Parent* phone calls are one of the most critical components of building strong relationships with families and students–teachers see students each day, but often they don’t have many opportunities to interface with parents or guardians. Phone calls home can be intimidating to make and therefore become underused or terribly executed, sometimes further alienating the families a teacher most needs in his or her corner. Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran teacher, a pro at making these calls, or you need to step up your game, we’ve got great tips and concrete resources for you!
- Practice with a colleague or administrator. Practice can be so, so awkward, but it’s one of the best ways to improve (and to get over your nerves if they’re keeping you from making calls!). Have your practice partner play out your worst-case scenario so you’re confident that you know what you’d do if it happens. Ask your practice partner for feedback, too–you may be giving off a vibe you don’t intend to, and it’s great to get that insight before talking to real live parents
- Establish a relationship with parents before you “have to.” If you have a feeling a student will wind up on your radar and is someone you’ll need to eventually enlist parents’ help with, call home as soon as possible just to introduce yourself and build the foundation of a positive relationship. Parents and caregivers will be much more receptive to future calls about their student’s negative behavior if they’ve already spoken with you for a positive or neutral reason. Feel free to use our sample script here.
- Make good calls, too! Making positive calls home is such a great way to build good will with students and parents. Typically, students who struggle at school don’t receive good calls home, and the ones who don’t struggle rarely have their teachers contact their parents. Because of this, going out of your way to make good calls home pays dividends in building a strong and positive class culture.
- Good Call Friday. One great way to do this is by implementing Good Call Friday as part of your rewards system. Regardless of what system you use, you can offer a good call home as a “prize.” This is great because Good Call Friday does “double duty” for you–making good calls home is something you should be doing anyway, and putting it to work as a specific reward for students knocks two things off your to-do list. Have students who have earned the reward fill out one of these forms, and use that to guide your positive call (you’ll need to modify the form for students if you’re a lower elementary teacher). Keep the number of Good Call Friday forms you give out manageable–ideally 3-4 calls, but if you’re a secondary teacher, you may need to do a few more to be able to provide this reward in each of your class periods depending on your schedule. This definitely doesn’t need to be a Friday activity–if you find you have more energy earlier in the week, you could have Good Call Thursdays (or whichever day). It can be nice to end the week with a burst of positivity, but do whatever works best for you!
- Catch kids being good. Making a positive call home for a student who frequently struggles shows both parents and students that you recognize progress, and it encourages students to continue to improve. A day or class period doesn’t have to be perfect to warrant a positive phone call home! This is a call that can’t wait–if a student who has been struggling has a good day or does something positive and out of the ordinary, capitalize on that and make the call home that day. If you wait, the next day may not be as good, and the opportunity to reinforce that student’s positive behavior or participation will have (at least temporarily) passed you by.
- Call frequently and vary your calls. Parents want to be informed–finding out that their student has been struggling for a long time when they haven’t been looped in is pretty off-putting. Call early and call often for students who need extra support behaviorally or academically–the more you and parents are on the same page and same team, the better. One great way to build investment is by having the student call home with you. Students can take the lead on informing their parents about their day (with your guidance if needed), which is a powerful way for students to feel ownership over their own education. You can do this for both needs-improvement calls and positive calls!
- Build parent phone calls into your routine. Making calls home can feel like one more thing to do in an already jam-packed day, and since there are frequently more tangible things that need to get done (ie: lesson planning, grading, etc.), parent phone calls can be one of the first things to go. Establishing a routine will help guard against this. Set aside the first 20 minutes of your after-school time to make calls each day, or if you’re comfortable doing so, call on your way home from school to maximize your time. Whenever you decide, carving out a regular time daily will help ensure parent phone calls happen, even amidst all the other things you need to do.
- Track your calls. Especially for students who need some extra help participating positively in class, documentation is so important to find trends and enlist support from your admin team if needed. Keeping a record of all the calls you make to parents (both positive and problem-solving) goes a long way in building your credibility with parents, students, and administrators alike. Use our typable sheets to track all of your calls home, and if you don’t already have a way to track student behavior, this is a great way to do that as well!
- Talk to students, not just their parents. Most people don’t talk directly to students when they call home, but seizing this opportunity to connect with students themselves in a different forum is invaluable. In an age-appropriate way, communicate the same information with students that you share with their parents. If it’s a needs-improvement call, discuss what was unacceptable and problem-solve together. If it’s a positive phone call, make sure to shower the recognition upon the student as well! Either way, make sure your closing message to the student is clear–you’re excited to have a(nother) good day with them in class and believe they can make it happen. Don’t be turned off if it feels awkward or students act surprised that you want to talk to them–even the “coolest” kids appreciate that you care enough to call home and talk to them directly, even if they don’t know how to show it.
*It’s valuable to acknowledge that the adults students have at home aren’t always their parents. Students may be sensitive to the fact that their guardian isn’t their parent if that’s the case. We use the term “parent” throughout to refer to a student’s guardian in whatever arrangement has been established.
How do you use phone calls home? Have more tips to share? Comment here!