In today’s educational climate, parent communication is a must. In fact, the relatively simple act of informing parents of events, schedules, special meetings and care calls separates good schools from great schools. The odd thing is, I’ve had different parents express to me how great our school is with communicating with parents and others complain because we don’t communicate enough. As an administrator and classroom teacher, you have plenty of opportunities to call parents. When in doubt, make that call.
Below are five reasons to call or contact a parent:
In the beginning of the year.
When I was in the classroom, it was my practice to call the parent of every student I had at the beginning of the year. You may get through to 2/3 of them. The rest, if possible, leave a message. You will be amazed at the reactions you get from the parents. Some have never even spoken to a teacher the whole time their son or daughter was in school. Some parents were a bit wary because they often received calls due to their adventurous offspring.
Keep your call simple. Introduce yourself. Tell them what you are teaching. Let them know you are excited to have their student (use his/her name) in your class. Tell them they can contact you at any time after school hours or can leave a message. Give them your school number and extension. Let them know how to best contact you and find out which method is the best for communicating with them. I always tell parents email is the most effective way to contact me. Whether you give them your personal phone number is your business. There are a couple parents every year who have my personal number but, it’s always a very special circumstance.
Always call if concerned.
These calls can occur because their child had a particularly bad day. Maybe his behavior was off. Maybe he looked unusually disheveled and was very sleepy or cranky. Maybe he told you something was going on at home, and it’s affecting his sleep or concentration during the school day.
Don’t pry into the parent’s business when you call. Just let them know that you noticed a change and ask them how you can support their child while he is at school.
A special note: If the child tells you he is being abused or you notice the signs of child abuse, follow your school and district protocol for such events. Never take matters into your own hands when it concerns the possibility of child abuse.
Call to celebrate.
Students who do well oftentimes don’t get calls home. It’s the old, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” adage. You may think, “Well, they are exceeding my expectations so a pat on the back is just fine.” Many times this performance is based upon the training and support they get at home. Ask the parents what they have done to create such a child. Not only will it make them feel good, they will probably mention it to their child at home. Also, you can learn how parents of successful children motivate their children so you can help other parents in their quest.
Always call home when the “difficult” child has a breakthrough or a great day. Chances are, the parent needs a lift too.
Use your automated call out system.
Many districts have a system whereby schools can schedule call outs to all phone numbers on record or a specific grade level or category. These calls should be made at least once a week. In these calls, school’s personnel can inform parents of upcoming events, scores, schedules and a multitude of other things which are fit for communication. Don’t use it too liberally, though. Parents want communication, not harassment.
You can even have the child call home.
During class, if a child is acting up, have the child call a parent and explain to them what is going on. Make sure you are at a point in your class time where you have a minute to speak with the parent as well. As a school employee, make sure you are near so you can hear what is being said. Believe it or not (said sarcastically) the child may have NO idea why he or she has been asked to call home and may express that to the parent. Always take the phone once the child is done to explain further, let them know what you will be doing and wrap up the conversation without using much class time.
The same goes for a child who has had a great day or one who has shown great improvement. Parents like good news as much as you do.
Making sure the parent is familiar with you and your practices is a must. Always make sure you express your support and partnership with the parent for the achievement of their child. They need an ally in the school system. Make it be you.
Photo by DodgertonSkillhause. Used with permission.