Anyway, in my first few years of teaching, I didn't spend much time focusing on parent communication. It's not that I didn't think it was important, but as a new teacher I was very overwhelmed with trying to master instruction, so I didn't think about all the other pieces that make for a great year. I definitely had a couple of those conferences that I now frown upon, where it was November and it was the first time I communicated with a parent. I definitely had some parents who weren't too happy with the idea that I had waited until then to communicate when their child was struggling. In my second year, I made sure to print monthly progress reports, and that was my way of communicating with parents more often. It took me a few more years to realize two things: #1: Parents want to hear from their child's teacher #2: They don't want you to only call when something bad has happened. So, in the past few years, I've been working on that, and making positive phone calls more often.
Last year, I decided to designate one day after school to call a few houses, usually a Thursday since I stay late that night trying to prep for the next week anyway. Well, at first the parents were a bit apprehensive, probably nervous that a phone call would mean something bad had happened. But after they knew it was a good phone call, they loved it! They were so thrilled to have a phone call that was a celebration instead!
This year I found this idea on The Mailbox:
Divide the inside of a file folder into boxes that are slightly larger than small sticky notes. Write students' names in the boxes in alphabetical order, one name per box. Whenever you want to make a note about a student's progress, jot the information on a sticky note and then place it in the appropriate box. Periodically move the sticky notes to students' assessment folders. You'll have valuable information at your fingertips when it's time to prepare report cards.
Since I'm always trying to get better at what I do, I decided to use this and let it be a part of my communication. I use two different color sticky notes: pink for concerns, green for outstanding actions. I also have a class roster that I use as a monthly checklist. I put a check next to a student's name once I have called that month, so that I call about 6 homes per week with positive praise and each student gets one positive call a month. I start my call with, "Hi Mrs. ___________, this is Mrs. Ostrander, _________'s teacher, and I'm calling with positive praise." I then go on to share with them any positive actions I have recorded that week. I do not report the concerns on this phone call. The concerns will be a part of my observations, and of course a lot of them will mean a separate phone call, but i make the positive phone calls only about positive actions. Parents really do love them and they make me feel good because I know I am having good communication with parents, my students will also know that I will be communicating parents with often (which helps with their behavior in class), and I'm also helping my students to be recognized at home. I'm now calling on Fridays because I think it's a great way for students to start the weekend. Already, my students are asking, "Who's getting the Friday Phone Calls?" They want a phone call home because they know it will result in praise from parents!
I know we already put a lot of hours in beyond the school day, but I do believe that this one is worth the time it takes. If you manage it the way I do, it should only take about 30 minutes a week and I guarantee when you're finished, you'll have a huge smile on your face knowing that you have happy students and parents!