A Phone Call Home Makes All the Difference
Because of the immense amount of pressure that comes with being a first-year teacher, reaching out to parents early in the year may seem like the last thing on your mind. Building relationships with parents, on the other hand, can put you and your students on the path to success while also saving you time in the long run.
The fact that I waited so long to make those calls was my biggest mistake. I was in my early twenties and nervous. Once I started making calls, I quickly realized what a valuable resource parent and guardian support can be for children. “Why didn’t you call sooner?” was a question I was asked several times.
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Calling, on the other hand, takes time. The time can add up quickly if you call six homes and talk for 10 to 15 minutes each time you call. A phone call or two at the end of each day—or during lunch, or on the weekend—will be well worth your time. Teacher phone calls to students’ homes were discovered to have numerous benefits by Harvard education researchers Matthew Kraft and Shaun Dougherty. “Frequent teacher-family communication immediately increased student engagement,” they discovered. Overall, teacher-family communication increased the likelihood that students completed their homework by 40%, reduced the number of times teachers had to redirect students’ attention to the task at hand by 25%, and increased class participation by 15%.”
CALLING PARENTS WITH CONCERNS AND ISSUES
After making a greater number of calls throughout the year, I became more adept at putting parents at ease. It was common for them to be a little nervous when we first started talking, and I found that focusing on collaboration rather than confrontation helped me achieve better results. The way you open a letter is important, so follow these steps when calling a student’s home to discuss a problem or concern with them.
1. Introduce yourself by using your given name as a first name. I believe it is appropriate for teachers to address one another as Mr., Ms., or Mrs., but I believe it is preferable to address parents or guardians as peers. When we introduce ourselves by our first names, it helps to alleviate any tension—and there is often tension on the first phone call—and establishes right away that we are working together to support their child.
2. Begin the conversation with a positive statement about yourself. “I’m Jessica’s English teacher, and I’d like to begin by saying how much I appreciate her sense of humor,” says the author. Period three is one of my favorite classes because of her ability to make us all laugh,” says the teacher. By doing so, you are conveying to the parent or guardian that you are aware of all aspects of the child’s personality, not just his or her difficulties.
3. Only actions should be described; no labels should be used. After you’ve established a positive tone, you can move on to the subject at hand. If you want to say something like, “Jonathan is disrespectful,” try something like, “Jonathan often talks when I am talking or when classmates are sharing out, and when I ask him to please just listen, he frequently continues to talk.” Keep words like defiant, rude, hyperactive, and so on out of your vocabulary. Providing data about a child’s actions does not establish you as a judge, but rather as an observer, and this is what you should strive for. Then you can talk about the consequences of steps you’ve already taken as a result of the child’s behavior.
4. Ask questions to receive assistance. What happens next is critical after you have described the child’s actions and the consequences of those actions—inviting the child’s parents or guardians to offer their support and advice. This establishes the “we” connection you desire and require with your parents. “What are some ideas you might have to assist me in supporting Jonathan and getting him back on track?” is an example of this. or “Can you think of anything you could say to him to get him to open up?” “What do you find works best with him?”
CALLING WITH GOOD NEWS
Phone calls to family and friends do not have to be reserved for emergencies. For example, you should strongly consider calling the homes of students who have improved their efforts or class grade, who have been helpful to their classmates or you, or who have participated regularly in class discussions. Students talk about their teachers among themselves (whether they like it or not), and a positive phone call home will not only earn you points with the kids, but it will also contribute to the development of trust, rapport, and a sense of community. Furthermore, these calls serve as excellent morale boosters for you after you have made the difficult calls in the previous week.
SENDING TEXTS AND EMAILS
Text messages and emails are excellent for conveying positive comments and good news. When it comes to concerns and problems, phone calls and meetings are the best options. Text messages and emails, as we all know, can be misinterpreted. By conversing with parents or guardians in real-time, you can avoid any of those embarrassing digital message blunders while also being able to quickly answer questions, address any concerns, and plan the next steps together.
ASK FAMILY MEMBERS TO COME TO YOUR CLASSROOM WITH YOU.
However, it was not until my second year of teaching that I was instructed by a veteran teacher to create opportunities for family members to visit the classroom in addition to the traditional open house/back-to-school evenings. The fact that family members of my students accepted my invitation surprised me when I extended it in the first place.
Invite family members of students to come to give talks, assist in the classroom, share their expertise in a particular area, or even co-teach a lesson if they wish. We can broaden our definition of “classroom community” to include parents who are educating their children in a variety of ways at home as well. When we consider parents and family members as collaborators in the education of students, it has the potential to be life-changing. (Here’s a Pinterest page with ideas for family volunteer forms if you need some inspiration.)
Just remember to take things one step at a time. Make those first phone calls to your family to get the ball rolling on the collaboration. Building relationships with family members of our students and working to maintain those relationships throughout the school year allows us to form alliances that allow us to support students in ways we could never have anticipated before.