How To Send A Letter Home To Parents Redux

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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23 Responses to How To Send A Letter Home To Parents Redux

  1. JR June 19, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    I’m wondering if anyone has ever run into the problem of reaching consequence 3 with time to spare, which may lead to that student still breaking rules. I wouldn’t think you would start back at step one since it’s a continuation of that day’s misbehavior…..

    • Michael Linsin June 20, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

      Hi JR,

      If a student reaches the third consequence, whenever that may be, they go back to time-out and stay for the rest of the day. I’ve written about this somewhere on the site, but I couldn’t find it during the short time I had this morning. 🙂

      Michael

  2. Paul November 26, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    Michael –

    Your site and your book have changed the way I teach in so many positive ways – this year has been unlike any other. However, I am now running into a problem of enforcing a true consequence. I work in a low-income school, and staying in contact with parents is very difficult. Much of the time, many students’ parents fail to pay their pay-as-you-go phone bill, and are thus unavailable to check in on letters home, etc. It really takes the “teeth” out of my consequence, that I am unable to follow through at home. We have ways of contacting relatives and friends, but even that is often impossible. I feel like my hard work is slipping away as they see me fail to follow through on this. Perhaps I should work on making time out a stronger consequence in order to make up for it?

    Thank you for what you do,

    Paul

    • Michael Linsin November 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

      Hi Paul,

      Okay, I’m going to give it to you straight. You do it anyway. You find a way and you follow through. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s time consuming. But you do whatever you have to do. Regardless of how hard they are to get hold of, the parent has a right to know what’s going on at school–and it’s our job as teachers to make sure they do.

      Michael

  3. sandy April 1, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

    I have done all the suggestions. I never had problems when I was teaching primary grades. Now that I’m teaching 5th, I have endless headaches. Mainly it’s boys with an attitude. Letter goes home, comes back signed, nothing changes. I think it’s because the consequence at school doesn’t matter– they lose time at detention. This can happen 20x! After 10x, the principal calls, but that doesn’t matter either. Now what can I do?

    • Michael Linsin April 2, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

      Hi Sandy,

      If you email me with specifically what you have done (all the suggestions), I’ll do my best to set you on the right path.

      Michael

  4. Jonathan Fisher July 23, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

    G’day Michael

    I’ve had a student today who had a letter sent home yesterday, and came back with a forged signature. She has admitted that she forged the signature.

    I’ve placed a note in her diary for her parent notifying her of what has happened and am also planning to call her parent. I also gave the student a warning for not following directions.

    Is there anything else I should or should not do?

    Many thanks
    Jonathan

    • Michael Linsin July 24, 2014 at 6:56 am #

      Hi Jonathan,

      No, you’re handling it perfectly. As long as you see it through, the appropriate message will be sent.

      Michael

  5. Charles September 14, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

    hi michael, I’m teaching a class of 12 boys in a partially special ed school, very challenging, i believe that 5 of them have ADD / ADHD. I just taught them for a week with difficulty and i would like to implement this method now (which i find sounding great!). 1. Will it work for these type of children, with concentration and impulsivity issues? 2. I believe that the first days i try this, they’ll test me at least a few rounds of letters. what happens if they refuse to cooperate with the rest of the day timeout after the letter?
    thank you very much!

    • Michael Linsin September 15, 2014 at 6:21 am #

      Hi Charles,

      A letter home by itself may be helpful to your classroom, but to enjoy the full benefits of Smart Classroom Management I recommend employing the full compliment of principles and strategies. Please spend more time in our archive, beginning in the Classroom management Plan, Time-Out, and Difficult Students categories. You’ll find all your questions answered. 🙂

      Michael

  6. Catherine November 9, 2014 at 8:01 am #

    Hi Michael,

    Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom!! I am a first year substitute teacher, and am having issues with classroom management. It seems that many students act out simply because they think they can get away with more when their teacher is away. I found your site this morning and have already learned so much that I am excited to implement in the future. Do you have any tips for substitute teachers? How do I implement consequences (such as a letter home), if I will not be there the next day to follow-up?

    Thanks for your help!

    • Michael Linsin November 9, 2014 at 10:54 am #

      Hi Catherine,

      We’re hoping to create a guidebook for substitute teachers sometime in the future, and will keep your questions in mind. They’re too big to answer accurately here. I encourage you to sign up for the newsletter and stay tuned!

      Michael

  7. Mike November 25, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

    Hi Michael. I love your site! I teach mostly seniors in high school and still struggle balancing solid classroom management with not treating them like little kids. Any suggestions? Thank you so much!

    • Michael Linsin November 25, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

      Hi Mike,

      You’re right in that it’s critical that your students understand the importance of classroom management without feeling like they’re still in middle school. How this would look varies widely depending on your students and where you teach. Although you definitely should define for your students rules and guidelines that establish the best learning environment for them and their learning, how you enforce them hinges largely on their maturity level and relationship with you. This could range from a verbal warning to a private discussion with you to an outside detention. The consequences themselves are less important than your leadership, your personality, and your way of expressing your expectations of them.

      Michael

  8. Celeste July 22, 2015 at 10:28 am #

    Hi Michael, how would you recommend going about sending a letter home to parents/informing parents of your classroom management plan if you are a specialist that only sees students for 30 minutes once or twice a week?
    Thanks! As a first-year teacher, I’m finding this blog to be super helpful.

    • Michael Linsin July 22, 2015 at 11:55 am #

      Hi Celeste,

      I’m so glad you like the blog! There are some definite modifications needed for specialist teachers—which we don’t have the time and space for here. For details on consequences and other considerations, including when and why you may need to contact parents, please check out the book Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE Teachers.

      Michael

  9. Nicole February 6, 2016 at 8:55 am #

    Hi Michael,

    I love the ideas I’ve read here! I’m guilty of not following through, but after the last few weeks of school I’ve had I’d really like to start trying some of the ideas here. Is it too late in the year to reintroduce the rules (only of the 4 that I haven’t used is raising your hand to get out of their seat) and the ensuing consequences?

    Thanks so much!

  10. Gary August 14, 2016 at 12:10 am #

    Hi Michael,

    I like the letter home consequence.

    However, I teach in China, and my students are boarding students. Quite a few live in town but even most of those will only go home at the weekends. Others, who live in other towns will usually go home only three or four times a year.

    Do you suggest I forget the letter home, idea and replace it with a phone call home, instead -which is what I have been doing anyway? I would probably need a trusted memmber of staff as an interpreter, but I believe it would work (this time I intend to personally ring the parent myself). Last year I asked the department leader to call the parent.

    Alternatively, if a student reached the phone call home consequence, do you think it would be more effective if I made the student call the parent in front of myself and the department leader, to encourge personal accountability, instead of me ringing the parent? Do you think it would work?

    I teach high school and the consequence system that I used last year, was:

    1. Warning.

    2. Detention

    3. Send to office

    4. Phone call home (the department leader rang the parent without me present).

    5. Call parents in to chat with myself and department leader, without student present (we did this on a few occasions. The dept. leader rang them in).

    A major concern of mine is seeing a couple of articles, on your site, stating that sending students to the office for behaviour that isn’t extreme, causes the following to happen:

    “When you refer a student to the principal you’re communicating to that student—as well as to the rest of your class—that you’re not the ultimate authority of your classroom. It sends the unmistakable message that you can’t handle them on our own.

    Thus, you become less relevant in your students’ eyes. You carry less weight and influence.”

    Michael, if the above happened to me (or has been happening), it would be a disaster! It’s the antithesis of what I want to achieve in the classroom, so I am pretty much concerned about this.

    Having said that, I did use this system last semester and needed to send students to the department leader (not principal) less and less as the year progressed and it seemed to me that students respected my authority.

    Sometimes, I would send students to the leader because they didn’t turn up for detention- the second consequence. Do you think that was appropriate?

    Other students would be sent to the leader after breaking regular rules in the same class lesson three times and getting to consequence three. I then had no choice but to send them straight to the leader for things such as calling out, sleeping or talking (not extreme behaviour). Do you think that was over the top,and is it in danger of undermining my authority?

    Do you think my plan would be more effective if I made the phone call home the third consequence and the sending to the office, consequence number four instead?

    I do aim to purchase an e-copy of your new high school book, but that will have to wait until I work out how to sort out the payment on a page in Chinese!

    Thanks for your patience.

    • Michael Linsin August 14, 2016 at 10:24 am #

      Hi Gary,

      Yes, I still believe that you undermine your authority by sending students to the office for non-dangerous offenses. However, if you want to include it, then I would flip consequences 3 and 4. Remember, your rules and consequences are only a small part of classroom management. It’s all the other stuff–primarily what this site is about–that makes your classroom management plan effective.

      Michael

      • Gary August 20, 2016 at 9:04 pm #

        Hi Michael,

        Thanks for the reminder about the other stuff being more important.

        • Michael Linsin August 21, 2016 at 7:25 am #

          You’re welcome, Gary.

          Michael

  11. Teaching 5 October 8, 2016 at 10:10 am #

    Hi Michael, Thank you for sharing so much information. I started using your system last year and have found it very useful. I sent home a letter this year with two students who are constantly at odds with each other and generally disruptive. One of the parents wrote back a long letter about how I should make sure I handle everything the other child did and no mention of her child’s behavior. I haven’t responded and am considering not. I feel as if the parent is questioning my management and trying to put me in a defensive position. In reality both children received a letter but I dont believe I can even legally discuss that nor would I want to. What would you suggest? Have a conversation with this parent or let it go?