Why? Let’s be frank, it’s usually because I don’t particularly care to talk to you. This holds true in social relationships and it holds true in parent- teacher communication. We simply don’t want to talk.
There is, however, a significant difference. While I might find it burdensome to convey my thoughts and feelings to others (a guy issue) I really do want to talk to my students’ parents as parent involvement enhances the child’s chances for success. How many times do we sit red faced when scolded, either as teachers or administrators, for not letting the parents know immediately that their children were struggling. We wish we had communicated and had somehow sent multiple progress reports. We wish our communication had been early, constant and consistent; but it wasn’t. Why?
While I cannot address the social challenge, I will address the educational one. I remember that as a principal I would tell parents that any phone call I received but could not immediately answer would be returned within 24 hours. Then I would quickly add, “If I want to speak to you”. We usually do not pick up the phone and make the call, or initiate an email correspondence, because we fear the long and frequently unpleasant conversation that will ensue. No parent will welcome the news that their child is failing and many times you might be met with a wall of denial or, even worse, with a hefty share of blame. So, we don’t make the call and delay the inevitable ‘why didn’t you let me know sooner’ for parent-teacher conferences.
I would not be stating the obvious here if I didn’t have a solution. I do. I have found tremendous benefit in internet reporting sites, such as Edline, which allows each teacher to record every grade/ assignment/ assessment in one of the many types of digital grade books, and then post the grade book online. Parents can constantly access any and all information posted, gaining instant and accurate information regarding their child’s progress. It is a call to action, not a request for a reaction.
As an administrator, I found these educational computer programs to be an invaluable tool for following class achievement, allowing me to congratulate success and keep an eye on students at risk of failure. I could instantly know which tests were given, how often and how each student scored. Surprisingly, these programs are both budget and user friendly.
Of course, such reporting should not, and will not, replace meaningful and constructive discussions that are necessary to enhance student progress and build positive relationships between school and home. However, we should be aware of the fact that the information highway does exist and the modern educator should be taking advantage of its benefits.