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.


“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?”


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?