TME Podcast Season 4, Ep. 11: Parent Communication Techniques
Description: All educators are tasked with communicating with parents at one point or another. Being in sync with your workflow and knowing the appropriate reasons for contacting parents helps the effectiveness of helping foster a child’s development.
Reasons for Contacting Parents
To help steer your script or communication in a way that assists you in staying calm, courteous and in control try some of these useful phrases that Feldman and Contzius have accumulated.
“I want what is best for your child”
“How may I help?”
“Is there anything I can do at school to help your child?"
“I have been frustrated by…”
“It is important that…”
“I am concerned with…”
“Suzi is not progressing”
“Billy would benefit from…”
“Carol needs to take more responsibility for...”
If a student disrupts the class, consider using the following phrases:
“Timmy needs to follow directions in class.”
“John initiates discussion around him when he should be listening to instructions.”
“She creates a class distractions by…”
If the student shows improvement, consider using the following phrases:
“Tommy has shown consistent progress since the beginning of the marking period.”
“Sam has been showing more self-confidence.”
If a student is doing exceptionally well, consider using the following phrases:
“Alexis is a pleasure to have in class.”
“Brian is excited to be in Band.”
“Blake has worked well in collaborative groups.”
If a student has attendance issues, consider the following phrase:
“Maria’s excessive absences are limiting her progress and that of her section and of the orchestra.”
Scripting the Phone Call
The following is a sample script you can modify to have as a positive and/or constructive experience with a student’s parent.
First state your name, position, and what school you are teaching at.
“Hello, this is Mr. Stevens, the band director at Mustang Middle School.”
Next, ask for the student’s parent by their last name. Note, some parents have different last names.
“May I please speak to either Mr. Martinez or Mrs. Cruz-Martinez?”
If someone other than the parents had initially answered the phone, be sure to reintroduce yourself once the parent picks up. Begin the conversation in a positive and non-controversial manner
“I am calling you to share a situation we are having with Jennifer in chorus class. I am confident there is something we can do together to get her on the right track.”
Present the situation occurring in the class and describe the specific behavior being demonstrated by the child.
“Howard has forgotten his trombone 5 times over the past two weeks.”
Clearly explain how this behavior hampers his progress in class.
“Every time Howard comes into band without his instrument, he is unable to participate. If this continues, he will fall further and further behind which will ultimately affect his grade and ability to be successful in band.
Clearly explain what behaviors are expected from all students in your class. Make it a point that you are not signaling out their child.
“Students are expected to bring their instruments to class each and every day.”
Next, wait and let the parent respond. This is particularly important even if you don’t agree with what the parent is saying. Only try to redirect the parent if they repeat and ramble on in an off-task manner. Again, be sure to redirect the parent in a polite way as to get the conversation moving in a constructive manner.
“I certainly appreciate your concerns, Mrs. Martinez, but for the purpose of this specific call, let’s stay on the issue regarding Howard’s instrument.”
Regarding main points, restate or paraphrase what the parent has said. This shows that you were listening and gives you an opportunity to confirm that your understanding of what was said is accurate.
“What I hear you saying is that Howard is having a hard time remembering to bring his instrument to school because he cannot find it when he is catching the bus in the morning?"
Brainstorm solutions: Start by offering a concrete solution suggestion to help improve the situation. Next, invite the parents to share their recommendations.
“A great idea that works for many students is to have Howard place his trombone at the front door before he goes to bed at night. This way he cannot forget where the trombone is before he catches the bus in the morning."
Support the parent by asking if there is anything that you can do to help their child in your class.
Provide the parents your contact information so that they may touch base with you if they have any other future questions.
“Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. My phone number is 1-777-123-4567.”
End the conversation in a respectful manner.
“Thank you for your time. Have a great evening.”
Meeting Parents Face-To-Face
Feldman and Contzius also recommend avoiding these negative communication tactics.
Accusing the parent
Lecturing the parent
Using the phase: “Your child” and “you"
Acting disrespectfully and losing composure
Inappropriately interrupting the parent
Remember if a parent feels that they are getting attacked they will tend to shut down. As a result, the following may occur:
The parent may not support your or help improve the situation
The parent may complain to other parents or your bosses
The parent may get offended and start to verbally attack you
Educational emails should maintain a sense of formality and include the following strategies according to Feldman and Contzius:
Always include a salutation or greeting at the beginning of an email.
Include a comma after the initial greeting.
Structure the email in descending order of formality.
If you are writing an email that goes back and forth between you and a colleague, it is okay to omit the greeting after the first email.
Always use a concise subject heading. These could include:
Subject: After School Rehearsal
Subject: Reminder’s About Field Trip
Subject: Rehearsal Schedule
Absolutely be sure to NOT USE the following:
Hard to read fonts
Short script (for example: R U & LOL)
Background patterns which make emails hard to read
Avoid using Reply-All
Proofread emails before your press “SEND”
Always remain courteous and polite
Keep school related topics relevant and avoid personal information
Do not “friend” or instant message students on your personal social networks.
Keep a Parent Communication Log
Possible items you may want to record in a parent contact log may include:
Time in the day
Parent/ guardian’s names
Parent/ guardian’s phone number/email
And a brief summary of what was discussed
Mass Parent Communication
This is easy to do however, do not be afraid of trying several communication tactics.
Mass communication through email.
Mass communication through Phone Trees.
Mass communication through Websites and the school’s LMS.
Additional mass communication methods include the use of calendars, newsletters, robo calls, blogs, apps (like the remind app) and many more that are being invented at an exponential rate.
Feldman, E., Contzius, A., Lutch, M., Bugaj, K., & Battisti, F. L. (2021). Instrumental music education: teaching with the musical and practical in harmony. Routledge.