The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Don’t Forget to Ask

There are areas of life  where it  is important to know what questions

to ask in order to  avoid problems, disappointments  and in some cases disasters.

Let  us start with schools.  Suppose your child  comes  home

with  a  report  card indicating that he is  failing  a  subject.

Don’t  forget  to ask the school what diagnostic  tests  will  be

given in order to pinpoint the problem.  Further, don’t forget to

ask  what changes will be made in his program based on  the  test


If  at a parent conference, the teacher says your  child  is

failing  because he is just plain lazy.  Don’t forget to ask  her

to  describe the  behavior that qualifies labeling your child  as

“lazy”.  One person’s definition of “lazy” may not be  another’s.

In addition, labels are abstract concepts whereas descriptions of

behavior  are  concrete.  You can change behavior,  but  abstract

labels  do not  change  and tend to stick.   In this vein,  don’t

forget to ask to see your child’s cumulative record folder before

it  is  sent on to middle or high school.  Read the  contents  to

ascertain  if your child has been labeled.  If so, ask  that  the

labels be removed.
If  you  are given achievement test results  which  indicate

that  your  child is not up to grade level by the end  of  second

grade,  don’t  forget to ask what happens  in third grade  if  he

cannot read the science, social studies and math text books which

are  at  third grade level.  Don’t forget to  ask  what  concrete

programs  are available and can  immediately be put in  place  to

help  your   child to be  successful in the  next  grade.   Don’t

forget to ask your school’s policy on social promotions.

The school counselor calls and tells you that your child has

Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity and needs to see  a

doctor  to  be  put on ritalin.  Don’t forget to ask  to  have  a

meeting with the Child Study Team and bring somebody with you who

is knowledgeable and who can give you support so that you are not

overwhelmed  or  outnumbered.  Don’t forget to ask  the  team  to

describe  the  behavior  that qualifies for  that  label.   Don’t

forget  to ask what steps the school has taken or is  willing  to

take in order for your child to succeed with or without  ritalin.

Don’t  forget to ask what the school feels your role  should  be.

Don’t forget to ask for follow up meetings to assess progress  or

lack of it.

The  teacher  recommends that your child repeat  the  grade.

Don’t  forget to ask what changes will be made in the program  so

that  he  will  be   more  successful  the  second  time  around.

Don’t  forget  to ask for a conference with the new  teacher   to

tell  her about your child and  his learning style.   Talk  about

what  he can do, not what he cannot do.  Don’t forget to ask  the

teacher to give you frequent progress reports and to ask what you

can do to help.

Your  son’s birthdate is  one day before  the cut  off  date

for  kindergarten.  If he goes, he will be the  youngest  in  the

class.   Don’t  forget  to ask  if the  kindergarten  teacher  is

trained in  early childhood development.  Don’t forget to ask  if

the  curriculum is a kindergarten one or  more like first  grade.

Don’t  forget to ask if your son is developmentally ready for  an

accelerated kindergarten  curriculum.  If not, give  him  another

year before enrolling him in school.

Parents  can  help each other by  sharing  their  successful

experiences in  asking the right questions and their unsuccessful

experiences  or disasters in not asking the right questions.

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