Saturday, August 8, 2015

I'm going to call your parents...

I've been revising the syllabus for each of my classes.  It's easy to change the year, check the room number, and contact information.  I really hadn't read my "consequences" recently, rolling over my "voice of doom" speech that lists the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd offense consequences, and was sort of surprised as I read what my former self thought was appropriate for students failing to succeed in my room.  The reality is, I almost never call parents to tattle on their students.

When I discovered the quote above, I immediately flashed back on a phone call I made to a parent of a student that reduced the mom to tears.  The year prior, the principal at the junior high had encouraged each teacher to mail home positive news postcards to three parents per month, with a personal note that was "refrigerator worthy."    Although it started out being yet another assigned task, it turned into something fun to do as a teacher.  

I figured if it worked for 7th graders, it would translate well to high school students' parents.  Boy, was I right!  So, shortly after lunch, on one particular day, I picked up the phone and called the mom of one of my struggling students.  When I identified myself as calling from the high school, her first question was "What did he do now?"

"Nothing!"  Oh my, that set of a thread of panic.  "He told me his homework was finished!"

"No,  I'm calling to tell you how much I appreciate having your son in class.  He is thoughtful, polite and considerate.  He goes out of his way to make others feel comfortable.  He's a great kid, who listens and does his very best."

Sobbing.  "No one has ever told me that before about my kids."  More sobbing.  The conversation lasted nearly my entire prep period, which I will never regret.


As a teacher of the gifted, it never really occurred to me that there are parents who get more calls from school about negative classroom behavior and students struggling with academics, than they do stories of amazing projects or permission to head off on a cool new job shadow.  That one little section of Information Literacy for 9th graders that I teach, has taught me more about "real world" teaching, than my 16 years as a TOG, and has challenged me to make more parents cry.

That kid has gone on to be a leader.  He is confident and kind.  And his mother told him that I called her that day, which he came and told me the very next day.  

The original phone call was something I did for myself, partially out of a sense of obligation, and it taught a valuable lesson to me about the power of praise.