Parent-Teacher Interview English

Is English a foreign language in your family? Does your child go to an English language school? Many EFL parents worry about Parent Teacher Interview days. What if my child’s teacher can’t understand me? What if I can’t understand him? Who is supposed to ask the questions?

parent-teacher-interviewDon’t worry. You are not alone. Even English speaking parents get nervous before parent teacher interviews. Here is the most important tip. The interview is about your child. There is no grade for you. All you can do is try your best to communicate. Remember that a smile means more than any word.

There are 3 main situations when you will be asked to meet with your child’s teacher:

1) Meet the Teacher Night

  • Informal
  • The whole family is welcome (let your child show off his school)
  • Near the beginning of the school year
  • Look at the classroom
  • Look at your child’s work space
  • Introduce yourself
  • Speak briefly with the teacher (give all parents a chance)
  • Make an appointment for a formal meeting (if you have a major concern)

Introduce yourself:
“Hello Mrs. Wilkins. I’m Yolanda. I’m Olivia’s mother/ father.”
* Call your teacher by the same name your child does, unless he or she invites you to use a first name. More on How to Address people in English here.

2) Parent Teacher Interview

  • after report cards
  • discuss your child’s progress
  • voice your concerns
  • listen to the teacher’s feedback or concerns

3) Regarding a Major Concern

  • discuss a major problem about  your child that your teacher or administration has raised during the year (the school arranges the interview)
  • discuss a major problem that you or your child has (you arrange the interview) Note: The principal or vice principal may also be present at this meeting. If possible, bring a friend or family member whose English is strong.

What to expect at the Parent Teacher Interview

Who? You, your spouse (if possible), and the teacher. You can bring your child and his/her siblings if you don’t have a sitter. The teacher will usually have an activity or play space for the kids to play in while you chat.
What? An opportunity to listen and speak to your child’s teacher. Be sure to read the report card first.
Where? In your child’s classroom.
When? Usually twice a year, after report cards go out. You will probably only have 10-15 minutes with your child’s teacher. Watch the clock and respect the time. Other parents are waiting. Many teachers do interviews on their own time. Arrive a few minutes early and wait outside the classroom until the teacher invites you in.
Why? To discuss progress and concerns. To receive suggestions. To review work.
How? You sit across from the teacher in your child’s classroom

Small Talk
Keep small talk to the bare minimum. Your child’s teacher is very busy. One or two questions is fine. If the teacher asks you a small talk question (unrelated to your child’s progress), keep your answer short and sweet.
You can ask:
“How is your class this year?”
“Have you always taught grade 3?”

Questions you may have for the teacher

  • How many students are in your class?
  • How many ESL/EFL/ELL kids do you have?
  • Does my son/ daughter need extra help?
  • Is there any special area my child needs to work on?
  • What books can you recommend?
  • What level is my child reading at?
  • Can you explain what this means on the report card? (point to your question)
  • How is he/she doing compared to the rest of the class?
  • What can we work on at home?
  • How much time should he/she spend doing homework?
  • Can you recommend any useful websites?
  • How is my child’s behaviour on the playground?
  • What is the best way to contact you?
  • Can you review the library/parking/attendance policy?
  • Can you explain the dress code?
  • Is my child participating?
  • Does my child get along with the other kids?
  • Do you need any help in your class?

Concerns you may have

  • My child does not understand your instructions.
  • My child says he’s bored at school.
  • My child isn’t eating his lunch.
  • My child is having trouble making friends.
  • My child is complaining about bullying.
  • My child is struggling with math/reading/science.

Concerns your child’s teacher may have

  • Your child is having trouble concentrating in class.
  • Your child has difficulty following instructions.
  • Your child needs to participate more.
  • Your child is quite shy. I am trying to encourage her to open up.
  • Your child calls out in class instead of raising his hand.
  • Your child needs a reading buddy.
  • Your child needs to practise getting dressed and undressed.
  • Your child needs to work on his/her alphabet.

Asking for clarification

  • “I’m sorry I didn’t understand what you said.”
  • “Can you please repeat that?”
  • “Could you write that down for me?”
  • “Could you speak a little more slowly?”

Expressing gratitude

  • “Thank you for teaching my child.”
  • “Thank you for being patient with my child.”
  • “Thank you for recognizing my child’s special needs.”
  • “My child really enjoys coming to school.”
  • “My child is happy when he comes home from school.”
  • “I can see by your classroom that you are a very hard working teacher.”
  • “Teaching is a very hard job. I admire what you do.”

Follow Up
Tuck a note inside your child’s agenda or lunch bag for his/her teacher.
For example: “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me to talk about (child’s name).
I really enjoyed meeting you. Please call me if you have any concerns. ”

Do you have extra time in your day? Why not offer to volunteer in the classroom? Your English will improve while you lend a helping hand. You could also offer to volunteer on school trips. You might need to get a police check to volunteer. Go into a local police station and provide the necessary information.

Written by Tara Benwell for EnglishClub | November 2010
Tara Benwell is a Canadian freelance writer and editor who specializes in materials and articles for the ELT industry.

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