Positive Parent Contact Logs - An invaluable addition to the Teacher's Toolbox
by Chuck Brickman
Relationship building is an essential element for student success; not only between teacher and student but between the teacher and the student's parents or guardians as well. An important aspect of the relationship building process is positive and effective communication and support.
Many us remember the days when the only time that our teachers or school administrators would call home was when there was bad news. I was never sure who dreaded those calls more; the students or parents. No parent relishes hearing about how poorly their son or daughter is doing in math, or about the behavior problems exhibited by their son or daughter in your class. Perhaps we have conditioned (and alienated) parents to believe that whenever the teacher calls it will be with bad news. Is it any wonder that oftentimes we first must overcome initial defensiveness by parents before we can begin to constructively discuss challenges to student success? Might our approach in the past been part of the problem?
A proactive approach to parent/guardian relationship building and subsequent support is the use of a Positive Parent Contact Log (PPCL). Begin by assembling a few positive thoughts about each student. Keep in mind that your thoughts need not be limited to strictly academic performance - perhaps the student is always energetic, always polite, or always comes to class with paper and pencil. There are a multitude of options. Next, prepare a short introduction. I write my introductions down (leaving the space for the student's name blank) beforehand. This step helps me to cover all the bases in my call in an efficient manner. Be brief. The goal of your call is to share with the parent/guardian a positive note regarding his/her child - do not include problem areas or shortcomings (I know how hard this may be at times). Discussions about student weaknesses may be addressed at a later date. Remember, your goal is to establish positive parent contact and set up a framework for future team efforts. After your initial introduction and comments you'll want to listen attentively to what the parent/guardian shares about the student and/or information impacting student readiness. Next step - call the parent or guardian with the good news!
When I first started teaching I began to place my positive parent calls at the end of the first six-weeks. I quickly learned the benefits of placing the calls shortly after the first two weeks of school and within the first two weeks of each grading period. I found that the earlier I contacted parents/guardians the sooner I benefited from improved classroom cooperation and student performance.
Based on my experience, without exception, the calls were well received and greatly aided student and parent/guardian relationships. In the vast majority of cases the parent or guardian would specifically comment on how happy they were to get the positive feedback and mention that usually whenever the "school" called it was because of problems at school. One of the primary benefits of the call is that parents/guardians oftentimes share important information about their child with you that if not for the phone call, you would have never known. This information not only aids in meeting the needs of the student but also helps in establishing a bond between parent/guardian and teacher. This bond facilitates a team approach in addressing students problems and goal achievement.
The Positive Parent Contact Log has greatly changed parent-teacher dynamics for me and has increased parental contact and support throughout the school year. It's a must for the proactive teacher's "toolbox."
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