleep habits, but I also ask parents these questions to make them   aware  that bedtime routines are important-even to teenagers. If students are  not well rested, they are not able to concentrate effectively in class and consequently don’t do their best.
  • I do ask students these questions about sleep habits, but I also ask parents these questions to make them   aware  that bedtime routines are important-even to teenagers. If students are  not well rested, they are not able to concentrate effectively in class and consequently don’t do their best.

Questions about extra curricular activities

1. Is your child involved in extra curricular activities? If so, what are the activities and how frequently does your child participate?

  • If a student’s  recreational activities are  mainly activities like skateboarding, rollerblading, or playing video games, it could be a problem. These self-stimulating activities relax children and make them feel effective. The problem is that if that is mostly what a student  does in her spare time, it can stunt language growth (Levine, 2002). Think about it. During team sports there is a lot of dialog going on among players, coaches and officials. Children get to practice language skills and interpersonal skills  during team sports which they don’t get an opportunity to do if they are just engaged  in non-verbal activities like skateboarding, rollerblading etc.

2. Does your teenager have a part job. If so how many hours does she work?

  • If students work more than 10 hours a week during the school year, their part time job can start to effect their school work. School already is a full time job. A part-time job can take time and energy away from  school work and it can suffer. The part- time job and earning money to buy things can start to become more and more important and school starts to become less and less important. I’ve seen this happen too often.

Questions about accessibility

I always ask parents for phone numbers at home and at work and when is the best time to call if I need to talk to them about their children?

The school usually has phone numbers on file, but I just double check to make sure the phone numbers are still valid. I’ve found that parents usually don’t mind if I call them at work during school hours.


Image via Wikipedia

Levine, M. A Mind at a Time. New York, NY.: Simon & Schuster, 2002

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10 Responses to “Questions teachers need to ask parents”

  1. Sam Rangel on January 28th, 2011 3:36 pm

    Excellent post Elona. These questions should be posted in every school’s conferene room. Thanks!

  2. Tweets that mention Questions teachers need to ask parents : Teachers At Risk -- on January 28th, 2011 4:06 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by elonahartjes, New Teacher Tips. New Teacher Tips said: Great post for new teachers – Questions teachers need to ask parents […]

  3. Mathew on January 28th, 2011 5:50 pm

    Most of these are good questions for primary aged students as well. Many of my struggling readers are constantly yawning. They go to bed too late and definitely do not have set aside times for homework.
    Mathew´s last blog post ..Increase Reading Fluency with Fluency Timer

  4. David Spencer on February 4th, 2011 11:12 am

    If only parents would take the time to answer these questions.

    Maybe teachers should send this survey home and request that parents respond.

    Many of these answers from parents will help teachers encourage and meet the needs of the child.

  5. Teachermum on February 7th, 2011 6:38 am

    A great post! I find that all too often these days, education responsibilities are pushed onto the school and although I do not undermine the imporance of our role, I find it quite scary how little emphasis is placed on the role of the home.
    I believe parents often fail to see the influence that their own attitudes towards the school have on their children.
    And yes… it amazes me sometimes when they question and are baffled about why their children are underachieving when they are overscheduled, exhausted, unable to concentrate and have no correct home learning habits reinforced at home.

    Your questions should be compulsory for every parent. It will certainly give them food for thought.

  6. Elona Hartjes on February 7th, 2011 10:13 pm

    Parents are a child’s first teachers. They know their child best. Parents need to share their insights about their children with teachers. We have to work together as a team.

  7. Kenneth L Stowers on February 9th, 2011 9:37 pm

    This was a great post. I have always needed questions to ask the parents at the beginning of the year. This gave me great insight on the questions to ask and how to ask them.

  8. Elona Hartjes on February 10th, 2011 7:00 pm

    I need to write my questions down to refer to when I’m speaking to parents or I forget to ask them.

  9. Sharlene Goodwin on February 11th, 2011 3:59 pm

    Hi Elona-what a fantastic and insightful article. I have added you to my young website as a link for parents and teachers to explore. Please feel free to have a look and give feedback as this is a new venture for me, I am a teacher who has taught at both the intermediate and primary level in New Zealand. I am due to have a baby in about 5 weeks and thought I would find a way to keep teachers informed and broaden their professional development at the same time.
    I look forward to hearing from you.

  10. Imran Hussain on March 1st, 2013 2:07 pm

    Great post. Writing style is so simple and quite understandable for all.
    Questions and answers have wonderful information that should be helpful for all beginners in teacher profession.
    ONE MORE GREAT for Writer.

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