Questions for teachers should go beyond “What will my child be learning this year?”
Every school year, parents reach out to their children’s teachers to inquire about any number of things. Sometimes it’s over a concern over their child’s academic performance or a conflict between students. Other times, these questions for teachers can be a bit more invasive, like when a school parent demands to know why certain things are being taught, like in the recent instance of a small faction of parents getting upset over Michaelangelo’s statue of David being shown in the classroom. But for every one of these situations, there are a slew of other questions that teachers would love to hear from the parents of their students. We asked several current and former teachers what questions they would love to hear from parents, and here’s what they said.
“What are my students’ strengths in your classroom?”
Jessica Matoian, an 8th-grade social science teacher at Sequoia Middle School in the Fresno Unified School District, says she would love to hear this question from parents, along with questions about how they can help develop those strengths outside of the classroom. “I believe in a growth mindset in my classroom. If I can work with parents and guardians on developing their students’ strengths, instead of highlighting their weaknesses, I find students are willing to take ownership of their strengths and build on them on their own,” says Matoian.
“Is my child happy? What lights them up?”
Brooklyn-based Christina Soriano, who taught elementary school art, social and emotional wellness, and Kindergarten summer school from 2006 through 2022, says she never heard any parent ask this, but wishes she had. “These questions are important because they are child-centered and strengths-based. It’s sometimes second nature, or sometimes cultural, that we go straight to how to make a child ‘better’ in a subject. Of course, that is a main point of schooling and learning, but it’s equally important to know what makes a child excited and joyful during the school day,” she says.
“How can I help my child succeed in your classroom?”
Victoria Taylor, a teacher with 20 years of experience and founder of BestCaseParenting, says she appreciates when parents take an interest in their children’s work. “Simply asking about ongoing projects and assignments can be extremely helpful to students and teachers alike. I understand it’s a lot for busy parents to stay on top of everything, but small gestures such as sending in student supplies or helping their child stay organized can make a huge difference,” says Taylor.
The same goes for Christina Collura, a full-time kindergarten teacher, autism advocate, and mother of two. “I am a firm believer every child has strengths (and weaknesses), and building and teaching children based on those strengths are vital to forming and building on a successful learning path,” says Collura.
“What supplies or materials do you need restocked/refilled for the classroom?
Amanda Dexter, who has been teaching middle and high school for eight years in Missouri’s St. Joseph School District says she would like parents to inquire about supplies long after the school year has begun. “At the beginning of the year, classroom supplies are usually fully stocked, but come a few months later and we’ve run out of glue sticks, construction paper, whiteboard markers, Kleenex, disinfecting wipes, pencils, etc. You’d be amazed at how quickly a class can burn through what seems like ample supplies in the beginning,” says Dexter. “Usually it is up to the teacher to restock supplies out of their own pockets.”
“Are there any educational activities or resources you recommend?”
“Parents who ask this question are actively seeking ways to enrich their child’s learning experiences. As a teacher, I can suggest educational apps, websites, books, or hands-on activities that align with the curriculum and support their child’s interests and learning style,” says Donna Paul, a Montessori teacher turned blogger at That’s So Montessori.
“How can I help my child develop independence and life skills?”
This might not be a typical question asked by parents, but Paul, who has over 10 years of in-class Montessori elementary teaching experience, says those who do inquire about this recognize the importance of preparing their children for future success. “I can provide suggestions on age-appropriate tasks, organization strategies, and opportunities for problem-solving that empower children to become self-reliant and confident individuals,” she says.
“How can I support my child’s learning at home?”
While supporting a child’s education in the classroom is essential, Paul feels that parents should also look into how they can extend this into their homes. “By asking this question, parents show their commitment to their child’s education and seek guidance on how to extend learning beyond the classroom. As a teacher, I can provide valuable insights, resources, and strategies for creating a supportive learning environment at home,” she adds.
“What can I do to support my child’s social and emotional well-being?”
Nowadays, more parents and teachers are learning about the importance of social emotional learning on top of academics. “Parents who ask this question demonstrate their understanding of the vital role social and emotional development plays in a child’s overall success. By seeking advice, parents can gain insights into how to foster healthy relationships, resilience, and emotional intelligence in their child’s everyday life,” says Paul.
“Does my child behave at school (and) are they respectful?”
Julie Navitka, a former middle school teacher (from 2008 through 2022) at Robert Andrews School in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, suggests parents ask this question to gain better insight into their child’s behavior. Why? While teachers will generally inform parents when their students are crossing the line with their behavior, it’s a good idea to check in with teachers to see if there are inklings of problematic behavior that can be addressed early on.
“Does my child get their work finished (and on time?)”
Navitka, who briefly taught high school and has since started blogging at Successfully Sustainable, also recommended this question. Questions for teachers like this can not only help prevent any academic slides but also potentially detect a larger issue if the student is having a lot of difficulty staying focused and completing tasks, such as a learning disability or a cognitive disorder like ADHD.
“Does my child distract others from their learning?”
While parents should always ask questions related to helping their own students, it doesn’t hurt to inquire about how they are ensuring the success of the entire classroom. “Teaching can be extremely stressful, and even though it’s not the only (or biggest) factor, dealing with unsupportive parents plays a role in this stress,” says Navitka. Being proactive in addressing issues like these can make difficult conversations about behavior issues smoother.
“How can I help contribute to the classroom?”
While donating supplies is always helpful, Birney Elementary School teacher Robert Garcia wishes parents would ask how they can help contribute to the classroom in other ways. “It could be volunteering, donating special incentives, or just making a guest appearance,” says the 6th-grade teacher who has taught in Fresno Unified School District for 29 years.
“What skills is my child struggling with that may not be covered in class?”
Eddie Maza, an 11th and 12th-grade English teacher at The Idea School, a private school in New Jersey, says it can often be difficult for teachers to address individual students’ needs at the beginning of the school year. “As a high school English teacher, I encountered students who required assistance with fundamental grammar issues. While I would have liked to provide them with additional support, the nature of teaching a large class made it challenging to offer supplementary content. By asking the teacher about specific areas that need improvement and how to develop those skills, you can create a plan to help your child catch up with the class,” says Maza.
“How can I support my child’s work without completing it for them?
According to Maza, “Parents naturally want to assist their children with school work, but it’s important to ensure that working through challenging assignments, collaborating with peers, and communicating with teachers remains part of the learning experience. Involvement from parents is valuable, but asking this question helps ensure that your efforts to support your child’s education do not deprive them of the essential learning experience.” Alternatively, he says parents can ask, “What are the objectives of this assignment?”