Observing Your Child’s Classroom
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
Parent-teacher conferences give you a limited picture of what is happening in your child’s classroom. And children are notoriously poor reporters of classroom activities. To obtain a better understanding of your child’s school performance as well as the quality of the classroom instruction, you can request to observe your child’s class. You do not need to be an educator to gain useful information from a classroom observation.
School districts may invite parents to observe their child’s class during American Education week but you may also wish to observe at other times. Most school districts will honor this request. Keep in mind that it may be hard to get a true picture of your child’s classroom performance when you are observing since he will be keenly aware of your presence and thus may either put on a show or withdraw. You will be able to get a truer picture if you’re in the classroom on a periodic basis as a volunteer. The teacher too may put on a show for you during your observation but you still should get a good sense for how she communicates with students and gets across the lesson.
The following are examples of situations where you may want to observe a classroom:
- you want to decide which teacher to request for your child for the following year
- you are concerned that your child has a learning or behavior problem
- you want to learn how to work more effectively with your child by observing the teacher’s technique • you have doubts about the appropriateness of your child’s class placement or the quality of teacher instruction • your child has been recommended to skip a grade or stay back
- you want to observe a special education class recommended for your child
- you have heard that the teacher is doing an exciting project and wish to see it
If you wish to observe, do not show up unannounced. Call the principal to request permission. The school may not be enthusiastic about this request. The teacher or principal may fear that you will be critical of what you see and demand change. Try to ease their concerns but be persistent in your request, especially if the observation is crucial to a decision you are making.
Try to observe during a time which spans two subjects so you can see what the class is like during unstructured time. During the observation be as unobtrusive as possible and avoid making suggestions or providing assistance to the teacher. Remember that you are there to observe and not participate. Find something positive to say to the teacher and express your appreciation before leaving.