In preparing my National Board portfolio, I've discovered a weakness in my teaching: I'm heavily involved in leadership and collaboration, but not as good at communicating with the folks at home. So, in addition to the letters home and the email responses and checking messages and posting assignments to a blog, I decided to try the impossible: calling each and every family of my freshfolks, 75 in all. Here's what I learned.
1. It can be done.
2. No, really. I had a teacher warn me that I'd be sucked into endless conversations. Never happened. Parents were surprised ("Is he in trouble?") and delighted ("Thanks for the personal touch!"). Since it was early in the semester, I didn't talk much about the student--just invited the folks to our upcoming Open House.
3. Block off at least 1.5 hours per class. Have a pre-printed list of phone numbers (if your district has Skyward, this is easy).
4. Set up a spreadsheet or other document to keep track of your conversations.
5. I didn't want students to know I was calling--but this meant that some of the numbers weren't entirely up-to-date. In the future, I'll be smarter about this. Get contact info on a 3x5 card for each one.
6. You sent a letter home inviting families to Open House. Maybe your letter got lost in the blur of the first week. Maybe it never got delivered. Maybe it was given to Parent One, who didn't share it with Parent Two, for whatever reason. Regardless, wager that only 20% of your contacts have any idea about Open House until you call.
7. Drink lots of water. Keep that voice fresh.
8. Don't try to do it all in one night. Not possible. Besides, not everyone will be home.
9. Expect the underexpected. My favorite: being hung up on because I sounded too much like a telemarketer.
10. It can be done.