Looking Beyond Grades and Test Scores
As children move out of preschool and kindergarten and into the elementary years, it becomes more challenging for parents to obtain a complete picture of how their children are functioning in all realms of development: academically, socially and emotionally. While homework, grades and test scores provide a summary of their ability to achieve in school and extracurricular activities provide a glimpse into their social world, the more complete picture includes how your child handles herself in a variety of contexts when she is apart from you.
In this month’s column, we’ll explore questions parents can ask teachers to learn more about their child’s school experience, and how their child is developing sense of self as a learner and peer when she is on her own in school. We’ve divided questions into two main areas of development: academic and cognitive (your child as a growing learner and student), and social and emotional (your child as a growing individual).
Academic and Cognitive Development Questions
- Are there any particular subjects your child doesn’t participate fully in, or avoids altogether?
- What type of schoolwork does your child enjoy most?
- Does your child work best independently, in a small group or in a large group?
- How does your child handle open-ended assignments? What about assignments that have less flexible instructions?
- Does your child seek help from his teacher independently, or does he sit quietly and wait for help? Can he work independently?
- How does your child prepare for tests? Does she seem worried before tests? Do her test scores accurately represent her academic abilities?
Social and Emotional Development Questions
- Is your child able to make and sustain friendships with other children his age?
- How does your child handle conflicts with peers? For instance, what does she do if she needs to speak up for herself, or if someone has taken her seat or is bothering her during class time?
- Is your child able to work and collaborate with other students in a constructive way? Does he or she assume the role of a leader or follower in group projects? Is he flexible with or controlling of other group members?
- Does your child participate in relationships during social times at school, such as lunch or recess?
For more information on the social and emotional development of school-aged children, see the Lucy Daniels Center’s article “Supporting Friendships at School."
Knowing When There are Concerns
Discomfort with any aspect of school looks different for each child. There are students who become quiet and withdrawn, students who become fidgety and disruptive, and students who fall somewhere in between. When worries about school overwhelm a child, she may begin to show those concerns in other ways, such as acting out or withdrawing while in school or by resisting going to school. (Read “Managing School Refusal” at lucydanielscenter.org/page/managing-school-refusal and “Tummy Aches at School Time” at lucydanielscenter.org/page/tummy-aches-at-school-time to learn more about dealing with a worried child.)
Asking teachers the right questions can lead to deeper conversations about your child’s overall development, putting you in a stronger position to support your child’s growth in all areas and advocate for her needs when she is apart from you. Learn more at lucydaniels.org.
The Lucy Daniels Center is a nonprofit agency in Cary that promotes the emotional health and well-being of children and families.