Getting the word out to all parents can come in many forms. Some teachers choose to Tweet classroom updates, while others use a texting service like www.remind.com. Whatever you choose to do to contact all of your parents, should be consistent, and you should be sure to only use it when contacting the whole group.
When you need to address an issue/concern with a parent directly, there are a number of ways to go about doing it. Whatever way you decide to use, make sure you document everything. Document every attempted call, every agenda note, every email you send (and don’t forget to CC your admin when you do contact them through email!). Documentation can become very important if a parent comes to the school upset that something caught them off guard, or claims that they were never informed. Having your documentation can protect you. Record dates, times, type of communication, and the reason for the communication. If you get in touch, record the outcome of the interaction as well. If you are doing this digitally, try not to use full names (instead of saying, “Contacted Lisa Taylor to discuss issues with her son Andrew Taylor….” you may want to code it as, “Contacted L. Taylor to discuss issues with her son AT.”). This just adds a level of security. If you are keeping these files in paper format, make sure you store them securely, as you may be recording the details of sensitive conversations.
So how do you actually make contact? There are several ways you can go:
Agenda Message – don’t include details of a concern/incident in the agenda, as they can often get left on the school bus, or read by other students. Just put a message that requests that the parent either contact you to discuss, or give some dates of when they can meet/when they are available to receive your call.
Phone Message – if you call and get the parent, great! Discuss away. If you get a voicemail system, if it clearly states the family name and you are 100% confident you have dialed the correct number and this is that family’s answering machine, you should still consider only identifying yourself and asking if the parent can call you, or send a message in the Agenda of times that would be good to meet/call. Do not leave details of a concern or situation on the voicemail system, as you don’t know who will listen to it, nor do you know if someone else might overhear it. You also do not want your own voice recorded, sharing information about a student, as this could put you in some hot water. Just ask the parent to call back. If the “concern” is to remember to bring a permission slip, or a forgotten library book, these messages can be left on a machine.
Email – if you decide to email a parent, treat it like a digital Agenda, and just request times for a meeting, or phone call. Do not use names in the communication (i.e., “can you let me know when you are available to chat about A’s progress at school?”), on the off chance that you have mistyped the email address. Also, always CC your principal, both to keep them in the loop, and so that there is a 3rd participant in the conversation. This is more about protection for yourself. If a parent is upset about something, they may try to take email comments out of context. If the admin has been included in the conversation all along, they will be able to defend your choices, and support you without any difficulty.
In-Person – this is always the best way to do it. Body language, tone, expression, some or all of these things are lost in the other forms of communication. If at all possible, try to just use the other 3 types to get to an in-person meeting.
Don’t forget, no matter how you communicate, make sure you document everything. Everyone is different in how they keep that information, but the most important thing, is making sure you are keeping track of the communication with as much detail as you can. These notes not only help you to remember what was discussed/decided, but they also may help you if there is a dispute or concern.