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Communicating with Home – Starting Off on the Right Foot

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by Neil Finney

Nothing strikes more fear into the heart of a parent/guardian than the dreaded phone call home from school. But it shouldn’t be this way. Here’s how to start off on the right foot with the caring adults of your Intermediate students and make your phone calls home a much more successful experience:

1. Make a positive phone call home to each family early in the year.

Avoid making a negative impression with your first phone call home. Introduce yourself as your child’s Intermediate teacher by spending a few minutes each day in the first week of school calling each home. Building your rapport with the family will pay off – especially if the time comes to speak to them later about a problem that has happened.

2. Collaborate with parents/guardians about the plan.

Who knows more about how students learn than the adults in their lives? Invite parents/guardians to provide you with insight about their children. By spending time at the beginning of the year to look through each student record before phoning home, you will learn key information and important things about your students. Assure families that you are aware of their child’s needs and encourage them to help you understand how to best meet the needs of their child.

3. Explain when you’ll be in touch again

Calling home shouldn’t always be a surprise. Discuss how to best move forward in your plan for their child and then let them know when you will call again with an update. Remind parents/guardians about the many other ways to stay informed through the school website, class blog page, and class agenda.

4. Keep a Communication Log 

A simple chart that tracks the date, name of parent/guardian (relationship to the child), reason for the call, and notes about what was discussed, will help you to recall each interaction; thereby, building a consistent communication record that you can consult when needed.

How do you make sure that conversations stay on track? What advice would you offer to a new teacher making that first call home?

 

During Neilʼs 9 years of teaching experience, he has taught in London, England; Ontario; public and private schools; elementary and secondary; junior; intermediate; core french; developmental skills; and now junior gifted (grades 4,5,6). He is a Reading Specialist that has been incorporating technology in his practice consistently throughout his career. Neil has recently published his first book entitled “Ignite. Incite. Inspire.” – Examining 21st Century Issues in Education, which is a collection of teaching articles and posts written from January to December 2011.

 

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  • http://corriganeducation.ca Kathleen

    I encourage educators to make at least four positive calls before the first negative one – hopefully you can fit four calls in before the first recess for some students :-) Four to one may not be realistic for larger classes but think about how that sets a tone. So if you anticipate some challenging times with some children be proactive. Build a positive relationship “bank account.” Be sure the parents see you as a champion of their child, not an adversary. If they know you see the good in their child they will be more willing to be part of a team to support success, not trouble.
    I appreciated your other points too, Neil. We need to be organized and consistent, and dependable in our communications with parents. I would also add a checklist (especially for young students) where you make a quick check of when you call or send informal “happy” notes so you are sure all children are acknowledged regularly.

    • Janet Lee

      Kathleen, the “happy” notes you mention work well in the high school too. Students are so thrilled to receive even a brief positive note about their progress. The response brightens my day too. Keeping track using a checklist is a great way to stay organized. :)

    • http://neilfinney.blogspot.com Neil Finney

      Hi Kathleen,

      I love the idea of the “positive relationship bank account.” All too often we can get bogged down by the problems and negative things to address that we lose sight of the many incredibly positive things that we experience. As a parent, there is nothing quite like hearing the positive from a teacher and gaining their support as you journey forward. Make those positive “deposits” early and often!