Most often we get phone calls from parents in REACTION to a situation that they learn about after it has transpired.
Being PROACTIVE helps keep these parents from getting surprised by a poor grade on a report card or a low score in conduct or effort. Eliminating the surprise often eliminates the complaints.
Call home when you start to see a moderate slip in student performance. A general rule I follow is that I call when students miss three homework assignments or if their grades drop more than one letter grade from mid-term to the week before the end of the term. This proactive warning gives parents the chance to acclimate themselves to what they will be seeing. It also gives us the chance to give parents suggestions on how they can help their child improve.
When teachers are proactive the complaints tend to decrease and parents, even the difficult ones, work with us to help us reach our goal -- the success of their children!
Grade 8 ELA, Sudbury
Be sure to know the parent's name! It may sound simple, but you cannot always assume that the parent has the same name as the child and it's too late to wonder once they answer the phone. Parents do expect you to know their name and may become annoyed by the mistake; not the best start to a conversation. I learned this the hard way.
Special Education Teacher, Norton
I think it is always good to keep a log of your phone calls to have as a record. I also think it is helpful to speak with teachers that may know the parents before you contact them. If possible, it is best not to have your first contact with a parent to be for a negative reason.
Sixth Grade Teacher, Belmont
Always begin by asking, "Is this a good time for us to talk?"
Have notes written out ahead of time with the points you want to discuss.
Be sure any anecdotal information you share includes concrete observation, not judgments. For example, "I've noticed Sam poking other children which is making it difficult for everyone to do his/her work." not "Sam is really annoying everyone."
If parents ask you to call them, be sure to ask what they would like to discuss so you can prepare and make the conversation productive.
Third Grade Teacher, Amherst
More telephone tips from NEA