This week’s lecture on the MOOC is about making parent calls.
Calling home regularly allows you to develop strong relationships with both the parents and the students. In turn, this generates more trust, creating a positive feedback loop. It can increase student effort and also make it easier for you to hold them accountable to their academic success.
There are two types of phone calls:
1. Praise calls: I learned these in teacher’s college as “sunshine calls”. I don’t do these enough but I have made a few. These are conversations in addition to the ones that happen at school and it signals to the student that he/she is important to you, even outside class time. Being authentic and sincere is important when you give praise. This will build trust and credibility, which will help you down the road if there are more difficult conversations that need to take place.
2. The Correction Call: This type of proactive outreach will help to make classes go better. Usually it is in regards to a discipline problem. Be careful, sometimes a parent may feel as if you’re picking on a child. If that is the case, you can offer names of other parents who you speak with about the same problem; you are not targeting or isolating one student. In a small study that the Match Program asked Harvard to set up, they found that students who received parent phone calls misbehaved 25% less (Kraft and Dougherty, 2012). The direct effects can even be visible the next day (I have witnessed this myself) and it allows you to feel that you’ve got the parent’s backing.
I’m proud to say that I already spend, on average, an hour a week contacting parents – whether by phone calls, Facebook or text messages, there are quite a few that I speak with regularly. When I first started, I was hesitant to do this. It became easier and easier to reach parents as I got to know them.
While I haven’t spoken with all 90 pairs of parents, I do try to make an effort to reach out to new parents once in a while. Over the last week alone, I also connected with a couple of parents whom I’ve not spoken with before.
Looking back at my progress: The lesson in week 2 really stuck to me. We just started a cellphone ban about two weeks ago and I have been confiscating phones left and right. The policy is that the administration hangs onto the phone and they will be only returned to the parents – not the student – at the end of the day. Several parents have been extremely supportive; one parent even told me she intentionally did not pick up the phone just to teach her daughter a lesson! I wanted to give her a high five!
In the previous months, I wasn’t being consistent as I didn’t want to create conflict and didn’t want students mad at me. I would confiscate a few but would let things slide in a few situations. It wasn’t doing me any good. I fooled myself, thinking I could be “mostly consistent.”
Since the electronics ban and my insistence to be consistent – several times I had to screw up the courage to just do it rather than giving in – I’ve had very few problems in my classrooms. I also made it very clear and verbally remind them that I no longer give warnings; if I see the phone, I immediately buzz the office for the hall monitor to make a visit. They know that I will not make a scene by embarrassing an individual; I handle the situation professionally and minimize attention and time to the situation. In turn, the students are respecting my teaching time a lot more and I’ve noticed the Misbehaviour Tax going down too!
I’m feeling proud as I write this that I am learning and becoming a stronger teacher!