Behaviour: Why parents are your most important behaviour allies
Weekly updates from Tom Bennett with advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management
You won’t get far in teaching without calling home once in a while. Yet there are some teachers who would rather do an assembly for a month than pick up the phone and spread a little love, light and laughter into the family lives of their students. Of course, there are plenty of good reasons for this. Many teachers are, despite the somewhat obvious requirements of their job, quite shy about speaking to strangers. Other teachers don’t like to aggravate home situations, in case little Billy has to deal with a lot more than he normally does when he gets home. Then, there are teachers who struggle to make the calls without getting their ears righteously chewed off by even the most gentle of parents. I have seen and heard it happen. Phoning home can be a genuine trial with those parents who make it as difficult as possible for the school to get in touch without paying for it in grief.
Whatever your situation, here are three things to remember when calling home:
Start with a positive
I have rarely seen this fail. I don’t like setting scripts, but you could do a lot worse than to start off with something pleasant and general like, “Hi, Mrs G. This is Mr B. Sorry to disturb you. Have you got a minute to talk about Billy? Don’t worry, he’s fine.” Allay their fears to make the initial conversation one that places them at ease. They are not the enemy, but they might be the solution.
When you move on to the issue, frame it in a way that doesn’t come across as an attack
For example, “Billy can be a really nice pupil. When he tries he can produce some great work.” This could apply to ANYONE, so it is true. The parent will instantly realise you appreciate that his/her child is precious. Blazing in with “Billy is a little shit,” on the other hand, will turn their smiles upside down.
Finish off your prologue with “He has been letting himself down lately, and I need your help getting him back on track and learning
This frames the whole conversation in a way that suggests that Billy has got a future. You have still upheld what you want to say, and the fact that he’s done wrong, but the language (and tone, and register) helps to get the parent working with you, rather than against you.
And that is the goal of the whole thing. Don’t let ego, fear or laziness stop you calling home. The relationship with the parent is almost as important as the relationship with the child.
Tom Bennett is the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state schoolin Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletterson behaviour. Read more from Tom on our behaviour forum or on his blog or Twitter
His latest book, Teacher, is out this month, published by Continuum/ Bloomsbury
Related articles and resources
Recent ‘Top Tips’
More ‘Top Tips’
Relevant resources on TES