Saturday, November 10, 2007

Phone Home

For my classroom management class, one of our assignments was to make positive phone calls home to two of our students. I'm not sure why, but talking to parents/guardians makes me nervous. I guess it's a combination of not really knowing what to say paired with feeling young/inexperienced. I mean, what am I going to tell the parent of a teenager? Even more nerve-wracking, when I told my CT about this assignment, she took it to a whole new level. "Let's call everyone's parents," she decided. I took one class (my future class) and she took the other.

While they definitely weren't all positive phone calls (it's not very helpful to call the parent of a kid who's failing and leave that fact out of the conversation), I actually kind of enjoyed the experience. Every parent/guardian was extremely nice, and more importantly, was very grateful for the call. Which makes sense, of course--why wouldn't caretakers want to know how their students are doing? There was definitely a range of reactions, though. Some parents simply thanked me an quickly got off the phone, while others talked on and on and on. The mother of one student who comes to class about once a week talked to me for a good 15 minutes about her son's fear/hatred of math, worries about being at Mission, and lots more. However, I'm not sure if she actually got my message that her son does fine when he actually comes to class, but 20% attendance makes math hard for anyone.

My favorite part was actually the next day when I started off class by telling the kids how much I'd enjoyed talking to their parents. They all pretty much freaked out. "Why did you call? What did you say? Don't call my house!" It's so interesting (but not surprising) that both the parents and students assumed that my phone calls meant that the student was in trouble, and it was especially satisfying to be able to tell (some of) them that I was just calling home to share good news and talk about how great the student is. So simple, yet so powerful.


Linda said...

If the teachers here at your alma mater are any indication, being older and wiser and having years of experience under belt doesn't make it all that much easier to phone parents. All parents, even those who you talk to every day, seem to expect that you are calling with bad news. I guess that means that you should call homes more often--with all that free time that teachers are supposed to have.

Roni said...

I think we young'uns should start the positive boulder rolling. Have you ever wondered why parents expect bad news when you call? It's been the habit of teachers for too long to only call when there is a problem; it's been the habit of parents for too long to suddenly let go of the kiddies when they turn 14 and not as ANY questions of teachers. I've noticed that communications seem to break down around the 9th/10th grade level. Up until then there are plenty of letters/calls/visits between parents and teachers to keep kids on track. Why does it stop so suddenly?

We need to start the dialogue up again. I'm running into too many old school high school teachers who are doing just fine by themselves, thank you very much, to have to worry about transparency, accountability, professional development, community involvement in the curriculum, etc. All of these things keep techers and schools sharp and on the front edge of the profession. Why not embrace questions and outside observers?

We teachers don't like it when the Feds only contact us to tell us our test scores are failing and that we will likely be fired if things don't change. It's not surprising that parents don't like that kind of phone call, either. I'd like to see every new teacher from 2000 on proclaim their status as an official carrot for the system. To hell with the sticks. We have enough of those built into the nation's psyche to keep everyone flinching for the next 40 years.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I've always found that communicating early and often is the key. If you let parents know at the beginning of the year that you'll be calling by the end of September (or whatever) just to check in, it sets up good communication patterns. And then they don't always start off nervous on the phone.