School Vocabulary for ESL Parents

Fall is officially here in Ann Arbor, Michigan! That means, for parents of school-age children, it is a busy time with school activities and meetings. For parents from other countries and cultures, it can be overwhelming to adjust to raising kids in America. Not only is there a new language, but also cultural norms to learn.

To help MLC students who have children, we’ve started ParentTalk. Twice a session, we gather parents together to discuss topics related to parenting, and to support each other in the unpredictable, challenging, yet rewarding journey of parenthood.

For a little glimpse of our ParentTalk conversations, we’re sharing some common idioms and vocabulary that parents of school-age children will come across, especially this fall season in school.


Parent-Teacher Conference
This is a private meeting between parents and their child’s teacher. One or both parents can attend. The teacher will update the parents about their child’s performance at school. They discuss academic performance, behavior, and social skills. This is an important time for the parents to ask any questions or share concerns that they may have about their child. Sometimes, school is cancelled so that teachers can spend the whole day meeting with parents, and they ask parents to sign up for times to meet.

Example: My kids do not have school because there will be parent-teacher conferences. I will sign up to meet the teacher on Friday at 10am.

Report Card or Progress Report
This is an organized summary that explains the student’s academic performance in different subjects. It may also include notes about the student’s behavior and social skills. It usually includes grades or a scale to measure how weak or strong the student is in each area (i.e. math, reading, science, writing).

Example: My child’s report card (or progress report) shows that she is doing well at math, but is having a difficult time with reading comprehension.

Field Trip
Teachers occasionally organize a trip outside of the school, so that students can learn subjects outside of the school setting. They may go to places such as a farm, a museum, a theater play, or a nature center. They usually take a school bus, or parents help to drive the children in their cars.

Example: The teacher is planning a field trip to the nature center to learn about plants and animals.

Permission Slip
This is a document that teachers use when they are organizing a field trip or a special activity for their students. It states that parents will allow their child to participate in trip or activity, and that they will not hold the school responsible if something were to happen to their child during the trip/activity. The parents must sign the document and give it to the teacher before the trip/activity.

Example: I must remember to sign the permission slip for the field trip and return it to the teacher.

Chaperone or Volunteer
Teachers often ask for parents to help when they plan a special trip or activity. The parents help to drive, to watch the children, to keep them safe, and to help them with the activity.

Example: I will be a chaperone (or volunteer) for the class trip to the museum.

Are you interested in ESL classes in Ann Arbor?

Learn more about our Part-time English classes.