Saturday, January 17, 2009

I have a better idea: how about YOU tell your parents!

If you have taught elementary or secondary grades for any amount of time, I know you will recognize the following scenario:

Student disrupts your classroom, you warn student not to do that, student disrupts again, you send student out of your classroom to either another teacher's room or the office, after school is over, you call student's parents to let them know their child was being an unmitigated ass.

There have been days where I have spent two hours after school making phone call after phone call. Meanwhile, I pictured in my mind all those misbehaving students having a good ol' time at home while I was sitting in my classroom, away from my family, making phone calls. Over this Christmas Break just passed, I read something that gave me a revelation - why not have the student talk to his parents instead of me? The book from whence the idea came was Setting Limits in the Classroom by Rob Mackenzie, Ed.D. What Dr. Mackenzie suggests is that if you have to send a student out of the room, you send out that student with a pre-printed form letter that says the following:
From the Classroom of Mr. Chanman
Room ##, Unnamed Middle School
Social Studies

Date: ____________________

Dear Parent or Guardian,

This is to inform you that________________________________

was sent out of class today, and missed ___________ minutes of class

time because he or she continued to disrupt the class after repeatedly

being instructed to stop. The problem was handled at school, and

no further assistance from you is required at this time. However, too

many of these notices may indicate that your assistance may be

in the future.

Please indicate that you received this notice by signing and

returning it with your child tomorrow. If you have any questions or

concerns please do not hesitate to contact me by email: or by telephone: (916) ###-####.

Thank you,

Social Studies Teacher

Parent/Guardian Name (Please Print)


Parent/Guardian Signature


This is the exact letter (minus my redacted personal info) that I have given out this week on 12 different occasions, and I have gotten 11 letters back to me, signed by a parent. The difference in overall behavior in my classroom has been nothing short of remarkable. The first thing I noticed is that every single one of my letters has been given out in my after-lunch classes, and the 12 letters have been distributed among 7 different students. One of my 8th period frequent flyers has already received three of those letters! As I forewarn in the letter, that student is now becoming eligible for a phone call home and a possible parent conference being arranged. In the meantime, right there were three different phone calls I didn't have to make regarding that student, and in the four days of the school week that I handed out these letters, I left work on time because I didn't have to make a single phone call, except for two doubting parents who wrote on the letter that they would like a call back for more information. In both cases, it turned out that their kid had fed them a line of bullsqueeze about why they got in trouble, and I easily and pleasantly straightened out any confusion the parent may have had.

I think what made this letter work so well is that it took the responsibility for the students' actions out of my hands and put it into theirs. They would have to go home and face their parents; they would have to hand them that letter and explain why they received it; I wouldn't even be part of the equation. With the old method, even if the kid got a talking-to after the parent got off the phone with me, that just doesn't quite seem have the same impact when the parents are softened up by me first before dealing with their disruptive offspring.

For all I know, maybe I'm being a bit too optimistic; next week could be a disaster, and the letter could end up having as little impact as the traditional phone call home that I have used up until last week. Either way, I will definitely keep you all updated.

Good Day to You, Sir


Polski3 said...

Great Idea. I also put notes in their daily planners and I have a special letter letting parents know their child was caught cheating on an assignment. Its due back to me the next day with a parent signature. Will check out that book; if this behavior letter is any indicator of whats in it, it could be worth having.....Thanks !

The Vegas Art Guy said...

I am going to borrow that letter and see if it works in the desert.

Anonymous said...

I am going to make a variation of that letter for low and failing grades. I, too, an tired of explaining that students are not doing their assignments. Let the kids do it! It sounds like a winner.

Mrs. Bluebird said...

Keep us posted on the results.

We used to send something like this home (behavior note) that needed to be signed and returned by the parents - but never were. So now, we aren't allowed to send them - we call or email, and if we still have problems, it's kicked up to admin. I'm not sure how well it's working to be honest. We have parents that have to be drug kicking and screaming into their child's life.

eiela said...

I always had trouble getting notes back & signed. Grr. I got tired of calling too; I would make the kids call during class, sometimes. That was often entertaining!

Hube said...

When we send a kid out to our "Time Out Room," the interventionist that monitors the room calls the parent for us. (We call his extension when send the kid out and inform him of the kid's infraction.) This definitely helps us teachers out time-wise.

Nevertheless, I pretty much gave up on phone calls a few years back unless specifically requested by a parent. I stick w/e-mail. Phone messages tend to get erased by students (since they usually arrive home before mom and dad) or forgotten about. E-mail is read only by its recipient, and at the recipient's leisure. I've found it, overall, to be quicker and more reliable in this electronic age.

hobbitt said...

Excellent. I ordered the book, it arrived yesterday. I have written two letter forms, one like yours, another for just talking.

I realized that the reason many were talking and pretending to work was because I was letting them do so.

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