Teachers: How to Contact Parents and Guardians During the School Year
How to Contact Parents of Your Students
Teachers and Parents Working Together
Just as when you marry your spouse, you marry their family, when you work with students, you work with their parents and guardians. It’s a package deal, one that teachers cannot avoid.
Parents can be a challenge. Most cooperate very well and you never hear from them. Some expect their children to ‘get’ 100% on everything, whether or not they earned it. Others don’t believe you that Johnny never does his homework, or that Sally cheated, or that Billy hit Lenny, or that Ricky threatened to find your house and do something rotten…
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How to Contact Parents
Always stay ahead of the game. In the beginning of the year, send a welcome letter that they sign. Before any major projects/units, send a letter that they sign. Call them to tell them about a positive event concerning their child. Call them before their child arrives at home for any behavior/work issues.
Invite parents to meet with you. In my district, it was mandatory that we held an open house in the beginning of the year to meet parents, show them our classrooms and introduce them to the curriculum. While it was a daunting task to meet all of the parents at once, it was nice because I was able to personally tell them exactly what to expect for the year, give them extra activities to do at home with their children, and get to know their fears and anxieties about their children’s academic performance. While all of this was going on, I also had a PowerPoint streaming in the background that described the curriculum and the units I would teach, and I had handouts of that presentation handy for those who just wanted to stop in and say hello.
You may not be required to have an open house, but it still would be nice for parents to meet you in some capacity. It might be nice to invite them to meet you on an individual basis at their own leisure. Perhaps you have a website where they could learn all about you and your class. Whatever it is that you decide to do, try to reach out to the parents in the beginning of the year to start your working relationship off on the right foot.
When communicating with parents, start with something positive (even though it is sometimes very difficult to do so). End on a positive note as well. Keep everything else factual without inserting any of your actual feelings. Be sure to identify who you are and why you are calling. Thank them for their time and encourage them to contact you again if they have any other questions or concerns.
Be consistent, and be fair. What you did for Mrs. Jones’ child you must do for Mr. Smith’s child. Trust me: Mr Smith will find out what you did for Mrs. Jones’ child, and if it isn’t the same treatment, you will hear about it. Parents, especially those in smaller communities, have webs of communication in which educational matters are mentioned. You really need to be sure you are being consistent in your classroom and fair to all students.
Write down everything that happens between you and the student as soon as it happens, and report it to the proper parties. Do not further engage with an angry/ belligerent student. This way, when the time comes to report the incident, it is written down accurately and without the emotion that builds up after an incident has already passed. Parents don’t want to know how you felt about it; they only want to know what happened.
If you witness a student cheating, follow the proper steps that your district encourages (my district: zero on the assignment, call home to parents, referral to the office). If you suspect that a student has cheated, take the assignment, ask the student to complete it again in your presence and use the second assignment as the actual grade. This way, you have just given them another opportunity to succeed, which is how you explain that to the parents, since you could not prove they have cheated.
Don’t back down from your decisions. If Harry earns a zero, then give Harry a zero. If parents insist on you changing a grade because they don’t like it, then offer suggestions of how they can help their student be more successful next time OR offer that Harry complete the assignment for an average of the zero and the new grade. If they press the issue, offer to speak with them in the presence of a guidance counselor or an administrator (in this case, inform the guidance counselor or administrator first of the situation and report how you offered suggestions!).
Advice for Parents
Parents, want to contact your child's teacher about a concern? Do it, but do so in a polite manner even though you may be angry about an issue. It's best to hear both sides of the story before making conclusions. Often, the teacher may have more insight as to what is going on in the classroom and would be glad to help find solutions to benefit the student.
Stay ahead of the game when contacting parents!
Really, when working with parents, it comes down to the first tip I mentioned: stay ahead of the game. Be aware of what you are doing and saying. Plan ahead with communication, classroom management and for potential pitfalls. Be sure to be a teacher who lets parents know the positives and be gentle when delivering the negatives.
If you are a teacher who cares about his/her students, then you will do your best to work with their parents as well.
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