Pop quiz! It’s that time of year again — when we squish our adult bodies into tiny kid chairs and sit across from our children’s classroom teachers to cram a semester’s worth of information into a 15-minute conversation. What do you say at a parent-teacher conference? What do you ask? Do you smile and nod and hope the teacher isn’t going to bring up anything surprising? Do you come armed with a clipboard and checklist? Most importantly, how can you make the conversation meaningful?

If you, like me, really want to partner with your child’s teacher and see your child thrive, try these questions — I have found them to be very helpful when talking with our wonderful school teachers!

1. What parts of learning seem to excite my child?

It can be tempting, in any parent-teacher setting, to focus solely on areas for growth. This is also important, but keeping a sense of curiosity alive is crucial for raising lifelong learners. Draw attention to (and learn from your teachers about!) which aspects of learning bring excitement to your child!

2. In what specific ways are you challenging my child to stretch in either their strengths or their weaknesses?

Kids rise to a challenge. This applies to straight A students or those on the lower end of the bell curve. Challenging them implies assessing what they can already do and then encouraging them to stretch, grow, and go deeper. Some teachers are naturally good at this, some struggle to do it with either lower performers OR high performers. Asking the question informs you about your child and gives you a picture of your teacher’s educational model.

3. What is my child’s social temperament? How would classmates describe them?

This can be a very informative question at a parent-teacher conference — and it can alert you to problems if a child’s behavior at school is radically different than at home. “I’ve noticed X at home; are you also seeing it in the classroom?” Remember, you and the teacher are (ideally!) partners in helping your child learn and grow!

4. What are some tangible ways you see my child demonstrating kindness, patience, inclusion, curiosity, or perseverance (or another value your family holds)? 

To me, character is as important to develop as academic performance — if not more so. We love when our kids get good grades and perform well, but it’s more important to us that our children are curious and kind. I ask this question to my children’s teachers because I want to be able to praise the character of my child — to my child — regardless of their academic strengths or weaknesses. I also want the teacher to look for these characteristics (and praise them!). And if the teacher is seeing great academic grades but a lack of character, I want to know about that, too.

5. Are there things that would be helpful for us to work on at home?

I want to leave a parent-teacher conference with practical strategies I can implement at home to support and partner with my children’s teachers — for the best outcomes in both academics and character development. Remember, learning doesn’t stop when the school bell rings. And almost every (good!) teacher sees their work as a partnership with you. Proactively owning that partnership takes a little bit of a load off the teacher. (And saying “thank you” is also very appreciated!)


Kristen D
Kristen is Southern by birth but has called Boston home since 2008. Unlike most Boston natives, she still really loves the snow and cold. She and her husband have two energetic and kind sons (2013, 2014) and a sassy baby girl (2016). Kristen jokes that she has a Master's degree in laundry and a PhD in conflict resolution — which she uses far more than her actual physics and politics degrees. After seven years as a stay-at-home mom, Kristen went back to work full-time in 2021, and has found that incredibly life-giving while also an additional "juggle." In her "spare" time, she runs her own business (Murph&Moose), serves on multiple school committees, and runs half marathons. Her passion is seeing moms feel comfortable in their own skin and less alone in the chaos that is motherhood. Loves: gardening, languages, coffee, running, time with her girlfriends, and the rare moments of silence when all three children are (finally) in bed. Dislikes: daylight saving time, non-washable markers, and noisy neighbors who disrupt her rare moments of silence.