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NYC Helpline: How To: Work with Students' Families

School Called  by Linda Mandracchia

One day my daughter came home from school and I greeted her with the words, “School called.”  You should have seen her face.  She got really quiet and put her head down.  Needless to say, the phone call was not a positive one and she knew they called because she had done something wrong.  Now imagine that same scenario, only when I said, “School called,” there would be a huge smile on her face because she knew that phone call from school was a positive one.

As teachers, we are so wrapped up in all that we have to do that thinking about calling parents when things are going well never really crosses our mind.  But the second someone in our class doesn’t listen or hand in the homework or is disrespectful, the first words out of our mouths are, “I’m calling your parents.” 

Building bridges between school and home is crucial to establishing positive relationships and for the educational well-being of our students. But let’s think of ways to make that phone call home a positive one so that the bridge is being built up and teachers and parents are not walking across it like it’s a tight rope.  In one school I worked in the principal encouraged all her teachers to make contact by phone with all of the students’ families in a warm and welcoming way within the first few weeks of school. The teachers were asked to call and say at least one positive thing about each student.  

So, what do you say? Here are a few examples:

"Hi.  This is Ms. Mandracchia. I just wanted to call and tell you that Gabriela is making a wonderful adjustment to her new school and her class.  She seems very happy. Do you have any questions for me?”

"Hi.  This is Ms. Mandracchia.  I am calling to let you know how well Steven is doing in math.  He seems very interested in problem solving."

I remember the principal us to find something positive to say even for our most challenging students.  So with that in mind, the phone call might sound like this:

"Hi.  This is Ms. Mandracchia.  I just wanted to call to let you know that Jesse is a highly motivated student.  He seems to be very social.  You should be proud of him." 

Sometimes finding the positive words is a challenge in itself, but you will see what a difference that first call makes when it is a positive one.

In the school I am working in this year, a phone call home is part of the reward/incentive program that the teachers are utilizing.  When the student receives a certain number of punches on their card for doing something good or positive, one of the first incentives is a positive phone call home.  The students in that school are very motivated to stay on track and try their hardest to do the right thing. 

So in our very busy lives as teachers, let’s see if we can build strong bridges between school and home by calling or making contact often and for positive reasons.  It will help keep our students motivated, on track and focused on positive behaviors.  The next time school calls, make sure it’s for a good reason and surprise both the parents and your students.

See also: How to Handle Telephone Conferences by  Allison Demas.



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