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Reaching parents is a major frustration for many teachers; most parents work and can't be readily contacted at their place of employment. Or in some cases, a telephone doesn't even exist in the home. We can't make a phone appear out of thin air, but here are a few suggestions for tracking down the elusive parent.

Make sure your contact info is up-to-date: Use an open house as an opportunity to verify the office's student profile numbers against what a parent might give you directly, then keep that information in a notebook where you can access it easily.

Stretch the telephone boundaries: In some offices, email may get to your parent quicker than a phone message. The same goes for pagers.

Don't abuse the system: Let your prents know you only will call them at work if it's serious.

Have a back-up plan: Make sure you have alternate numbers of other family or friends if your first contact fails.

Know how to play phone tag: Okay, we hate answering machines, but no matter how you slice it, they can be efficient methods of contact if you play by the rules:

  1. Speak slowly and distinctly. A hurried message may indicate your urgency, but if it gets garbled you're wasting your time.
  2. Spell your name and leave a number at the beginning of your message so they know exactly who they are to call.
  3. Leave a message, but keep it to 45 seconds or less if possible.
  4. Be specific about what you want them to do.
  5. Tell them if you have specific times when you can be reached.
  6. Speak your number again slowly at the end of the message so they don't have to rewind to get it.
  7. Leave instructions in your office if the call is returned but you are unavailable to take it


A Quick Look At:
Cellular Phones

An internet feed in every classroom may be the goal of politicians or school districts, but that kind of telephone access from the classroom is still sparse. More and more teachers are taking up the slack themselves with their own money, of course.

If you are looking at cellular or digital service as a way to avoid trips to the office on your break to call a parent, keep in mind that the newer digital services may not be the way to go if you are price conscious. Older cellular analog providers are rapidly lowering prices and introducing flexible rate plans. Some are as low as $20 per month without a contract. Shop around before you buy because the market is getting extremely competitive.