As a parent, I get excited about that fifteen-minute slot allotted to have a one-on-one with my child’s teacher. I look forward to hearing about the progress my child has made as well as their struggles and strengths. I see a fraction of this in their homework, but I want to know more. Sometimes, a conference goes great, but sometimes, we walk away thinking we just heard a script that is being repeated for every student.

Starting the conference with specific questions allows you to focus on what is important regarding your child. Areas of study covered or assessment scores can be done quickly and even in other communications. Addressing the following questions will give both you and the teacher a better understanding of the child throughout the year.

Here are seven questions you can ask to help you get the most from those minutes with the teacher.

1. What do you see as an area of strength for my child?

This question focuses the discussion on your child specifically while still allowing the teacher to evaluate all subjects. Sometimes, parents find this answer surprising as kids can show different abilities in the classroom than at home. Fostering a love of learning can help bring these hidden strengths out in the home as well as at school.

2. If you could pick one area to focus on improving for my child, what would it be?

Sometimes, it isn’t easy to think about all areas of learning at once. Focusing on one area at a time for improvement helps define the priorities within the classroom. It also gives something concrete to work on at home.

It is great to update this question with the teacher throughout the year. Sending an email or utilizing school communication apps is a great way to check in regarding progress and allow the teacher to shift the focus to something new as your child improves.

3. Is my child following the school guidelines and rules?

Every school and classroom has different policies in place. Understanding how your child is following the guidelines is important to maximize his or her learning time.

This also gives you a chance to ensure you fully understand and are comfortable with the guidelines. It is important to note that a conference is not an invitation to argue about the rules. Likely, the teacher has little say in what the guidelines are; those discussions are between you and the administration. It is helpful, however, to make sure you and your child understand and follow the daily guidelines in the classroom so his or her learning is uninterrupted and as successful as possible.

4. How does my child contribute to the class atmosphere?

This may seem like an unusual question, but it can provide a lot of information. Different personalities shine in different ways independently, but as you blend twenty of those unique personalities, new things can be revealed.

This will give you an idea of how much your child may contribute to class discussions or how they may be a great helper for another student. Maybe you’ll discover that your child is great at following directions and modeling good behavior for other students or even that they provide a funny idea to give everyone a laugh.

Asking this question gives insight into how your child’s personality comes through in an academic environment. This is especially useful to understand as kids approach middle school and issues like popularity can impact their learning experience.

5. Who does my child work well with?

Allowing the teacher to look at the social element of learning is just as important as academics. This can be a good barometer of how a child is doing socially, as well as give parents insight.

Understanding who your child can work well with at school versus who they have fun with but can be a distraction when it comes to schoolwork will help everyone create a more successful learning environment.

Vanderbilt University has shown that increasing social skills results in students who are more responsive to academic learning.

6. How is my child handling the emotional elements of school?

Beyond following rules and learning, asking specifically about the mental health components of your child is essential. Frequent, open discussion about his or her mental health has never been more important.

Talk about any emotional struggles you see and ask the teacher what they see in the classroom. This is a great opportunity to discuss resources like school counseling or lunch groups that may help your child process complex feelings.

7. Do you have any concerns about my child?

This question can never be asked too much. Sometimes, we are so busy getting through the list of assessments, reading levels and academic achievements that we can miss the bigger picture.

Giving teachers and parents both the pause to consider any areas of concern emotionally, socially or developmentally addresses the whole child in his or her learning environment.