Parents, Don’t Take It Personal When I Call Home

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By Andrew Pillow

Calling parents can either be the best part of a teacher’s day, or the worst part. Which-ever one it is, depends on both the parent and the reason for calling. I love making positive phone calls home. Nothing makes me feel like I picked the right job more than talking to a parent of a student who has struggled, and telling them their son or daughter has done something good. Hearing the tone in their voice change from apprehension to exuberance is absolutely the highlight of my day when I get it.

Conversely, calling home for a negative reason brings out the exact opposite emotions. Because contrary to popular believe, most teachers hate having to tell parents bad news. One of the main reasons for that is the fact some parents take bad news personally.  You never really understand the full gravity of the phrase “don’t shoot the messenger” until you tell a mother that her son is struggling with behavior and you get cussed out.

You have two main categories of phone call parents,  ones where parents see things the way you do and they address their child’s behavior or ones where parents  pushback and think it is your fault.

Now let me be frank: Teachers aren’t perfect. Sometimes what your child did in my class is my fault. Maybe I wasn’t playing close enough attention or following best practice. But most of the time, I’m doing my best and I just need you to cosign with me that it’s not okay for your child to throw his binders across the room. It’s just so much easier if we work together.

I do understand why parents get defensive and take things personally. Having a child is personal. In addition to that, we have all seen articles criticizing parents, in particular parents of color. Such unwarranted criticisms have probably taken their toll parents. It is probably easy for a parent to misconstrue feedback about thier child’s behavior as criticism of their parenting.

When I call home I am NOT:

  • Trying to tell you how to raise your child.
  • Saying you are a bad parent.
  • Telling you your child will never amount to nothing.
  • Giving up on your child.
  • Intentionally trying to get your child in trouble.

All I want to do is keep you aware of what is going on in the classroom and present a unified front to your student. I have no reason or desire to lie.

It also doesn’t mean I don’t like your child. As a matter of fact, it is way easier for me to not call home and not deal with the behavior and just let them fail. That sentiment is echoed by pretty much every teacher I know.

What does that mean for parents?

It’s means, when your child's teacher stops calling, that’s when you should be worried.

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.