Math = Love: Improving Parent Contact

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Improving Parent Contact

Every year, I tell myself that I'm going to do a better job of staying in contact with parents.  And, every year, I seem to fail at accomplishing that goal.  You see, I have this fear of talking on the phone.  No, that's not quite accurate.  I have no problem talking on the phone.  I have a fear, though, of calling people on the phone.  If I can text you, e-mail you, write you a letter, or send you smoke signals, I will do that before I pick up the phone.  Calling people is just scary.  

What if I accidentally dial the wrong number?  What if I call at an inconvenient time?  What if I call someone at work and they get in trouble with their boss?  When I'm faced with making a call, I will sometimes sit and think about all the things that could go wrong for minutes.  Minutes.  Finally, I type the number into my phone.  And, I sit there and stress some more.  Finally, I force myself to hit the call button because then there's no turning back.

And, almost always, it all works out fine.  Then, I start to wonder why I was even so stressed in the first place.  Even when I'm calling about something that's less than positive, parents always seem grateful that I've called.  I tell myself I won't stress out so much the next time, but I still do.

This year, I've decided to do something about this.

Behold, the parent info sheet that I'll be sending home with students with their syllabus.

We have parent contact information available in our student information system, but I want different details than that provides me.

The first part is all pretty normal stuff.  I want to know from parents what the BEST way to contact them is.  If they never check their e-mail address, it doesn't do me any good to send them an e-mail.  Also, asking for the best time to call them helps calm some of my fears of inconveniencing them.

This next part is what I'm most excited about.  I want to know WHEN parents/guardians want me to contact them.  If I know that someone wants to be contacted, I should hopefully be less scared about actually making that contact.  Plus, I think it will be informative to see which circles a parent checks.

Then, I want to give parents/guardians a space to let me know anything else they feel is pertinent about their student.  Since students will be returning these, I am giving them the option to contact me via school phone or e-mail to discuss.  

The back of the information sheet has some other stuff I need to get out of the way: proof of reading the syllabus and permission slip for my grad school project.


I am SOOOOO ready to have this grad school project and my master's degree done!  I'm currently scheduled to finish in March!  


I guess there is always the concern that students will fill this out instead of their parents.  But, I'm not sure there is anything I can do about that.  When I do call parents, I think it will be very clear if they have read the syllabus and understand my class policies.  If they are unaware of what is going on, we can discuss the possibility that their student forged their signature.  I really, really, really hope I don't have to deal with this.

Want to modify this to use in your own classroom?  I've uploaded the Publisher file here.  You'll need to download the free font, ChunkFive Roman.


22 comments:

  1. This looks like a really awesome idea! I too hate phone calls... I definitely prefer email because I don't feel like I am bothering them and they can check it at their convenience. This is a great way to make you feel more at ease when contacting parents and I love that you asked what they would like to be contacted about! I have some parents who want constant updates and some parents who don't want to hear from me unless their child is failing!

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    1. Glad I'm not the only one who hates phone calls!

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  2. I also understand what you are saying about phone calls. Supposedly, even Alexander Graham Bell wouldn't tolerate having a phone in his house!

    Some thoughts about your form:
    (0) I always like to include a fun mathematical tidbit with these types of communications. It is one little way of saying "I'm a mathematician/math teacher" rather than just an administrator.
    (1) only negative points are listed as reasons for you to contact them
    (2) Do you have a prior reason to think one of the remediation methods is more effective than the other? If so, as a parent, I would object to having my child in the "wrong" group. of course, that will bias your sample . . .
    (3) how old are your students? If they are high school students, I would prefer to put them at the center of taking responsibility, for example, *they* should be the ones to read the syllabus, *they* should be involved in finding solutions if there are problems, possibly including coordinating a conversation between the three sides (teacher, student, parents), etc
    (4) what if the parents don't check any of your circles to contact them?

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    1. I teach high school. Last year, I received multiple phone calls from parents not understanding the grading system. This is why they are signing off on the syllabus.

      Both remediation methods are ways I've taught this topic in the past. I want to believe that the method using manipulatives is going to prove to be more effective, but I have no clue. This, however, is a topic they should have learned in 6th or 7th grade. My research project requires me to place students randomly in two groups.

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  3. Great idea! I email parents much more than I call because I almost always get voice mail if I call. Plus, I feel like email allows parents to choose to read it and respond at a time that's convenient for them. I do call when something is urgent, though. (As a parent, I prefer email from my kids' teachers unless it's an emergency - when the phone rings and I see it's school, I tend to go into Mom Panic Mode - who threw up, who is hurt, etc!)

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  4. I'm with you on emailing over calling. Especially since I'm never alone in my classroom to make any calls in the first place. I've sent home a similar form to parents to fill out for a few years. The one thing that bugs me about it though is when they say that the best time to reach them is later a night when I won't be at school. How do they expect me to call them so late? Calling & emailing parents is the one type of work that I don't take home.

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  5. Great idea!

    One question: Why haven't you included any positive reasons to contact the parents? Like "Contact me if my student has done something that would make me proud?". I'd love to get a phone call like that.

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    1. I'm hoping to make these calls spontaneously, not because parents asked for them. But, I can see some teachers adding this as an option!

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  6. I love that parents can choose when to be contacted! That takes all the guesswork out of deciding when to make that call! Why have I never thought of this?!?

    One question, though. How do you plan to keep track of each parent's responses? I'm trying to figure out how to easily know which parent wants to be contacted at 85%, which one at 80%, which at one quiz, which at two... I feel like I would have a hard time keeping up!

    Awesome idea. I plan to steal it in some form!

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    1. I haven't really figured this out yet... I'm thinking a spreadsheet of names. And, I'll check once a week to see who I need to call.

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  7. I love your form! I will definitely share this with a woman I mentor.

    I've got a good balance (I think) of calls and emails. I prefer email for all the reasons listed but also because it documents the conversation word for word (that being said I re-read emails a few times before I sent them). I contact parents via phone for urgent stuff (cut class, significant change in behavior or performance, etc).

    We have to document all contact for our yearly evaluations so I have created an excel spreadsheet to do this. A bit of a pain to complete but it definitely opened my eyes to how much contact I made. (we are required to make a minimum of 10 individual contact with 10 different parents each month - so If I talk to "mrs smith" twice in September it only counts once - but if I talk to her in October that counts as a separate one). Ultimately I do on average about 20 or so per month but that is phone or email. And via our grading program (powerschool) I can send email blast out to all the parents in one class about upcoming stuff.

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    1. Wow! My school doesn't have any program like this!

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  8. Thanks for sharing! I agree with the above posters that it would be a good idea to add positive events to the list as well. How about, "Student has been particularly proactive about seeking help outside of class?"

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  9. I prefer other forms of communication than phone calls, and with 4 preps and almost 150 students I can't afford the time to make that many phone calls let alone keep track of when parents want me to call. They should call me and I will call them back if they have questions. I'm getting better at returning phone calls, but still. More power to you if you can keep this up.

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    1. I prefer e-mails, but the majority of our parents don't have e-mail accounts. :(

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  10. So I'm getting ready for the new school year and looking through your past blogs. I really like your parent contact form, but I don't want to have to sort through the papers to remember who wants what. I'm thinking of putting this into a google form and including the link in the syllabus for parents. The form should input it into an excel spreadsheet where you can easily look up what each student's parents prefer. It would also be a good place to have all contact info stored together. I'm hoping most of my parents will complete the online form, but I guess I'll send one home with students who don't have one completed. (If it is just a few, maybe I can just input their answers myself)

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  11. I was thinking of making a Google form as well! I think a qr code at back to school night with a link to the form would be great too!

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