- Does your child have any medical conditions? This question allows you to gather important emergency information. Knowing a child’s medical history is vital as it often explains behaviour and sometimes attitude. As an adult, you know how much health can impact on your quality of life and performance and it is the same for children. This question also supports you to help prepare the supports needed for the child.
- Have there been any changes since the last year? This question is a good one because it allows you to assess what happened last year and begin to see what is happening this year. Children change, grow and things happen. All of this is important because as educators, we need to try and build an understanding of what the child is usually like. It also allows us to compare previous results to current performance and learning.
- Is there anything from out of school that you think will impact on your child’s learning such as a family situation? This is a tricky one because as we know, family situations impact heavily on a child and their learning. After all, they are with their parents more than us. Divorce, death, late nights, dietary changes, sibling relationships, living arrangements and general family dynamic are essential to know. It is also a challenging question due to the nature of privacy. I have found that nearly all parents are happy to respond to this question as they do want the best for their child. However, you will not always get the full story upfront as you don’t have a trusting relationship established yet. If you are getting an evasive responses, move on.
- If you could have one wish for your child, what would it be? This is a positive question that allows you to get to the heart of what parents truly value and want. Nine times out of ten they want their child to be happy, have friends and learn the basics. However, it is good to know some of the values that families hold as important.
- How does your child react to challenges? My favourite question. I always let parents know upfront that it is my job to challenge their child. It is a part of learning. Some children internalise, some children thrive, some children hide and some children get scared. Knowing this allows you to see what parents do and compare it to what you see. It also lets parents know what they can expect when there is a challenge.
- How does your child manage change? Another question that I love. Change, especially in today’s schools is fast, furious and constant. Children need to be flexible and adaptable. Knowing how children respond to this can improve your understanding of them.
- How do you find your child interacts with other children? This question always creates good discussion. You will hear of previous friendship disputes, how the parents are unhappy with certain children, what they are comfortable with and what they also hope for. Social and emotional aspects of the child are just as important as the academic.
- What is the biggest concern for your child this year? It is always good to know what causes stress for parents. If you can help or assist in addressing this, minimising the stress or make it a priority, trust is established. It is also a good idea to find out what has been a strong area of need in the past.
- What do you hope from me this year? I find this question beneficial because it allows me to work in with families the best that I can. Part of our job is being flexible and meeting the needs, if appropriate, of children and their families. I love hearing what parents want from me so I know where I stand and what I can do to support families.
- What is the best way to contact you and which method do you prefer? The best way to end an interview besides the thanks is to ensure that parents know the relationship doesn’t stop. You are available for email and at times, you may need to contact them. Having accurate and up to date contact information is essential as it allows the relationship to be a two-way street as well as leave no room for excuses if communication breaks down. There is nothing worse than not having accurate or up to date contact information as lack of communication can cause a relationship breakdown.
The beginning of year parent teacher interviews or conferences are vital. They are a good chance to develop a positive relationship, get on the same page as well as learn how to better support the children to learn. It is also the most nerve racking time. It is like beginning a new relationship with 30 families. Certainly a unique and challenging situation. It is also the best time to learn as much as you can about the child. After all, this may be the only time that you interact with this family. So it is important to gather as much information as possible. These questions may work for some situations. I have found most parents receptive. However, privacy is always a concern and people will certainly not reveal everything at the first meeting, just like you wouldn’t. Here are some of the questions that I find useful at the beginning of the year interviews:
Annette Palma and Carley Rogozik/ Dawson