Improving Parent Involvement With Consistent Communication Through Phone Calls
Strategies For Improving Parent-Teacher Communication With a Phone-Call Plan of Action
Imagine This: You have a student in your classroom that consistently cannot or does not meet classroom expectations. You have tried implementing the right responses to her misbehaviors in class, and you have worked diligently to correct behavioral concerns so that she can be successful within your class. You have referred her to an administrator, and you have called her parents a few times. After your third phone call to her parents, her mother begins to defend her child’s behaviors, and comments that you never have anything nice to say about her child. Or, maybe her mother is simply exasperated with her child and is communicating her own frustration about her child to you. This negative response (often cultivated in families by phone calls bearing bad news) don’t do anything to support or help the child.
In this example, a key factor that is missing from your interventions with this student is proper communication with the stakeholders in the student’s life. Her parents know she is often a good kid, but they hear constant criticism of her behaviors in class that sometimes cause more problems than the ones you are trying to solve.
We’ll examine one method of addressing student behaviors in class through the use of parent phone call documentation trackers.
BALANCING CONCERNS AND PRAISE
Do you have kids? If so, think about a time that your child’s teacher, or a stranger, or a neighbor, has commented to you about how great your child is. It probably made you swell up with pride! Now, think about when someone has brought a concern up about your child. You may have felt worried, or defensive, or even angry. Think back on your own interactions with your student’s parents. When you made a phone call home or wrote a note to that parent- how often has it been positive, and how often has it been negative or filled with concern about your student? Often, we focus on behavioral concerns of students and feel we are doing our job by informing parents of our concerns and our actions to correct those behaviors- and we are!
But, parents of “repeat offender kids” may rarely hear good news about their child’s behaviors or academic performance. Every individual has wonderful strengths and great character traits, but especially for students that struggle with school or with behaviors in class, we often forget to mention those positive traits to others.
THE BENEFITS OF PRAISE
As educators, we understand the importance of informing parents about concerns or struggles a student may have in class, but we often forget to praise students to their parents too. This praise does more than make a parent feel good about their child. It also helps show parents that as educators, we truly do understand their child and we see more than the issues that pop up in class. Frequent praise allows parents to listen more when concerns are addressed, because you’ve been fair with them in balancing discussions about their child’s character traits. Praise makes parents more likely to communicate with you about their concerns, and often allows parents to more easily buy into the idea of implementing the right consequences to poor behavior or academic issues that you as a teacher are facing with their child.
POSITIVE PHONE CALLS
- Select one day per week that you make 5-10 calls to parents. Reserve one hour after school or during your planning time to make only positive phone calls to the parents of your students.
- Be specific: cite a specific action you saw that would make a parent proud like “Mr. Smith, I am calling you because a few days ago I noticed your son helping a student work out a difficult math problem, and I thought you should know that he has been really showing consideration for others lately”, or “Mr. Smith, today John was the first to complete his independent work, and I wanted to let you know he is really working hard in my class”.
- Schedule these positive phone calls every week without fail, and integrate it into your weekly routine.
By the end of the year you will have made dozens of connections to parents on only the positive actions you have seen in their children. This will have a combined effect of strengthening your relationships with your students, as well as building true collaboration between you and their parents.
PHONE CALLS ADDRESSING STUDENT BEHAVIOR
Now, when you utilize phone calls home to parents to address a misbehavior in a student, the parent understands that you take notice of both the positive and negative aspect of the child’s academic and emotional behaviors, and that you truly value the child’s growth. Parents will be more likely to work with you to find ways of supporting their child to improve their behaviors. Addressing these behaviors will now be a collaborative approach, because the student’s parents are more likely to feel that you truly value their child.
THE 70/30 RULE
When interacting with parents, and when discussing a child with his or her parents, keep in mind the 70/30 rule. At least 70% of your interactions and discussions about your student should be positive, with 30% or less interactions negative. Consider this as you reach out to contact a parent about a child’s behavior in your class.
DOCUMENTATION AND TRACKING
Whenever consequences are applied to a student’s behaviors in class, these interactions should be documented in some way. Similarly, the effort to engage parents in a child’s school life through both positive and negative interactions by phone, email, or notes home should also be documented. Documentation serves three purposes:
- It allows you to check in with yourself to ensure you are engaging parents with the 70/30 positivity rule.
- It allows you to document methods of improving student behaviors in your class that can then be shared with administrators on campus if detailed documentation of your interventions are required.
- Tracking these calls helps hold yourself accountable and better ensures you’ll make phone calls consistently each week.
- Schedule time in your calendar now on when to contact parents. Set a reminder so you never forget it is scheduled.
- Then, use a tracker, like the phone call tracker in the first tab of the excel file: Student and Parent Conferences Trackers, available as a download below. Consistently record phone call connections throughout the school year.
- If you want to involve your campus administrator or other teachers that may share the same students as you, load this form into google drive and allow for sharing between school staff.
Tab 2 of the excel tracker download provided is a template for holding in- school interventions and conferences with students who have severe behavioral concerns in your class. Use the same philosophy: occasionally hold positive 5-10 minute conferences during the school day to discuss a student’s positive actions in class or on campus. This way, when real behavioral concerns need to be addressed the student is more likely to acknowledge those behaviors.
Similarly, you can use this intervention tracker as a shared document on google drive to inform campus administrators or behavioral support staff of the additional methods you are implementing to improve student behavior in your classroom.
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This course provides participants with specific methods to implement strategies in the classroom that foster student independence while still building a strong classroom culture, expectations, and appropriate methods to manage misbehavior. Learning strategies to help manage behaviors using a student- led approach will create a calm and efficient classroom culture that allows students to focus on lesson ideas and move more quickly toward their academic goals.
Action Potential Learning works to improve the academic outcomes of all students through response to intervention (RTI) support to help grow and improve students academically, professional development and school support solutions to improve the work of teachers on campus, and student enrichment programs to develop students academically and professionally outside of the classroom.