By Melissa Suckow, AmeriCorps member serving on the Sun Life Financial team at Mattahunt Elementary School
So often when the phone rings and parents see it’s the school calling, they think, “What has my student done wrong?” But as adults invested in supporting young students, it’s important to let families know how their students are improving and growing, too! Positive calls to parents are an important part of building a community of support for the students we serve.
It’s not always easy to know what to say when calling home about a student. Here are my five best tips for engaging parents and guardians in a meaningful dialogue about their student.
Do you know exactly what you are going to say? Having organized ideas to glance at while you are on the phone can help you reference information and keep the conversation on-track.Plan your key points in advance. I find it helpful to write them down so you don’t forget while chatting. Notes scribbled on a scrap piece of paper can make all the difference.
Who are you? Make sure to introduce yourself. Say your name and that you’re an AmeriCorps member serving with City Year at their student’s school.
Who are you calling? Addressing whomever you are calling by name is a quick and meaningful way to gain respect and lets the parent or guardian know you are advocating for the student’s best interest.
Mention the Specifics
Why are you calling? If you are calling to make a parent or guardian aware of his or her student’s positive behaviors, really describe what happened. Instead of simply saying Marc* followed directions in class today, disclose where, when, why, and how Marc followed directions. For example, you could say, “It is part of our classroom culture that we raise our hands before we get out of our seats. During math class, Marc has a tendency pop up out of his seat to get a pencil, or get math blocks. However, the last three days, Marc has raised his hand and asked permission. Marc is a leader in our class. When the other students saw Marc raise his hand, they wanted to follow his example and raise their hands too.”
The parent will be able to truly visualize what their student is doing well. Also, this level of specificity is a way to demonstrate that you genuinely care about the student. If you are making a positive attendance phone call, use data. If you are calling because Ashley* was in school and on time for the past two weeks, reveal the number of days, or calculate how much total learning time she gained. Details and numbers can make an impact and leave a huge impression.
A positive phone call should sound like a positive phone call! To make sure I am mentally in a responsive place, I think of a happy memory to shift my energy to be more positive before dialing the number. When on the phone, I keep this memory in the back of my mind to ensure that my tone remains positive throughout the entire phone call.
PITW #50: Never Lose the Human Aspect of What We Are Doing
When it all boils down, you and the parent or guardian of the student both want to support the student’s learning. Not every phone call is going to be perfect for you or the parent. If you make a mistake or awkwardly pause in the middle of a sentence, the parent will understand. We’re all humans, after all.