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One of the most disconcerting events in a parent’s day is a telephone call from school. Most calls from school do not bear good news, but that is no reason for the call to be a negative event. A telephone conference can be a positive alternative to settling a frustrating situation for both the parent and the teacher.

Consider this scenario: You enter the kitchen from the car carrying a bag of groceries. The phone is already ringing as you hurry to put your load down on the table. You answer the phone, and immediately you are hit with the exasperated voice of your child’s teacher. Your son (or daughter) was catapulting meatballs in the cafeteria at lunch. One of the meatballs splattered the librarian upside the head as she walked by. This was immediately followed by rampant, earsplitting laughter by the 400 other students who happened to watch the meatball bullseye.

Step one is to determine the goal or intent of the phone call. You can do this in your head or, if you’re not sure, ask the teacher what you can do for her. It appears in this situation that communicating an incident with the intent of furnishing some form of discipline is the key.

If you have not previously established a rapport with your child’s teacher, step two is a good time to start. Paraphrase what the teacher said to be sure that you heard her correctly. A concerned, respectful tone should be used. Mockery, sarcasm or bullying will get you nowhere except on her mental list of buffoons. Besides, the welfare and education of your child is at stake here.

Validate the teacher’s frustration. Step three can be done without casting blame or finding fault with the school. If you criticize, you may be on the phone for a while. Pursue an ongoing connection by bonding with that teacher as an ally, someone who teaches your child the difference between right and wrong. A simple, “You must have been disappointed,” will go a long way.

Step four is a quick discussion of discipline. Listen to the teacher. If she wants your child to spend a day doing her assignments in another class, you have the right to agree or disagree. If you disagree, it would be helpful if you could offer an alternative solution. Perhaps an hour cleaning the cafeteria would be a just discipline. Tell her what you think; she may appreciate it. If you can’t come to an agreement, then ask for a face-to-face conference. This certainly is more time consuming, but it is a parental right to request a meeting.

Of course, step five is conferencing with your child when the little darling gets home. Although most of the punishment should lie where the infraction occurred, some limits at home may remind the student of proper behavior. Discipline means to teach. The point is to teach the child what is acceptable and what is not.

That teachers and parents can be friends is an almost unheard of concept. This can be accomplished with a professional demeanor. When teachers and parents reach out to one another as partners, the ones who benefit the most are the children.