There is nothing more important, at the beginning of the year, than getting parents on your side. If you get off on the wrong side of one of your parents, you know what will happen! They will be a thorn in your side all year long, plus they will pull your other parents right along with them. I have seen it happen all too often. After being the "shoulder to cry on" for one of my grade level friends who was having this very problem, I went to a county in-service talk given by Harry Wong. Wow! He said that every teacher should make a short, positive phone call to each and every student in his/her class during the very first days of school. NO negitive comment should be made. What should you say? Say how happy you are to have the child in your class, ask if there are any questions about proceedures or other things in class, then give a positive comment about something (anything) that child did that day. Harry said to say something like, "Ask Sam about the wonderful thing he did today!" then say how how much you are looking forward to this school year with their child, and hang up. It is true that the child will be at a loss as to what he/she did that day, but obviously they did something good. The teacher said so! As a third grade teacher, I wanted to be more specific. I went down my list and called 5-7 parents each night from the second day of school on. The day of their call I kept a few notes on little things the chosen students did that were good. Some shared supplies with others, some welcomed a new student in a nice way. It doesn't matter what thing you share, it's only important it be positive.
Now, what about that pain in the neck that you know from day one is going to drive you insane. For that child it is especially important that you find something, anything, that is positive. There have been some students I have had to watch for two or three days to find one nice thing they did. I can guarantee you, it is the first phone call from a teacher that parent has gotten that is positive. I had one parent say, "Yea, but what's he really doing?". I just replied that it was early in the year, and I was calling to just "check in" and see if there were any questions. NEVER get negitive on that first phone call. So, what is the result? I can tell you that the children whose parents you call come in the next day elated! They are so happy a teacher called and said something good about them. The problem students are often just confused. It is a totally new feeling for them. It really does help behavior. No, it doesn't change it right then, but that child knows you are on his side. More importantly, his parents know you are on his side. You can't work with parents to change behavior unless they KNOW you like their child. That first positive phone call really does make a difference. I can say that since I have made those first phone calls, I have not had any problems with parents. In fact, when I need anything, they are right there. All I can say is, "Thank You Harry Wong!"
If you are interested in one of Harry Wong's books, I suggest, "The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher".