As teachers, we have an endless number of tasks and duties that must be completed on a regular basis. We have lesson plans to create, papers to grade, meetings to attend, and discipline issues to deal with. Unfortunately, communication with the families of our students often gets pushed to the back burner because there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to do it all. This causes a disconnection between the home and the school, and problems or achievements may go unnoticed as a result. In order to keep parents informed of their child’s progress in school, teachers need to implement a system for regular contact.
- Have all students give you their contact information. They should include their mailing address, home phone number, cell phone numbers, and the work phone numbers of their parents. Arm yourself with as many options for contact as possible. You may want to tell them that you are collecting the information for emergency purposes in order to avoid getting fake phone numbers.
- Create a spreadsheet with all of the students’ names, addresses, and phone numbers in alphabetic order. Save it to the computer that you use at school, or on a flash drive that you will carry with you every day.
- Create a phone log with each student’s name. This can be as simple as a table created in Microsoft Word, and it will allow you to record each contact or attempted contact that was made. Be sure to record the date of each phone call placed or letter sent, and an overview of the conversation. Save this in the same location as your contact information.
- Decide on a time daily or weekly that you will devote solely to communication with parents. Try to build it into your school day, but it is worth staying an extra thirty minutes to complete. Make it your routine, and stick with it.
Reasons to Call
- Parents are an amazing resource. I am continually amazed by the support that I receive from parents when their child is experiencing behavior or academic problems. Sometimes it takes just one negative phone call home, and I see a different child in class. If the child needs extra help with the work, parents may encourage tutoring or extra study time.
- Teachers need to protect themselves. When students are continually absent or failing, we have a duty to inform the parents. They have a right to know when problems exist. Although not every parent is supportive or capable of effecting change, teachers need to be able to say that they have taken action to involve the parents. By keeping records in your phone log, you can show your administration that you’ve been actively trying to deal with issues as they arise.
- Communication creates community. Parents often send their children to school each day and are clueless as to what is occurring while they are there. By calling the parents to give progress reports, ask questions, and share achievements, they begin to feel like they are a part of the educational process. They may even take on a more positive view of the school itself, which is a benefit to everyone involved.
Topics for Discussion
- Disruptive and disrespectful behaviors affect the education of every student in the classroom. Teachers need to employ a variety of resources to deal with these problems, and parents should be aware of any discipline actions that were necessary. When calling, be careful to use language that doesn’t make parents defensive, and ask for suggestions. Remember that they know their child better than you do.
- Parents of well-behaved and hard working students may never receive a personal call from a teacher. It is important to include the parents in the achievements of their child. When a student gets a high score on an exam, brings in an outstanding project, or turns in every homework assignment, the parents will be thrilled to hear that you are recognizing the work. Parents many be surprised to hear from you, and they are very likely to remember you as an attentive and organized teacher.
- Throughout the year, we see both positive and negative changes in students. Because we only meet with parents a few times each year, a phone call will keep them up to date with any progress or regression that you see. You may learn important personal information that could be a reason behind the change.
- When students are frequently absent or late, parents should be called. They may or may not know that their child is not coming to school, and letting them know that you are closely monitoring the situation may motivate them to encourage attendance and punctuality. Also, this allows you to keep a record of the attempts that you’ve made to get the student into the classroom.
- If you’ve previously called parents to report negative behavior or grades and you now see an improvement, call the parents to thank them for the role that they’ve played. They will be grateful to hear some good news.
It is always hard to add an additional task to an already full schedule, but the benefits of communication with parents are worth every minute that it takes. Dealing with problems as they arise and praising students that are often overlooked will make each day in the classroom a little more rewarding. Also, by involving parents in the educational process, you can share some of the responsibilities, leaving you with more time and energy than you started with.
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