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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

TEACHER TUESDAY: Meet the Parents

One of the most difficult things I had to do as a teacher was contacting parents.  Oh, don't get me wrong.  I didn't mind sending notes and letters home, or stamping classwork with "Parent, please sign," or even asking students to get their parents to call me.  That was easy.  The hardest part for me was actually picking up the phone and making that call home.

image from here
When I was a young teacher the thought of calling a parent who was probably older than I was, was intimidating in itself.  After all, the reason I needed to call was usually NOT to sing the praises of their offspring.  

As I grew older, though, especially as most parents of my students became young enough to be my former students, it grew easier.  I was less of a peer with the student and more of a peer of the parent.  And after I had my own children, I was definitely more sympathetic.

Over the years I learned a few things about contacting parents, which made phone calls easier and more pleasant.  Maybe these tips will help you as well.

1.  Make your first contact early in the school year.  With the new school year just beginning, now is a perfect time to touch base with parents.  It can be a daunting task if you have as many students as I did last year.  I believe I began the school year with almost 200 high school students!  What's a teacher to do?

My principal urged us to contact all of our parents, but with all the meetings, paperwork, new schedules, new students, and other issues teachers face before settling down into a routine, that was an almost impossible task, one that I, unfortunately, had to put on the back burner since I was new to the campus.

I made plans to make just two parent contacts a day during my conference period, but the demands on my time soon squashed that resolution.  However, calling just two parents a day is an attainable goal.  If two isn't feasible, try one parent a day, or even one a week until you get more organized as the year progresses.

2.  Be sensitive about calling parents at work.  A phone call from the school in the middle of a stressful workday may not be the best way to win a parent over to your point of view.  It may mean waiting until after school to make that call, but it may also mean catching that parent in a better frame of mind, especially if you need to discuss a problem.  You might even ask parents in a note home when is the best time to contact them.

3.  Start and end your conversation with something positive about the student.  It's sort of like wrapping the news in a big gift with a bow on top.  Parents will be much more receptive if you show some appreciation for a good trait in their student.  It can be anything from a bright smile to a good rapport with his peers.  If you can't find something positive in each of your students, you are not looking hard enough!

I hope these tips will help you make those all-important parent contacts.  Remember to keep your cool, that you are the professional, and if a parent gets upset, hear them out before defending your own case.  Above all else, be a professional advocate for what is best for the student.  Good luck!

xoxo