In Part I of, “E.T. Phone Home=Every Teacher Phone Home”, mentors and teachers were given the strategies and benefits for calling home early in the school year with good news to brag upon him or her. However, sometimes you have to call home with bad news.
One of the reasons why making these initial positive phone calls early in the year is because it creates a ‘cushion’ if later on in the year you have to call back with bad news. Regardless of what that bad news might be, most parents will remember that you called earlier in the year to brag upon said child, and therefore, you are not ‘out to get them’ now.
This is the key: When you call home, you call home worried. You do not call home angry. Calling home angry puts everyone on the defensive and tends to lead to no helpful solutions; however, if you call home worried (and not fake worried but really worried….), it becomes clear to the parent that while there may be a problem, there is also a solution and you want to do whatever it takes to find that solution. It reinforces the concept that it is OK to have a problem as long as everyone is willing to problem solve.
If you have to call home with really bad news (i.e. their child plagiarized an assignment), confront the child first with sound evidence (a copy from a book or website) and make it clear that you will be calling home. Then, find out when a parent will arrive home and promise not to call until a significant time (a few hours) after that. Advise the student to tell his parents himself, and explain that all consequences will be easier on him if his parents hear it from him first before they hear it from you. This promotes a student taking responsibility for his own actions, and it makes your phone call much easier because the bad news is expected. Then, while you may already have consequences in mind, talk with the parents about how severe some consequences could be, then promote your ideas which will allow their child to have a chance at redemption in some way. Most parents will be grateful that you are allowing their child to rectify their mistake, if only to a certain degree. For example, if a child plagiarizes on a poetry project, instead of automatically flunking the whole project, they can earn back 50% to 75% of the points by doing a research paper on plagiarism. They don’t come away spotless, but they work to learn their lesson in a logical way.
Part III of “E.T. Phone Home=Every Teacher Phone Home” will address the final two pieces of advice regarding making parent phone calls: phone logs and timing. Phone logs deal with documenting your parent phone calls, and the timing strategy is an easy trick to shortening potentially ill-needed long phone calls.