Parent Communication or Tattling?

One of my students has been acting "difficult" for some time now. His behavior is even more frustrating than that of Maverick, because he began the year as one of my "all-stars" and in the past few months he's developed some obnoxious and frustrating habits. The worst of these is his bullying of some his classmates. All the while, I've been unable to get in touch with his mom, because in my school, students rarely maintain the same working number over the course of a year.

So, I was pretty stoked when his mom showed up unannounced last week, and I invited her back today for a conversation. In spite of my mediocre (at best) Spanish, I managed to convey my respect and admiration for her son, but the several problems he'd been creating over the past few months. I ended by mentioning a threat he made to me yesterday, that he would call his dad and then I "would see what happened." I wanted to be as truthful as possible, because after that kind of talk, I'm completely fed up with the kid's antics. But as I was making the last point about the student's threat I couldn't help but feeling like a tattle.

Is there a limit to the honesty in conversations like these? How much should I put in a parent's lap, and how much is my own responsibility? I would prefer to handle all behavior problems on my own, and focus my conversations with parents on academic progress. But this isn't a perfect world, and I obviously need some help from parents from time to time (if only I could read this last year). Still, I wonder if the conversation I had today could do more harm than good.


NYC Educator said…
You should not hesitate to contact parents, ever. They need to know what's going on, and you are absolutely not "tattling." If kids are interfering with your teaching, they need to know their problems will follow them home. They need to know it will absolutely happen.

This will not always work, but it will often work, and your reputation, after a while, will make your life easier. You are not copping out when you call parents. You are copping out when you go to the dean or someone else to do it for you. Go to parents first thing. If that doesn't work, look for someone else with influence, like a coach, or someone else with a relationship.

But don't hesitate, and do it early and often. Don't threaten either--just do it. Do it on Fridays and do extra on Fridays before vacation.
Miss A said…
You know, with all that we do for these kids, a conversation like this is sometimes VERY necessary. I serve breakfast and snack in my classroom, rarely send kids to the discipline room, monitor their recess and personally escort each one to their bus. I do a lot. If they are not being respectful to me and their classmates, a phone call home or a meeting with mom/dad can do wonders.

You are doing your best. But with everything we do for our kids, sometimes there are things that need to be reinforced at home. I think you made the right choice. I would have done the same thing. Enlisting the parent in helping to help their child at school is HUGE. Though some things might not sound pretty, the parents need to hear it from time to time. You can't do everything, even though you might try ;)
Ms. Peace said…
I agree with all of the comments to this post. It is essential to tell parents what is going on because the problem could escalate further and then parents will rightfully ask "Why is this the first time I'm hearing this." Another suggestion for parent communication is to call parents every once in a while with good news. I like to tell parents when their children do great things too. This will strengthen your ties with parents so that when problems do arise, you can work together to solve them.
Ruben Brosbe said…
Part of my hesitation to list the problems I'd been having with my kid comes from the fact that I prefer to discuss the POSITIVE events with parents. Each day I select an "all-star of the day" and call the student's parents to let them know. So I definitely try to focus my communication on that end of the spectrum, and that's where my trepidation toward yesterday's conversation comes from.

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