One of the downsides to teaching is when a student is getting a bad grade, especially when that student is capable, but is not turning in the work. When this happens, the best thing to do (after working with the student to fix it) is to keep the parent informed. It’s never good for a parent to see a bad grade for the first time on a report card. Even if that student always gets bad grades, parents don’t like surprises like that.
To avoid this problem, I’ve been sending home weekly progress reports for any student who has a C or lower in my class. They are to take it home, get it signed by a parent and bring it back the next day. That way, I can be sure the parent is aware of the problem. Some parents simply sign and return it, but some write questions or call me once they’ve seen it. This helps tremendously with the communication.
In order to keep track of who I have sent a progress report home with, I keep a chart in the classroom. We use these charts extensively (see my post about the All Done/Undone Club). In this case, I put the date I’m sending the progress report home at the top, then put a slash in the square for each student as I hand them the progress report.
When I get the progress report back, I complete the X with another slash. This allows me to see at a glance who hasn’t returned the progress report. This also lets me see which students are a concern over time. Some will have one progress report to take home during the marking period. Others have an X every week. It’s a quick way of collecting data on my students.
Each day, I check in with students who have not returned their progress report. If they have it, great, they’re marked off and we’re done. If they don’t, I have them call home right then and there to ask their parent to remind them at home to get it signed. I have a phone in my room which makes this process much easier.
By the end of the week (with a daily phone call from the child), any parent who hasn’t returned the progress report to me gets a phone call from me. I’ve found that occasionally, students don’t like to give bad news to their parents (shocking, right?). This lets me make sure the parent is aware of the grades and we can work together to fix the problem. It tends to be just one or two phone calls by the end of the week, so it’s not an overwhelming burden to make these calls.
I also keep the signed progress reports throughout the year as documentation. If, in the future, I am questioned about whether a parent was aware of their child’s work/grades/study habits, I can use the signed progress reports to demonstrate my efforts.
This has been a great help for me in my classroom. By keeping the parents in the loop, parent teacher conferences are not uncomfortable. Parents appreciate the information.
What do you do to communicate with parents?