I teach science at a public high school in Portland OR... what, as parents, do you expect for parent contact from your kid(s)'s teachers? I try to call home to parents as much as possible, and parents are really surprised to hear from me when I call just to check in or to tell them the kid is doing well. (They aren't so surprised for the few kids that I have to make bad calls home...) As parents, what contact would you like to have with your kid's teachers? Is it bothersome to get calls if it isn't about a problem?? Thank you!
I have to honestly say that I never heard from my children's teachers unless there was a problem. Hearing that they were doing great would have been a very pleasant surprise.
As for when I expected a call: I always was upfront with high school teachers that no matter what class we talked to our daughter about, she was excelling in it and turning in all her homework. I asked the teacher to call when she got behind, did poorly, or was not turning in homework on a regular basis. I also usually expected a call from my son's teachers when he was tardy so often he was about to head to ISS, or that he was talking too much (or playing cards, or playing phone tag... he was a bit of a nuisance).
So, I did not expect to hear from teachers unless there was a problem, but I certainly would not have been bothered if a teacher called to tell me my kid was doing well (or was working really hard, etc). What do you include in a just checking in call? Usually if I had questions about coursework or expectations, I called the teacher.
My kids are little (one in preschool, one in elementary), so I don't know what I would expect from a high school teacher.
I am a high school teacher, though, and the amount of contact you are doing sounds extraordinary to me. I don't hear from my kids' teachers anywhere near that often, and they are at an age where more contact tends to be expected because of smaller student loads (elem. teacher - 30 kids/day, my load - 140 kids/day: it's easier for the elementary teacher to make frequent contact with parents).
I think parent contact is great, and certainly, it's strongly encouraged in teacher training. In my experience, calling a parent when a student is doing well can be very powerful. Contact with parents also often helps when a student is struggling or having a behavior issue - either the parent can provide support or the parent response reveals that there is little support in the home and you need to connect the student with your institutional supports.
I would caution you to make sure that the contact aids your instructional and management goals. It concerns me a little when you say that you call parents to "just to check in." I would love that as a parent, but I have run into a number of parents who would wonder why you are calling them to check on their child's performance in YOUR class. They would assume that you should be able to observe that for yourself in class.
For comparison, I call parents:
- when a student's grade drops below passing and stays there for 10 school days - inform parent of grade, office hours, available assistance
- when a student is at risk of having an F on the mid-semester progress report - inform parent of grade, office hours, available assistance
- if a student has a D or F in the last three weeks of the semester - inform parent of grade, office hours, available assistance
- for serious disciplinary issues (plagiarism, major classroom disruptions, serial tardiness, inappropriate interactions with other students especially if I am concerned about bullying or potential future violence) - inform parent of incident and action taken
- if a student earns a grade that is substantially higher than their personal average on a test or major assignment - inform parent of situation and impact on overall grade, make sure parents are aware of student's efforts and their outcome.
- If a student earns a 100% on the first test of the semester (this is usually when I have the time to do it - I wish I could do this more often) - inform parent of situation and impact on overall grade, make sure parents are aware of student's efforts, results.
- if a student appears to have a major learning difficulty and I have not received an IEP or 504 plan - inform parent of problem, get name of case manager if there is one, start SST process if there is not.
- if the level of effort a student applies in class changes dramatically in any direction - inform parent of situation and impact on overall grade, encourage improvement, check for issues/risk factors in case of decline.
There should always be a clear purpose to your call. You should be able to accomplish that purpose in under three minutes (if the parent doesn't interrupt with a lengthy tale of woe). If the situation is complex and likely to take longer than 3-5 minutes for you to explain, ask your questions, inform the parent of your action/plan, and/or ask them to take action, it really calls for a face-to-face meeting.
Remember, the parent work day overlaps the entire teacher workday. Parents are often willing to take calls from a child's teacher when they won't take other personal calls, but they are taking time out of their work day to do so. For some populations of parents, doing this on a regular basis can have serious repercussions - but they don't want to tell you not to call, because they genuinely do care about their child's education.
My 10 yr old is homeschooled but I work in the school system. My son also takes some online classes. His online classes, even though the teacher provides a phone # all contact is via email and that is very minimal. The teachers in the school system contact parents for the reasons mentioned by STIK and many times those contacts are via email so there is a 'paper trail' of sorts.
As a parent,if my child was in school, I wouldnt really want the teachers just calling to 'check in'.
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I do wonder about the "check in" call, which is why I asked what you mean, OP. As a parent, if a teacher called me just to check in, I would wonder if you thought there was something I should or should not be doing on my end. If I have questions about curriculum or expectations, I would call the teacher. If the teacher wanted to discuss my child's performance or behavior, the teacher would call me. A check in call might seem invasive. How many students do you have? Calling all the parents if you teach even 4 classes a day seems like a lot of work for you!
As a parent, I wouldn't want to hear from a teacher unless there was a problem. I remember being in high school and being glad when I switched from the one where the teachers were "concerned" (one called home because she thought I didn't have any friends ) to the one where they didn't care as long as you didn't cause problems.
By checking in, I meant all of the things Stik listed. Checking in with the parents about grade changes, behavior issues, etc. I do like to make good calls, esp for students who have struggled. I just wonder if HS parents feel more like their kids should be taking responsibility for themselves- their behavior and grades- or if they want to be more involved. I keep my calls under 5 minutes, and also I email parents who requested this form of contact at parent-teacher conferences. The emails seem less intrusive.
In that case . . .
Yeah, there are always a handful of parents who profess to be completely befuddled by your reason for calling, even when it's for something that, to a teacher, seems like a DRAMATIC and OBVIOUS sign that parent contact needs to be made.
For good stuff, I kind of have a script:
"This is Ms. Stik, I'm your child's history teacher. Today in class, your kid . . . . I was so impressed with . . . . It really showed the effort your child has been putting into history class. I know students don't always communicate everything with their parents, and I wanted to make sure you heard about it."
And then I thank them for their time and terminate the call as quickly as possible. I do not enjoy cold-calling strangers.
I have found that, with the advent of online grade access, teacher contact has gone way down, especially in HS. It is assumed that you check the portal regularly and will initiate contact if there's a concern.
My kids' school has an e-system with most communication going via email. If my kid is ill, I email to abesence@domain-name-of-school. If I have a general worry or concern, I email to my kids' form tutor (in the US it would be "home room teacher". Or, if I have a particular worry or concern w/ a class, I can email the teacher concerned.
There is also a set-up for especially good news, when one of the kids earns a merit. Then the email comes w/ a subject line "merit" and there is a brief description of what the kid did to get it. Then there is "concern" - for example when once my eldest forgot the math textbook for the class, I got an email subject line "Concern" and then in the Body - "Concern - organization skills, [name of child] forgot to bring the textbook to class".
I think a certain number of concerns on the same issue then earn a demerit. But so far (touch wood!), my kids have never gotten those.
II have never been called at home by my kids teachers and calls at work are usually from the school nurse when there is a health issue (fever, vommitting, injury).
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