The end of the school year has a way of making even the most reasonable parents be a bit intense. When summer looms so closely on the horizon, every principal can be sure of one thing: It’s the season of unreasonable parent phone calls.
However, no matter how difficult or irrational a call is to you, to a parent it is important. School leaders sometimes have to bite their tongues and navigate their way through these situations. Here are nine parent phone calls you might get in the last few weeks of the year and how you can respond to them.
1. “We are leaving for a family vacation, and my child will miss the whole last week of school. This won’t be a problem, right?”
We all know that life gets in the way of school sometimes. It’s a family’s prerogative to choose to pull a student out of school, even if it is a week before the three-month summer break. However, it’s essential to let parents know that teachers plan meaningful curriculum and programming up until the last minute of the last day of school. Let them know that it is important for students to have closure with their teachers and classmates. These experiences cannot be made up at a later date.
2. “How come my kid didn’t get an award?”
Of all the parent phone calls you will take at the end of the year, this will be the hardest one to respond to meaningfully. When I get these calls, I listen carefully because they are rarely just about a silly award. What this caller usually wants to tell me is that they are not certain that their child is seen fully at school. If you are a parent, you can certainly relate to this call, because it is painful to see your child hurting.
Your best step here is to acknowledge the disappointment authentically and to listen. When you hang up, consider these questions: What do awards mean to your school? How have you prepared students and families to understand the context and purpose of awards? If you cannot answer these questions, then you now have some summer homework to do. Awards, when done thoughtfully, can be great community moments, but only after you have contextualized their meaning in your community.
3. “Please make sure my child has X teacher next year.”
Assure parents that you have heard their request and thank them for their call, but not before letting them know that next year’s classroom assignments are made with many variables in mind. While their request is considered, reinforce that it cannot be the final word on the subject.
4. “Can you recommend a summer program to help my child accelerate in math/science/language?”
If you have an excellent program that you know of, suggest away! However, I frequently avoid recommending particular programs and opt toward asking parents what their kids are passionate about. Summer is a time for kids to relax and do hands-on learning that inspires them.
5. “Why are kids assigned summer reading?”
Some parents want their kid to enjoy a summer unencumbered by any schoolwork. Here’s what I tell them: The goal of summer reading is to maintain literacy skills and continue to build a love of reading. On an administrative level, it’s essential to make sure that the amount of summer work required of students is reasonable and appropriate.
6. “We are very upset about the following 102 things.”
Here’s what most likely has happened: A student has been struggling and offering parents bits and pieces of information over time. At the end of the year, tensions build and tend to overflow. I always redirect these kinds of discussions to teachers. However, I first make a space for families to vent so that teacher conversations can be productive. I will give a teacher a good heads up on the conversation, and I leave it at that. Above all, you must protect the connection between the student and the teacher. When an administrator jumps into the mix, that becomes very difficult.
7. “The parking situation at the spring concert was horrible!”
It’s true! There’s never enough parking at school events! Share your trick of making sure to always arrive early to evening programming.
8. “What is the first day of school next year?”
Finally, a question that requires no special handling! Sure, it’s easy enough to look online for the answer to this question. However, after a very long school year, you are more than happy to give them the date and remind them about the calendar on the school website.
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