“Did you hear the good news?”
Calling families to share positive feedback about their student is a great way to start a relationship with them. Are you calling with good news on a regular basis? If not, here are some tips to help you create your own strategy for revving up your calls.
Why Positive School-Home Communication Makes a Difference
If you work in education, you know that some families only hear from the school when the news is not so good.
Homework wasn’t turned in.
Behavioral strategies aren’t working.
An absence last month was never excused.
Is everything okay at home?
Even a well-intended phone call from a teacher or administrator can feel like an insult––or, even worse––an accusation that your child or your family is somehow not enough.
Kids need positive reinforcement, and families do too. It’s a great idea to make a point of reaching out when students and families are on the right track. Families deserve to know when they are doing things right.
Is a student doing something good right now? It may be something as simple as seeing improvement in the student by staying awake or sitting in their seat for an entire class period. When you see a child doing their best, call their family right then and there. Brag about the student and watch that child glow for the rest of the day.
Set a goal for yourself. Could you call two of your students’ families this week? Maybe you can even call one family per day! Take a minute during class to note some positive comments or snap a photo that you can later share in a call—or even in a text or email.
Tips for Meaningful Communication
Here are some tips to help you make positive school-home communications a part of your day, every day.
Pick a student with whom you have had limited family contact. Before you call, you ask the student a few questions about their home life.
Who lives at home with you?
- Knowing that a student lives with a single parent or with multiple siblings can give you insights into their personality or mood that day.
What days do you go from one parent’s house to the other?
- A positive call from a teacher to a custodial parent on transition day may make that evening better for the child.
Do you ride the bus, or does someone pick you up at school?
- If the student spends several hours after school with another caregiver, such as a grandparent, their relationship with the child may be as influential––or more influential––than the parents’.
Now, think about students whose families may have gotten more than their fair share of negative calls from the school and ask yourself:
Do you have to deliver bad news? If you do, sandwich the negative information between two compliments. Try something like this:
- “Brianna has a really great attitude. I wanted to make sure that you knew she had a very low score on her midterm test. However, I believe in her ability to raise her overall grade because I know how hard she is working.”
Is the student with the most discipline infractions also a talented artist?
- Let the families know about the things the student regularly does well on and seems to really enjoy.
Is a hardworking student struggling academically?
- A little nudge thanking families for instilling a great work ethic in their child may give that student inspiration to keep at it.
Each child is special in their own way. Yet, some require more attention than others. There are always a few students who fly under the radar because they don’t need a lot of redirection or attract a lot of praise. Don’t forget that those families would also love to hear about their child’s success.
Is one of those students being kind to a student who is going through a difficult time?
- Compliment the family on how supportive they have been.
Did one of your “B” students pick out a surprisingly difficult book to read?
- Let their family know that you recognize an exciting curiosity in them you haven’t seen before.
Do you see interest in a new activity from a student who typically coasts through school?
- Let families know that you would gladly encourage the student and help them turn their child’s interest into action!
Finally, dedicate some time to those “perfect” kids who seem to have it all together. When it comes to school-home communication, students who are doing well in school can get lost in the shuffle.
Who are your top five GPA students?
- Place calls to families telling them that their students are top of the class. Share how you appreciate their hard work, leadership, and attention to detail.
Do you have a student who has never had a discipline incident?
- Let families know how exceptional that is.
Is the student with perfect attendance also especially compassionate or cheerful?
- Tell families that the student’s positive attitude is valued daily in your classroom.
Families Want to Hear From You
Families do want to communicate with teachers. Still, many are reluctant to answer the phone these days. Maybe they are working. Maybe they are sleeping because they work different hours. They may think the call is a telemarketer––or a bill collector––when they don’t recognize the number.
Start by texting them first. Introduce yourself. Then, ask them to save you as a contact so they will recognize your number when you call next time.
If you don’t hear back, ask the student to text their family with a “heads up” message, and then follow with a message from you immediately after. If that doesn’t work, try emailing them. If all else fails, write the good news in a note and pin it to the student’s shirt!
Keep Track of Your Communication History
Having positive contact with families can be fun and rewarding for everyone. It feels great to tell someone that they—and their child—are impacting the world in a positive way. Keep a record of the calls that you are making and celebrate your own accomplishments, too!
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