Houston Independent School District Superintendent Richard Carranza, right, talks with second grader John Bradford, 7, after handing out breakfast to students on their first day of school at Codwell Elementary School Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Houston. Here are five questions you should be asking the teacher at the start of a new school year. Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

5 questions you should ask teachers at the beginning of the school year

  • Sep. 11, 2017 3:39 p.m.

With students doing homework online, schools implementing Common Core technology standards, and teachers using apps, websites, and even games in class, you probably have lots of media and technology questions on your mind at the start of the school year.

Here are five questions to cut through the chatter and get your most pressing concerns answered up front.

— What’s the best way to reach you? Email, text, phone call?

With so many ways to communicate, it’s important to know the teachers’ preferred modes. Ask them how they want to be contacted (and when), how they want students to contact them (and for what issues), and which contact method they prefer for different concerns.

— Which websites or apps do you use the most in the classroom?

Some programs, such as Khan Academy, let teachers differentiate lessons for different learning styles, levels, and proficiencies and can generate reports on individual students’ strengths and weaknesses. Find out if your kid is using programs that provide this type of feedback on his or her progress. Some fee-based programs used at schools, such as BrainPop, let students use a special code for access to activities at home.

— Which apps should we get and which sites should we bookmark for homework help?

Teachers want parents to choose apps and websites that reinforce the methods and standards they’re using in the classroom. Many popular apps and websites adhere to the Common Core standards, for example. Being aware of what your kids are using also can help you support their learning, troubleshoot issues, and manage their screen time at home.

— How much homework will require a computer or an internet connection?

Knowing how much your kids will need to go online will help you prepare for the weekly routine. You might want your kids to get their online homework out of the way first, for example, and focus on non-screen stuff closer to bedtime. It also will help you keep your kids on track once they go online. You can allocate time, coordinate your kids’ schedules, and plan accordingly.

— How does the school deal with cyberbullying?

Look for a coordinated, consistent, compassionate procedure for dealing with bullying. You’ll want to make sure that the school takes cyberbullying seriously and encourages kids to report it. The disciplinary process should respect the role of social media in kids’ lives by encouraging kids to stand up for each other. But you can’t expect the school to do everything. Ask how you can work together with the school to teach kids about using social media responsibly and respectfully and supporting targets of bullying.

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