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How to communicate with parents so they will listen.

Within the DfES Teaching Standard 8 - Fulfil wider professional responsibilities , the last bullet point says that teachers should " communicate effectively with parents with regard to pupils’ achievements and well-being".


I find this very interesting because very often teachers are instructed by leadership to make contact with parents whenever a child does something wrong in a classroom or outside it. There are some parents who will not go a week without a phone call or email seething with barely suppressed fury about some dreadful atrocity committed by their little darling. And parents are human too; after a while they may have had enough and stop reading the emails from the school with the subject line "Callum's behaviour in Geography" or responding to phone calls from the familiar school number.


But the government guidance does not say that we should be alerting them to something going wrong; it says that we should be communicating with regard to their achievements and well-being. In other words, what we are asked to do as a statutory requirement is to be Strictly Positive.


If you’re dreading Callum’s appearance in a lesson and rather hoping that today will be the day he is away, or having a session with the Behaviour Support Manager, or excluded, and he bursts into your classroom and then astonishes you by having a really good lesson with you, making some good contributions and completing all the work in his book, then notice and acknowledge your surprise.


At the next opportunity, break or lunch or after school, email Mum. Put in the title line “Great lesson in DT for Callum!” so that she doesn’t dismiss it as another detention email and delete it. It doesn’t need to be complicated: “Callum had a great lesson today. He volunteered usefully in class and got all his work done. Please pass on my congratulations.” And send. Or, even better, pick up the phone and call Callum’s mum. She will be wary when she hears that you’re calling from the school and then delighted when she realises you are calling with positive news. She may even cry on you; she may even cry when she congratulates Callum when he gets home. She will remember you and Callum will be grateful. You will feel good, she will feel good, Callum will feel good.


Whether or not you have the time or inclination to notice one great lesson from a student who is not always conscientious and email or call about it immediately, I would really suggest that you try and create a pattern of sending congratulations.


At the end of the day today, when you’re tidying your desk and getting ready to go to the pub, or to football, or home, or whatever your thing is on Friday, or any day, take a moment before logging off your school management system. Look through your registers and find three kids who have properly earned your praise today or earlier in the week. Maybe they volunteered when they usually don’t. Maybe they behaved better than normally. Maybe their book was excellent. Maybe they just tried really hard, even though they didn’t succeed. Then pick up the phone and call home (or email, if you don’t like the phone). Tell Mum, or Dad, or foster parent, or Granny and ask them to pass on your congratulations. They will be overcome with gratitude, because most of the time they don’t get calls with good news. They will make you feel really good and you will leave the premises with a little spring in your step.


And next time the kid arrives in your classroom, you can say conspiratorially, “Did your Mum say I called?” and you will share a very small private smile, and that student will do their very best in the lesson.


And if later something does go wrong, and you need to share some bad news with Callum's mum, she's much more prepared to listen and help you to manage Callum's behaviour in your class.


Win win. And it takes about a minute.