Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Calling Parents

So last night I called parents for EVERY STUDENT who has anything below a B (with the one exception of the student for whom I have a parent conference today - I figured it'd be redundant). I also called some in the 87-89 range who could pull up ton an A.

A number of them are flunking because we've had one end-of-unit project so far (a wee one, but it was still a test grade), and they didn't turn it in. Well, test grades in our department count for 50% of the final average. Thus, if you have a 0 for your average, you take the rest of your grades, average them out (half quizzes, half "daily work" aka classwork and homework) and then subtract 50 points. So, yeah. Not turning in test work? Not good.

It took about an hour, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes total to do ALL my calling. And you know what? It wasn't so bad.

1) First, and most importantly, I state that the purpose of the call is to let the parents know that I am handing out student reports tomorrow, so the students will know exactly what grade they have and how they've done on each assignment. The parents can ask the students about this, and the students should be able to give them the report if asked. While I don't quite agree with the "sandwich" method of parent contact (start with a compliment, put the negative in the middle, and finish with a compliment), the idea behind it is solid: always begin with something nonconfrontational.

2) I don't lie or brush aside the truth, but I skirt the line pretty closely! I don't think you have to be harsh. Parents know that when they hear "Well," followed by a pregnant pause and then, "he's reeeally not doing so great right now," the news is BAD. I go very quickly through the source of the trouble (usually uncompleted work and/or failure to use time effectively in class) and then move on.

3) Here's where I really disagree with the sandwich method: I don't finish with a compliment. Rather, I close the call by explaining what the student can do to fix things, and describing what I'd like to see as a result. And, of course, as student success is always good, I'm still ending with something positive - plus I'm letting the parents envision their child being successful if the action plan I've explained is followed! I really think this is the lynchpin, because it creates a "team" effect: this is what we all want, and we're going to work together to achieve it.

When I finish my calling, I always feel relieved because it is OVER, but also because I know that I've strengthened the relationship I have with the parents, and I've given them a way to help their child be successful.

Your parent calls can be painless too!


mybellringers said...

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Melissa B. said...

Good, straightforward advice. Although, after so many years in the teaching biz, I still don't understand the whys or the wherefores of kids who don't do their work. Do you? BTW, come join us for some insane fun tomorrow, with my Silly Sunday Sweepstakes!

cupcake said...

I need to call parents. I dread the thought.

Thanks for the guidelines - I need to print them out and put them by the phone. What do you do when there is nothing positive to say about a student? Seriously. Nothing positive. I've got about seven or eight in that boat.

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