When I moved from teaching public school to teaching at a charter, there was a definite learning curve for the amount of parent communication that was expected. When I taught at a public high school, I was lucky to have 10 parents attend an open house or meet the teacher event. It just didn’t happen. Middle school had a bit more attendance, but not much, at least in 8th grade which is what I taught. At my charter school? Well, that’s a whole different ball game.
My first year, I floundered. I was in reactive mode instead of being proactive. My school has a history of strong parent involvement that is encouraged at every level. We even have two days on which the students do not attend, but parents can sign up for 15 minutes conferences all day long. I was very surprised by that because it was something I had never experienced. After that first year, I made parent communication, and a way to document it, my number one priority.
Let me start off by saying that I am a very organized person. I’m kind of famous for it at my school. I even heard my principal once telling someone that I could accomplish more in an hour than anyone he knew. 🙂 That was an awesome thing to hear because I do pride myself on my ability to get stuff done. So I really needed to get this portion of my teaching responsibilities under control.
How I organize my parent communication binder
I began with a log for each student. It was copied front and back and each student had their own page. I organized them alphabetically by class period. So all of 1st period was together, etc.
Every time I contacted a parent, I would write down what kind of contact it was (phone, in person, email, Remind, mail, or sent with student). Then I wrote a short note about the content or reason for the contact. When I received a response from the parent, I then wrote down what they had said. If I had emailed that their student hadn’t turned in a project, and they emailed back that they would get with their student about it, I simply wrote, “mom is aware”. If they wanted a conference, I wrote that down along with the date and time of the conference once it was scheduled. If I had sent home a progress report to be signed, I would hole punch the report, put it behind the child’s log page, and note that it had been signed and returned.
This may seem very time intensive, but the truth is there were weeks I didn’t even touch that binder. If it was progress report time, or a project was due, then I might spend about 30 minutes a week logging all the contacts I had made. When we had parent conference days, I would file them after the conferences were over. If I was making phone calls, I usually wrote those contacts down as I went.
Part 2 of my system
The other part of this system is a parent conference log. For every parent conference, whether it was just me and the parent or our team and the parent, I wrote down everything we talked about and our plan of action. I then made a copy for every teacher present and one for the parent. I filed mine behind the child’s log page and notated the conference in the contacts. The parent conference record covers the following: parents present, teachers present, date and time, student’s name, parent concerns, teacher concerns, and a plan of action.
At the end of the year, I have usually filled a 3-inch binder with all of this information. For some students, I have filled the front and back of one sheet and had to add a second. Like I said, we are communication heavy at my school. But the great thing is that you know you have done everything you could to let that parent know what is going on with their kid. And if you have made every kind of contact and gotten no response, you have a record of that for yourself and your admin if you need it.
On a positive note…
One thing I have added to my communication arsenal this year is a positive postcard. I created it on Vistaprint, and you can get 100 cards for less than $20. On the front it said “Good news about your Griffin”. On the back I would write something positive that their student had done that I wanted them to know about. It could be that they had made the highest quiz grade in the class, or they didn’t have any zeros that week. Maybe they had shown kindness to a fellow student. There were all kinds of reasons that I could find to send out positives once I started looking for them. I made sure that I never said anything negative on those cards, even if something else was going on with that kid. these were only for shining moments. And the parents LOVED them! So did my admin 🙂
If you subscribe, I will send you both the parent communication log and the conference record FOR FREE!