the "How to Work with Students' Families" Mailbag
a reader wrote me with a question that I thought would be valuable
to share. She writes:
I came across your web page on teachersnetwork.org
and was hoping I could ask you a question.
I am a first year middle school teacher in Louisville, Kentucky
and have a fear about calling parents.
If parents call me, I have no problem talking with them.
However, if I need to initiate the conversation, I become
very stressed and do not do it.
I am afraid of their reactions to a phone call home.
My dealings with parents this year have run the gamut from
very unpleasant to extremely well.
Is there any advice you can give me about how to conquer
this fear? Any input
would be appreciated.
how I replied:
I completely understand what you are going through.
It's very common for teachers, not just first year teachers. There
are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to communicating
One thing you should do is try to think about
what it is like to be one of your student's parents. It's important
that you put yourself in their shoes. I mean, if the first time
you are in contact with the parents is a when you need to talk with
them about a problem, the parents are (sometimes) going to be stressed
To offset that, I usually call each parent at
the beginning of the year to introduce myself. Before I have even
formed an opinion of a student, I make a simple 5 minute phone call
to each home to introduce myself, say hello, and ask if there are
any concerns. Most parents are impressed that I would even take
the time to do something like that. I also provide them with a way
to get in touch with me. That might be a phone number at school
or an e-mail address. That depends on your comfort level. I have
given out my home phone number and most parents don't use it. However,
some parents are very appreciative.
These types of things go a long way towards letting
the parents know that they are dealing with a responsible professional.
Of course this doesn't work with everyone, but
it does help you pave the way so that when you do have to call home
with a problem, this isn't the first time that the parents have
heard from you.
Just because this isn't the beginning of the
year doesn't mean you can't call the parents just to say hello.
Another thing I do is to take one or two students
a day and call home with something positive. Sometimes I have to
dig hard to find something good, but think about how that can make
the parent and student feel to know that you (the teacher) see the
GOOD as well as the bad. That is a very powerful tool we have. Again,
when it comes time to making the bad phone call home, you'll have
already gained their trust. Why not start doing those?
Also, I would do anything I could to encourage
the parents to come up to your class. The more familiar they are
with you, the less frightening they will seem (and vice versa).
Remember, we are always much more afraid of the unknown than the
Finally, remember that you are going to have
some parents that rub you the wrong way, but as teachers it is our
job to be as professional as we can be. Sometimes their reactions
aren't going to be pleasant. That's not always a reflection of you.
I really hope that this helps. Please let me
know if this helps.
Do you have a comment or suggestion? You can e-mail Carl at carlsannito at yahoo dot com.