A group of first-year teachers was once asked how they made calls to parents. After a long pause, one teacher responded that after dialing she thought to herself, "Please don't answer, please don't answer." Phoning and confronting parents intimidated her. Make calling parents easier with the following suggestions.
1. Call parents early and often. Calling parents a few days before school starts is a good way to introduce yourself. Calling with good news early in the semester makes later calls easier to make.
2. Develop a checklist for your parent phone calls. Create a worksheet that you fill out ahead of time. This will help you to organize your thoughts. Include the following on your worksheet:
- Identify yourself to a parent and find out with whom you are speaking.
- State why you have called - to introduce yourself, to give good news, or to discuss a concern. If you are calling with a problem or concern, state the problem clearly.
- State behaviors, not opinions. "John has not turned in the last three homework assignments" will be a more valuable statement than "John has become lazy about the class."
- State a possible solution to the problem.
3. Parents are busy people and want to know solutions. Listen to parents for additional solutions and background. They have known this child longer than you have!
4. Find a diplomatic, yet assertive way to get off the phone. Example: "I appreciate your concern, and hope that you will make an appointment to meet with me during conference week. Right now, I have three other parents to call. Thanks so much for your help."
5. Let parents know when and how they can reach you.
6. Date and keep copies of your notes from telephone conversations. Some teachers write information on a note card during the call, then add the card to the student's file.
Adapted from Bright Ideas, an NEA Checklist Series publication