Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Get Parents on the Line to Dial Down Mischief

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Get Parents on the Line to Dial Down Mischief

Article excerpt

A well-planned phone call home can work wonders for behaviour management, but it's only good to talk if you do so effectively

Just as I finished a heartfelt, much-practised speech about the poor quality of James' behaviour, the woman on the phone interrupted to tell me that she was terribly sorry, but she wasn't actually his mother. In fact, her son - Harry, not James - had not been at the school for 12 years. She sounded apologetic. She wanted to help, she said. As it happened, she did know the boy I was talking about. Did I want her to have a word? Needless to say, I did not.

Thankfully, the majority of calls home have more productive (and less embarrassing) conclusions. Indeed, phoning home is one of the most effective tools of behaviour management: creating a strong link between parents and teachers breaks down students' potential for misbehaviour and their ability to wriggle out of punishments.

I find that the majority of parents are very supportive when I ring home, but you need to get the phone call right to make it effective - and I don't just mean ensuring that you have the right number. Here are some top tips for avoiding common mistakes and mastering the art of the phone call home.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

As per my terrible experience, a hastily made phone call will rarely yield positive results. Prepare the facts (and phone numbers) and know what you are going to say: write down important points, such as key incidents that need to be addressed and cross-reference all details to make sure that they are accurate before ringing. With trickier parents, it is a good idea to note down when you last spoke to them.

Phone etiquette

Ring at a reasonable time when you, and they, are likely to be awake and receptive to a potentially difficult discussion. Be polite: say where you are ringing from, who you are and ask if it is a good time to talk. Most importantly, don't leave messages. Voicemails on home phone numbers will inevitably be intercepted by students before parents have a chance to hear them. Also, mobile phones often have generic message services so you can't actually be sure that you have called the right person.

Get the order right

If it is possible to start with something positive, even if it is small, then do so. Once you have their attention (and hopefully support) you can follow up with the issue in question, and examples and outcomes.

For example: "While it is fantastic that your son has been attending school more regularly recently, his behaviour has been challenging. …

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