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“How Do You Think Your Mother Felt When I Called To Say You Were Doing Well In Class?”

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At our school, and I suspect at many inner-city schools, we get quite a few new challenging students at semester break. This occurs for many reasons, including families that are often transient and students who get kicked-out — officially or unofficially– from other schools.

“John” (not his real name) is one of them. He has been very disruptive. Several weeks ago he had a good several days in a row, and I called his mother to say how well he had been doing. She was thrilled, and I’d lay odds that she had never received that kind of call before about her son.

Since that time, though, “John” has been going steadily downhill.

Finally, today, I asked him to come outside the classroom to talk with me.

“How do you think your Mom felt when she got that call from me a few weeks ago saying how well you had been doing?” I asked him.

“Really good,” he immediately replied.

“How did that call make you feel?” I asked.

“Great!”

“When was the last time your Mom got a call like that?”
(in retrospect, I wouldn’t have asked this question)

“I can’t remember.”

“John, I would like to make more of those kinds of calls to your Mom. Would you like me to make more of those calls?”

“Yeah.”

And then we talked about what he would need to do to make that happen, and what he would need from me to help.

He had a great class today after our conversation. When the bell rang, he came up to me and begged me to call his mom immediately to tell her how well he did. I told him that I would love to call her, but that I needed to see several days in a row of good work and behavior first. I was surprised that he took that fairly well, and he said he’d do it.

We’ll see what happens, but it does point to the importance of making calls to parents with good news periodically, especially with students for whom that does not occur very often….

What has been your experience with making positive phone calls home?

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

3 Comments

  1. I did this especially at the beginning of the year (which I wrote about here: http://imadreamerteacher.blogspot.com/2009/08/positive-parent-calls.html). It’s a really powerful tactic – I’ve had several parents just out and out tell me that they’d never gotten a call like that before, and those kids usually then are truly with me for the rest of the year.

    I should do it again, though, especially for some of the kids who have really been rockin’ it recently. Thanks for the reminder about its effectiveness and meaning!

  2. I do “positive postcards” instead of phone calls … by the end of the year I try to have sent at least one post card to all of my students (I see 100 students a day). Almost all students comment on it (with a shy, embarrased smile), sometimes I get notes back from students. Some parents call, some parents call my admin and offer praise.

    The best outcome is seeing a different side of the student … especially that student that had been giving me a hard time … the change is almost always positive.

    I have a student teacher this semester … as her “going away” present I’m getting her a set of pretty postcards printed with her name and a “scholarly” quote printed on the front.

  3. I always make sure that every negative phone call is followed by an ‘update,’ which usually is positive. Many parents breathe a sigh of relief and thank me with a voice that lets me see their smile through the phone line.

    I find it much more effective than just calling when a student has a ‘bad day.’

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