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Follow-Up: The Way I Keep Up With Parents

A commenter in my last blog felt that some of the work I did to be proactive might have felt like a little much. Conversely, sometimes I feel like I'm not doing enough. I have systems that work for me, but they're not as thorough as others I've seen. The key for a good system to work for me is efficiency. In other words, it's got to be in the flow of things I already do throughout the day.

1. Electronic grade books work.

For example, when I take attendance, I tend to use my electronic grade book (Engrade is my choice, though there's a plethora of other choices). The grade book allows me to log their grades and attendance with a few clicks, rather than the constant erasing and re-erasing I did with my old gradebook. The time it takes for roster changes gets minimized. Furthermore, and more importantly, teachers and students can log in and see where they stand in my class whenever they wish. Never do they have to worry about not knowing their grades because I've already given them the key to finding it out. For those students without Internet access, they can still ask me when they see me with my iPad or wait until a month into the marking period, when I give out paper versions of the progress report to that point (with a parent and student signature line, of course.)

2. Use both sides of the index card.

Logging parent calls gets a big trickier, but here's another trick: the front of the index card you gave to students to get their information can also be turned around and used for a parent call log. That way, when asked about calling parents (for commendations and recommendations please), you can just pull up the same card you used to call that parent and see when last you spoke to them. Also, if you have the incorrect information, you can change it on the spot and go from there.

3. Any time over three minutes merits a school visit.

Usually, my rule of thumb is simple: if your contact with a parent is going to be longer than three minutes, try to get the parent to set up a meeting with you in school. Some teachers think talking to a parent over the phone merits an extended conversation about issues that usually don't merit the length. Parents are people, too, and it's important to respect their time. If the parent seeks to speak for more than that, I oblige them. More often than not, parents work at their jobs or at home, and usually find phone calls about how bad their child is doing disheartening at best, reckless at worst. Instead, keep it to "I'm concerned about _____, please speak to your child about _____."

All in all, most parents just want to trust that their child is getting the best education possible. They tend to ask questions because they really want to know what's happening with their child and how best to affect that change. We all have ways to approach the tenets of parent-teacher relationships, but the guidelines remain the same. Stay one step ahead and the rest follows suit.

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