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How Should Teachers Contact a Student's Parents or Guardians?

LearnFromMe is a teacher looking to pass along words of wisdom to other teachers and people.

Parents want their children to be successful in school. It's important to work with them to meet that goal!

Parents want their children to be successful in school. It's important to work with them to meet that goal!

Teachers and Parents Working Together

When you work with students, you work with their parents and guardians. It’s a package deal. Unavoidable.

Parents can be a challenge. Most cooperate very well and you never hear from them. Some expect their children to ‘get’ 100% on everything, whether or not they earned it. Others don’t believe you that Johnny never does his homework, or that Sally cheated, or that Billy hit Lenny, or that Ricky threatened to find your house and do something rotten.

How to Contact Parents

Always stay ahead of the game. At the beginning of the year, send a welcome letter that they sign. Before any major projects/units, send a letter that they sign. Call them to tell them about a positive event concerning their child. Call them before their child arrives at home for any behavior/work issues.

Invite parents to meet with you. In my district, it was mandatory that we held an open house at the beginning of the year to meet parents, show them our classrooms and introduce them to the curriculum. While it was a daunting task to meet all of the parents at once, it was nice because I was able to personally tell them exactly what to expect for the year, give them extra activities to do at home with their children, and get to know their fears and anxieties about their children’s academic performance. While all of this was going on, I also had a PowerPoint streaming in the background that described the curriculum and the units I would teach, and I had handouts of that presentation handy for those who just wanted to stop in and say hello.

You may not be required to have an open house, but it still would be nice for parents to meet you in some capacity. It might be nice to invite them to meet you on an individual basis at their own leisure. Perhaps you have a website where they could learn all about you and your class. Whatever it is that you decide to do, try to reach out to the parents at the beginning of the year to start your working relationship off on the right foot.

When communicating with parents, start with something positive (even though it is sometimes very difficult to do so). End on a positive note as well. Keep everything else factual without inserting any of your actual feelings. Be sure to identify who you are and why you are calling. Thank them for their time and encourage them to contact you again if they have any other questions or concerns.

Be consistent, and be fair. What you did for Mrs. Jones’ child you must do for Mr. Smith’s child. Trust me: Mr. Smith will find out what you did for Mrs. Jones’ child, and if it isn’t the same treatment, you will hear about it. Parents, especially those in smaller communities, have webs of communication in which educational matters are mentioned. You really need to be sure you are being consistent in your classroom and fair to all students.

Write down everything that happens between you and the student as soon as it happens, and report it to the proper parties. Do not further engage with an angry/ belligerent student. This way, when the time comes to report the incident, it is written down accurately and without the emotion that builds up after an incident has already passed. Parents don’t want to know how you felt about it; they only want to know what happened.

If you witness a student cheating, follow the proper steps that your district encourages (my district: zero on the assignment, call home to parents, referral to the office). If you suspect that a student has cheated, take the assignment, ask the student to complete it again in your presence, and use the second assignment as the actual grade. This way, you have just given them another opportunity to succeed, which is how you explain that to the parents since you could not prove they cheated.

Don’t back down from your decisions. If Harry earns a zero, then give Harry a zero. If parents insist on you changing a grade because they don’t like it, then offer suggestions of how they can help their student be more successful next time OR offer that Harry complete the assignment for an average of the zero and the new grade. If they press the issue, offer to speak with them in the presence of a guidance counselor or an administrator (in this case, inform the guidance counselor or administrator first of the situation and report how you offered suggestions!).

How Often Do You Contact Parents?

Advice for Parents

Parents, want to contact your child's teacher about a concern? Do it, but do so in a polite manner even though you may be angry about an issue. It's best to hear both sides of the story before making conclusions. The teacher may have more insight as to what is going on in the classroom and would be glad to help find solutions to benefit the student.

Contact Preemptively!

Really, when working with parents, it comes down to the first tip I mentioned: stay ahead of the game. Be aware of what you are doing and saying. Plan ahead with communication, classroom management, and potential pitfalls. Be sure to be a teacher who lets parents know the positives and be gentle when delivering the negatives.

If you are a teacher who cares about his/her students, then you will do your best to work with their parents as well.

© 2011 LearnFromMe

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LearnFromMe (author) on December 09, 2011:

Thank you, rebeccamealey! I appreciate the feedback. :)

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 08, 2011:

I like this Hub, helpful.....especially good for new teachers. Good job!

LearnFromMe (author) on November 03, 2011:

Dedication2ed, thanks for reading! Documentation really does make a difference if there's a meeting or other interaction with administration and parents. I like that you print all emails pertaining to students. You never know when technology is going to fail or be changed, right?

Dedication2ed on November 02, 2011:

Great hub! I especially like the part about documenting interactions with students. I document any and everything and ALWAYS print emails that pertain to students. I think this is a hard lesson (hindsight is 20/20...?) for new teachers to learn! Thanks!

LearnFromMe (author) on October 18, 2011:

Rochelle Frank, thanks for your comment. As my principal would say at every faculty meeting, it's all about 'no surprises'. Having preventative measures ready and in place really make a difference in keeping teacher/parent relationships as positive as possible and helps the parents not to be blindsided by things that happen in school.

I am very grateful for the ability to use technology in my classroom for a variety of reasons, but I must admit, I'm still pretty old school for a young teacher. I'd rather use the chalk/white board and conduct research using books rather than using a computer program to do all of that for me. ;) Thanks again for reading and commenting!

LearnFromMe (author) on October 18, 2011:

TattooKitty, you're so right that parental support is vital to student success. And I must say: I love online grading programs. When it was first introduced in our district, we were quite oppposed, but it has become such a great tool to help connect with parents. At any time, parents can sign in and see what has been done, what grades have been earned, and what is coming up in the future. For the parents with little to no online access, it was simple enough to print out a grade report and send it home at the parent's request.

Thanks for commenting!

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on October 17, 2011:

These suggestions are great-- like preventative medicine.

I worked for several years as a sub teacher and mostly did day-to-day assignments, so I did not have to deal with parents much. One of my last assignments was the first 12 weeks of a sixth grade class, which included some grading and an open house, early in the year. It went ok, I think.

All of this was before teachers had websites- email and power point. I think it is great that you are using technology to great advantage for communication with parents.

TattooKitty from Hawaii on October 17, 2011:

Nice hub! Parent support is vital to student success! For secondary level teachers, I also recommend investing in an online grade book (I use teacherease). This allows parents to check grades 24/7 and really comes in handy when it's time to average year-end grades!

LearnFromMe (author) on August 27, 2011:

Giselle Maine, I appreciate your comment as coming from a parent. You wouldn't believe how many times parents will argue about a child's grade. Unfortunately,I get more complaints from parents of children in the higher levels, especially when a child's grade dips slightly from an A to a B. I wish more parents out there were more concerned with the D's and F's! Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

Giselle Maine on August 27, 2011:

This is very helpful. Although I'm not a teacher, I'm a parent and this hub is actually very helpful for parents to understand the teacher's point of view. By the way you sound very organized and great. Although I was surprised to hear that some parents will argue with the teacher about the child's grade! That's crazy!

LearnFromMe (author) on August 11, 2011:

cardelean,you're so right about documenting everything! It really can help when things go awry. Thanks so much for commenting and sharing your experience!

cardelean from Michigan on August 06, 2011:

Wonderful tips for teachers to keep in mind and put into practice during the school year. I have my parents sign everything too. That way they cannot say that they didn't know. One other thing that I would add is document everything, not just when there is a problem. As much as you want things to stay positive and you try to stay ahead of the game, sometimes things get taken to another level. If you make a phone call home, good or bad, write it down. If you had a situation with students bullying others, write it down. I have had so many situations that have come back down the road that would have been so much more problematic if I had not documented things all along. Thanks so much for your informative hub.

LearnFromMe (author) on August 05, 2011:

K9keystrokes, I'm happy to see that you liked this hub and thought it contained good advice! Thanks so much for reading!

LearnFromMe (author) on August 05, 2011:

spitvalve, just finished student teaching? Congrats! It seems like the district you were in was aware of the importance of working with parents.I wish you the best of luck in the teaching field!

India Arnold from Northern, California on August 04, 2011:

"when you work with students, you work with their parents and guardians. It’s a package deal"

Very good advice for teachers (and parents)! I enjoyed your hub! It seems you have some wonderful knowledge to share. Looking forward to reading more.

Welcome to Hubpages!


spitvalve from Aubrey, Texas on August 04, 2011:

This is exactly the policy of the district where I just completed my student teaching. Thanks for the reminder.

LearnFromMe (author) on August 04, 2011:

KristenGrace, thanks for reading. It's so important not to back down on decisions; once parents recognize that you'll back down, they will try to get you to change your mind about everything. And yes, it is rewarding to see the children grow. :)

KristenGrace from Philadelphia, PA on August 04, 2011:

Great idea for a hub, and as a teacher, I agree with all of your main points. Even though it can be difficult, I especially agree with making sure you don't back down from your decisions. Parents really can be tough, but seeing the children grow is what is the true reward :)

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