How do you report to a parent?

At our center we have four standard written reports that go home to the parents. One is a clothing request (we need extra clothes in the cubby/diapers/wipes). The second is an ouch report (you’re child fell and scraped his knee today). Third is an illness report. This one we fill out even if we call them (which we always do anyway). On this report is a space to tell what their temperature is, what the symptoms are (tired, quiet, runny nose, coughing, clingy, not eating, vomiting, etc…). I really like this form because a parent can pick up their sick child and, if they go to the doctor, they know all the symptoms and don’t have to tell the doctor “I don’t know, they just called me and he has a fever.” Our last report form is the one for discussion today: the incident report.
When I first came to this site, I was signing at least 15 incident reports a day. This was ridiculous. The teachers who were here at the time were writing incident reports for “not helping clean up the classroom” or “telling the teacher no when ask to sit down for lunch” or even “not napping today”. The idea of these forms, as I understood them, was to report incidents to parents that are of great concern. I quickly put a stop to the quantity of the use of this form. I limited it to doing purposefully physical harm to another person: biting, kicking, punching, etc… This brought the number down significantly. However, I was still getting more than I wanted to see.
I figured that if a parent was getting an incident report everyday for something their child did, they were going to begin ignoring it. The idea of this form was to bring behaviors to the attention to the parent. We had some children who had some challenging behaviors and were doing quite a bit of hitting, punching, and throwing things. The parents were not looking at these forms. It was also becoming a way to stop the communication with the parents; teachers were using these forms to avoid telling a parent about any behavior concerns. At this point, I created a new form that I filled out daily with theses specific children. On it they dictated something that was really good about there day; something they had difficulty with, and something they wanted to discuss at home. Doing this, the parents responded very well to this change. They began to see that we don’t hate their child and we could really see the good in them. They were more willing to work with us after this.
A few months ago, I noticed an increase in incident reports again. Some of them I didn’t put through. For example, a child “bit another child in the classroom when the other child took his toy.” That does not merit a report. He was defending himself! I have since added another limit to the incident report criteria: It must be an ongoing behavior and must be discussed with the parents when handed to them.
I like to deal with things at the center. If a child bites someone once, we deal with it at the center; it’s over and done with. He has been disciplined for it and doesn’t need to get in trouble all over again at home. However, if it becomes a behavior, then I talk to the parents about it before I hand them the report. I see the incident report as a tool to tell the parents we are having a problem at school that we need your help with.
All this being said, I am thinking of changing the title of the form from Incident Report to a Behavior Report; What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Interesting commentary. I do agree that there is an issue with over-using incident reports, and have found that a teacher who is writing a lot of reports may actually have class management issues. I do question the non-reporting of biting. I had always been instructed that biting was a "major deal" and was to be reported. Any further clarification on your position? Are you not reporting those with no "broken skin"? Thanks for the interesting post.

Jenni said...

We keep track of all ouch reports that go out on an ouch report log, so we have it documented that a child bit but no official form goes home.

Also, the parent is verbally talked to when the child is picked up if there has been a biting incident for the day. If this is a child who doesn't typically bite, we will probably actually call them after the incident is taken care of to find out what is going on at home that may be causing this change in behavior.

There is enough documentation per licensing standards on the incident with keeping track on an ouch report log. But I find it's very intimidating to a parent to get that piece of paper. Especially if the child bit out of defense. They tend to get mad at the child rather then saying, "Yes, biting is wrong, but you were defending yourself. Let's learn a new way to stand up for yourself."

I hope that helps clarify. On the ouch log we also keep track of who bit who which doesn't get tracked on the actual ouch report.