As a third consequence I recommend a letter home to parents.
If you haven’t read my first article on the topic, which also includes a sample letter for download, you can find the link above.
In this article I clear up some misconceptions, add a few more details, and expand on the how and the why of sending a letter home.
Let’s get started.
A Parent Information Packet
Few teachers communicate their classroom management plan to parents. This is a huge mistake, especially when it comes to sending behavior letters home.
To avoid a mountain of headaches and parent complaints, and to greatly increase your chances of getting your letters back the next day, send a classroom management packet home with your students before the end of the second week of school.
Included in this packet, among other things, should be your classroom management plan and a sample copy of your letter home.
This way, if and when parents receive a letter, they won’t be caught off guard. They’ll know what the letter means and what steps were taken before the letter was given to the student.
Being upfront about your classroom management plan will result in parents not just willing to support you, but actively standing behind your vision of a classroom where all students are free to learn without interference.
A Rare Occurrence
If you’re a regular reader of this website, then you know that following your classroom management plan, though critically important, is but a small part of effective classroom management.
If you’re not building influential relationships with students and creating a classroom they like being part of, which are core principles of Smart Classroom Management, then you’ll have scores of students in time-out, multiple letters home, and massive frustration.
A letter home to parents should be a rare occurrence. If you’re sending more than six to eight letters home per year, regardless of where you teach, then the problem isn’t your classroom management plan.
Although every Smart Classroom Management strategy can and will improve behavior by itself, they work together to create a surefire approach of managing your classroom.
A Hand-Delivered Letter
A student who triggers the third consequence must personally deliver the letter to his (or her) parents to be signed. This is a critical part of why the consequence is effective.
By requiring your students to do something to atone for their misbehavior, by placing a burden of responsibility with them, you provide a concrete way for them to acknowledge their misbehavior and take responsibility for it.
Thus, it’s an active accountability.
The return of the letter to you the next day then effectively fulfills the student’s obligation and seals the official end of the incident.
What parents do with the information in the letter is not your concern. It’s between them and the student. A parent’s reaction, or lack thereof, doesn’t make the consequence any less effective.
A Phone Call Heads Up
Depending on the student, you may want to make a phone call home giving parents a heads up that the letter is on the way. Email will work also. This is an optional step, but one I recommend if you’re using the letter-home consequence for the first time.
If you do call home, it’s best to call during the day and leave a message. If you happen to get a parent on the phone, say only that the letter is on the way. If asked about the misbehavior, just give the facts.
A Lost Or Forgotten Letter
If you’re following the guidelines above, chances are the student will come to school the next day with the letter signed. If, however, the student says she forgot to give her parents the letter—perhaps testing you to see if you’ll follow through—simply hand her a second copy (always make multiple copies). In this case, a heads-up phone call to parents is a must.
If she says she lost the letter, then give her a new one and don’t forget to make your heads-up phone call.
A Parent’s Right To Know
The purpose of a classroom management plan is to teach life lessons in responsibility, accountability, and trust. It’s to compassionately instill in students an intrinsic desire to make the right choices for themselves, their families, and their classmates.
And in doing so, it brings peace and uninterrupted learning to your classroom.
A letter home to parents holds students to a maximum level of accountability and fulfills the obligation you have to inform parents whenever their child is behaving in a way that risks his (or her) academic progress.
And when a student misbehaves repeatedly, despite the courtesy of a warning and a post-time-out second chance, the best person to break the news, the most suitable person to explain what happened and why, isn’t you.
It’s the child himself.
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