Did you just search in your browser, “how to make a parent phone call”? I won’t tell anyone.
Sometimes, teachers call home with wonderful news. Sometimes, teachers don’t.
You must call a parent (guardian, adult) about a problem with their child. Even if you understand that communicating with parents is part of classroom management, your preference is not to call home. You’re scared it won’t go well, that nothing positive will happen. A parent might scream at you. You’re unsure, overall.
I’m not going to tell you that the phone call will be perfect. I’m going to provide considerations for before and after the phone call, and a few possible ways to proceed. Adapt all of this as necessary: every school and situation differs.
My biggest piece of advice is to put your mind in the right place: helping this student. That belief will (hopefully) convey your message in the way you intend.
Here are ideas for how to make a parent phone call.
Before the Phone Call
Decide what you want to cover; don’t simply pick up the phone. It might help to make a short list. I also develop mentally an overall message to accompany with the list.
For instance, a message I try to stress to parents is that their child can succeed, but the student needs help with a certain area. Keeping that message in mind, I might make a list that sandwiches the concern. It might look like:
Student strength: completes homework/ participates in class/ is polite.
Area for help: fallen behind in this area/ current grade reflects this/ talks excessively in class.
Possible solution: Be prepared to provide an idea and to adjust dependent upon what the parent suggests. An idea might be a focusing reminder (tapping on the desk, a slight signal from you).
That list helps me guide the telephone call.
Next, check names. Don’t assume last names. Double check if you are calling a parent or guardian, and be sure there is no special note about times to call (like if a parent works weird hours). If needed, ask the student’s counselor.
Finally, find a time to call. This might be during your prep period or before or after school.
During the Phone Call
I am straightforward and professional. Parents might be at work, and they are more than likely busy people. I always want to be aware of those situations.
Introduce yourself and ask for the parent/ guardian.
Cover your first point—a positive.
- Jo has great ideas when we brainstorm writing.
- Barron always offers to help me straighten books – he’s super helpful.
Introduce the issue.
- Jo is close to failing because she won’t finish writing her large papers.
- Barron talks with other students instead of working.
End the conversation with a possible solution:
- I’ve seen Jo understand the material, but she seems stuck writing body paragraphs. Perhaps she could come to class with a list of ideas for body paragraphs, and I will conference and guide her?
- I could move Barron, or if he wants to stay where he is, this could be his reminder that he and other students need to work.
Be ready to listen to concerns and alternatives to your plan. Often (but not always), parents are happy that you are being proactive and not waiting until grades come out—or an administrator calls.
After the Phone Call
I take notes during the phone call, but if you don’t have time, write down a general summary of what happened when it ends. Make a note of the plan of action. If you are to follow up with parents after an assignment is completed or in a certain amount of time, take note of that too.
Most administrators want to know about a parental/guardian problem before a parent calls. If the conflict still does not have a plan or if the phone call went poorly, tell your boss.
If the phone call went well and a solution is in sight, share that with the student’s counselor. That way, the counselor is aware of the problem (and might have more insight), and the student has another form of support.
Then, follow-up with the student and the plan. Start to implement the plan and document how it proceeds. If the parent asked for follow-up, you may need to call or email with progress.
A final idea
Your first time connecting parents should not be a problem phone call. When the school year begins, connect with parents with an email or letter. Show students your online learning platform, your rules and procedures, and your goals for working with their children. I typically convey that I am building a classroom full of literacy and stress that I want every child to succeed.
Introducing your parents at the start of the school year makes any subsequent phone call or email a bit easier.
A phone call to a parent can prove helpful and constructive for your class. Also remember that the how to make a parent phone call for problems is only one part of parent communication. You should also call parents with good news.