But the most important lesson to be learned about calling parents at home to praise the achievements of their children is that those calls are actually more effective. The student comes into class the next day with a lighter step, a brighter smile, and usually more of the same wonderfulness that prompted me to call home the night before.
– Taylor Mali
“What Teachers Make”
Taylor Mali is my favourite poet, not because he writes about teaching and I’m a teacher, but because his way with words really works the fine balance between economy, eloquence, and kicking your butt with very precise text. I’ve been reading many of his books at the same time (The Last Time As We Are, What Learners Leave, and What Teachers Make), which may not be the best idea in terms of continuity, but I really do love his writing.
The interesting thing about What Teachers Make is that it’s mostly prose and not poetry. The book discusses teaching in general and his relation to it (personal experience, anecdotal stories, etc.), but also deconstructs his poem of the same name. You can hear him read it below…
There’s this line about “calling home around dinnertime” and he’s talking about the “good news” calls. It’s when you call home for a good reason, usually to celebrate something that the student (the parents’ child) did in class that day.
But we’ve really stigmatized calling home, haven’t we?
When I think of calling home, it’s usually to discuss the negative things… and that’s what the parents think too. It’s always nice to hear the shock in a parent’s reaction to hear how well their child is doing (especially if their kid gets called often for the negative reason).
After reading that passage in the book, I decided to make some good news calls of my own – sometimes I do, but not nearly enough.
It was so refreshing for both myself and the parent that I decided to do it again… and again… and again.
All of a sudden, you think yourself: “Wow, I’ve got some really great kids.”
And you do 🙂 Sometimes we spend so much time greasing the squeeky wheel that we don’t see that silent majority that are absolutely fabulous, especially those in the academic “middle.” We really do spend a lot of time on the extremes of the spectrum, don’t we?
So, here’s your homework: Make one good news phone call this week and share it in the comments. You won’t regret it!
Have a great week,