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‘Three Top Tips from Tom’ will be updated weekly with the best advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management.

Tom Bennett is the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state school in Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletters on behaviour. Tom is the author of The Behaviour Guru, a specialised behaviour guide which includes content from the TES forums.

Talking to Parents

Too many teachers view parents with a combination of fear and loathing, as if they were somehow the enemy. On hand, if a teacher is dealing with a particularly vile strain of student, it’s an easy miscalculation to make: we’re all the product of our seed and soil, and if you’re dealing with a weed then why not infer the hand of an inconstant gardener? But that’s a dangerous avenue to take; sure, some parents need to have a word with themselves, but so do some teachers. The vast majority of parents want exactly what you want- the educational well-being of the child. That IS what you want, isn’t it? You may differ in the details, but you share common ground. So here are three things to think about when it comes to home partnerships (or whatever fabulous misnomer we’re invited to describe it as this month. I think last week they were ‘genetic stakeholders’ or something equally ghastly).

1. They are part of your solution, not the problem.

Some teachers speak to parents as if they were a cross between a vile inconvenience and someone who owes them money. ‘Your child has been disgusting!’ they thunder over the phone. The parent instantly clenches in defensive irritation, battle lines are drawn, and all of a sudden, it’s personal. ‘Are you that rubbish teacher my little Kyle-Tinchy-Mae has told me all about?’ For God’s sake, talk to adults like human beings, and they’ll probably do the same. Start with ‘Little Beyonce is normally excellent- but she’s let herself down and I need your help to get her back on track….’ etc.

2. For better , for worse.

Some parents only hear from the school when their little dumpling has been caught with fireworks, pornography and tobacco in their pencil case. How often do we contact home to say that things are going well, or have improved, or even something brilliant has happened- an exceptional piece of homework, a target met, a good deed performed. I know that we don’t have much by way of spare time (remember that?) but I guarantee that if you phone home in the good times, when it comes to the bad times, you’ll have an emotional bank account ready.

3. Talk to them before you need them.

This is connected to the previous point: if you take over a new form class, or any class at all, then take some time to call home and introduce yourself to some of the families. These children don’t spring from nothingness; they have an origin, and a history, and a family. Talk to the families; ask them if you need to know anything special about the student that will help you deal with them. Of course, speak to your Head of Year, Head of Learning, Transition Manager etc to find out if there are things that the school already knows- so you don’t look like an idiot- but this is one of the most valuable calls you can make. Try it; you might be surprised how an ounce of proactivity can stave off a world of pain, later on.


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