Oh. It makes me cringe. I mean, who actually enjoys a conversation with a parent about a negative occurrence in the classroom? One of the toughest aspects of being a teacher is communicating a behavior issue to parents gracefully and honestly. Sometimes, I am tempted to just brush the issue under the rug because I don’t like conflict. But, who does that really help? It’s also tempting to focus on the negative and in frustration, express my concerns. That doesn’t help either. Here are a few strategies that have helped me navigate parent-communication. Of course, I am always growing and certainly do not handle every situation perfectly. My prayer is that these strategies will help other teachers communicate with parents in a way that benefits children as well as help them become successful in their classrooms and in all of life.
Positive Parent Contact
After the first two weeks of school (sometimes sooner), I make positive-parent phone calls. The first goal is for me, the teacher: to find the gold within every child throughout the first few weeks of school and communicate that to parents. Knowing that I will be contacting all of the parents gives me a push to look for all of the amazing qualities within each child. Every child has numerous positive qualities, and they deserve to be recognized for them all. And sharing the positive qualities of each child absolutely makes their parents’ days!
Granted, calling every parent does take quite a bit of time, but positive emails, texts, and the like go a long way. Positive communication helps to establish these truths: 1. I think amazing things about all the kiddos in my class. 2. I see kids for all of the positive-qualities that they are… NOT their failures and areas in need of growth. 3. I believe in each child.
I have found that this simple act of positive communication helps parents to understand that I am on their child’s side before a negative occurrence ever takes place. That alone makes parents a gazillion times more receptive whenever I have to address an issue that occurred in the classroom.
The Sandwich Technique
It’s simple. In the event that I have to communicate with parents regarding an unfortunate event, I begin with the positive, address the situation, and then end with a positive game plan to help their child be successful socially, behaviorally, and academically. The purpose of the conversation is not to list everything the student did wrong; rather, the focus is to work with the parents, capitalizing on their child’s strengths, to build a game plan to help resolve issues in the classroom.
Before making the phone call, I make a list of all of the child’s accomplishments academically, behaviorally, and socially. When the parent picks up, I am honest as to why I am calling… “We had a situation at school today…” (But, before going into the situation I complete my thought with) “but first, I would like to note all the many, many accomplishments your child has been making in class.” After speaking about their child’s accomplishments, I honestly, calmly, and accurately explain the misbehaviors. Then, I explain to the parent what I am doing and will implement in class in order to help them reach their full potential.
Not the Bad Guy
Finally, when communicating with parents, it is important to remember that I am not the bad guy or the bearer of bad news. On the contrary, I have done everything in my power to help each of my students rise to his or her potential. I internalize the fact that I do not need to feel guilt, shame, or intimidation when it comes to parent communication. Every kiddo in my class is growing and changing. No child is perfect, and they will all make mistakes. Responding to “hard days” with grace, love, and belief that they can and will rise to behavior expectations is just another way of loving my students. In including parents in the process of helping children overcome struggles, I am simply inviting them to share in the process of helping shape their child into the most amazing kid ever. And the same is true for you, my teacher friends. You have your kids’ best interests at heart.