On the Record

Excel LogoIt seems I spend my life keeping records—recording grades, attendance, behavior, eligibility, IEP compliance—the list goes on and on (and on and on and on).

There is one area where I didn’t used to record everything, but I eventually learned—albeit by the school of hard-knocks—that precise record-keeping could save me a lot of heartache and in an extreme circumstance, even my job.

What did I find to be so important? Recording each and every communication with parents.

I’m sure you are like me….some semesters you can have upwards of 180 students to keep track of. Think for a moment how many parents/guardians that might mean communicating with. Some students have at least 4 significant others who consider themselves a point of first contact – parents, step-parents, guardians, or social workers/agencies. Hmmmm...180 x 4 = 720 people! Even if I did have a good memory (seems like every semester a little bit of my brain evaporates) that would be a LOT of people to keep up with.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, a friend of mine taught me to keep a spreadsheet of every point of communication for each student. This can easily be kept in excel with a new tab for each student. Your spreadsheet could be simple or as complex as you want it to be. Personally I have found that simple is usually better for how I operate.

Each student’s sheet should have at least 3 columns:

Column 1: the date, form of communication (phone call, email, text, etc), and the name/position of the parent/guardian you were contacting.

Column 2: a brief description—did you actually make contact, did you leave a message, did you instruct them to call you back or email you?

Column 3: A description of exactly what was said. Did you call to explain a grade? Did you call about a discipline problem? What did you say? What did the parent say? Were any agreements reached?

Column 3 is particularly important because you need to know exactly what you said should the parents want to take any issues discussed to the next level of administration. Principals do not like he said/you said situations. If you have documentation of exactly what was communicated that was recorded the date of the conversation they will have more confidence that they are getting a more accurate picture. You, as the immediate decision-maker are less likely to get overruled or undercut if the administration has an accurate record of why you did what you did, and why you said what you said.

When in doubt, write it out.

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