Newbie, phone home!

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Details, details, details. Whether new or experienced, teachers are drowning in details by the end of their first week. Meetings and email demands eat up time voraciously, even as teachers try to establish class routines and get to know their students. Parent calls can wait a few weeks, but I am going to recommend that new teachers specifically put parent calls on their calendars somewhere around three weeks to a month into the school year.

By the end of the first month, you will know who regards homework as optional, who customarily comes late to class and who does not understand the math or English or whatever you teach. If you are not sure whether your students understand class material, you need to assess more — more classwork, quizzes, and exit slips can fill in the informational gaps. Call home. Parents can be a teacher’s best allies. (They can also be vexatious blatherskites, but no best teaching efforts exist without attempts to enlist parents in fixing problems.) Parents can see that homework gets done. They can ensure that a kid studies for the science test. The very fact that you are known for calling home will make your classroom more productive.

Proactive calls can be especially helpful. When Josie’s grades start slipping, a phone call may help. When Roberto begins to seem sad and confused, a phone call may start the process of finding help for Roberto. If nothing else, phone calls ensure that parents will not be clobbered by an unexpected academic decline or disaster. You never want to have to answer the question, “Why didn’t someone warn me that she was failing?”

Eduhonesty: Sometimes the many, many details of daily teaching life push parent calls onto the backburner. Putting those calls specifically into the calendar helps make sure that parents get called. I recommend trying to call every parent that you have not seen early in the school year, regardless of student performance. If Roberto has been doing great, his parents will be happy to hear that. Positive calls also set up a relationship that will make any future negative calls much easier.

P.S. I confess I always struggled with this, but try to keep your phone log up-to-date. Administration will want you to log calls, recording who you spoke with and the gist of the conversation. Don’t say, “I’ll write it down later.” Later doesn’t always come.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You will want to be careful with your personal phone numbers. I recommend using the school phone. I did pass out my personal number to various parents last year and I have been known to use personal numbers to make unblocked calls, but teachers have ended up being prank-called and harassed when they made unblocked calls from home. You can push *67 to block your number in some cases. I’d test that block before I called, though. Passing out your number’s not a good idea.