Academic journal article The Science Teacher

The New Teacher's Toolbox

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

The New Teacher's Toolbox

Article excerpt

January 2012, Tips for Teachers Just Starting Out

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The Dreaded (Sometimes Delightful) Parent Phone Call

Making phone calls to parents can be uncomfortable for even the most seasoned teacher, but it's an important part of the job. If you haven't had to call a parent yet this year, chances are you will--several times. Younger teachers, more than older ones, are often reluctant to make phone calls because we're used to e-mails, which are less personal but allow time to compose our thoughts.

Many parent phone calls are painless; they can even build relationships as parents recognize your care and concern. But every veteran teacher has a horror story; for me, it was when I told a mom her son plagiarized his class project. I'll never forget her response: "You're what's wrong with the education system today," she said. "You give teachers a bad name." Having discussed calls like these with colleagues, I've come up with some tips for calling parents:

Remember the three "nevers."

1. Never return a phone call (or an e-mail) when you are angry.

2. Never take an insult personally.

3. Never forget that factor s unknown to you might make a parent hostile.

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Establish your role as an ally. Parents sometimes internalize your criticisms as a personal attack against the student or their parenting. By explicitly stating your intentions to work with a parent in the best interests of the student, you will win his or her support. Once parents realize you're on their side, they will listen to you.

Document the details. Save all e-mail correspondence with parents and keep a record of parent phone calls. Document the date, time, with whom you spoke, and the key points of the conversation. Include suggestions you offered and objections the parent may have raised. Note any accusations or threats. You may need to refer to these notes in future correspondence or if problems escalate. …

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