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Positive Phone Calls – A Wise Investment

I recently had a chance to sit down with Pat Hensley. Pat has a blog called Successful Teaching. She is also known as Loony Hiker.
 Pat Hensley AKA Loony Hiker on the Amazing Teacher  Podcast
One of the strategies that Pat used in her class was to call home every two weeks to brag about her students.  I thought this was so cool. She said this was one of the most important things she did in her classroom, and it got me to thinking about the importance of positive communication with parents.
 How often do we call home to say good things about our students?
I have to admit, when I was teaching, I hardly ever called home to say positive things about the students. I just never had the time. When I did call, I was complaining about how a student misbehaved,  or how they didn’t turn in their work. It was always a negative conversation.
I figured if I had to spend time on the phone I wanted to have it means something. I wanted to effect change. I wanted to see some kind of immediate return on my investment of time. 
I thought calling home on kids who are doing well would not have any other effect but to make parents feel good. Calling home on a student who is failing or misbehaving would hopefully effect some kind of change that I could see in class the next day.
What Pat did was to call home on every student, not to discuss negative behaviors, but to say something good –  to brag about the student.  This is what I thought was so cool. The time she took to invest in a positive phone call, may not have had immediate results, but in the long run, it made her class successful.
Recently, I made a positive phone call home. What was different was that the student was a student who normally only received negative phone calls to the house. Parents were often notified that he was misbehaving in class, that he wasn’t turning in his homework, that he was failing the class, etc.  This time, however, I was calling home to brag. The student found an iPod and turned it in. I decided to call mom to share the good news. Mom answered the phone with that “now-what-has-my-son-done” tone in her voice. When I shared the good news about her son,  she was surprised, pleasantly surprised. It was a great phone call.
I believe the student learned a valuable lesson about the rewards of doing the right thing.
Making parent phone calls about negative behaviors may effect change, but I’ve found that it is a temporary change.
Pat enlightens us to the long-term benefits of the positive phone call home. I know it’s time-consuming. I know it’s hard to sit down and find time to make phone calls, any kind of phone calls, but if we’re going to invest our time in something, wouldn’t it be better to make an investment that’s going to have a greater payoff long-term?
I’m not saying we stop calling home to let parents know about the negative behaviors, but we should also make the time to call and share the positive – for all your students, not just the ones who are always doing well.
Think about that student. You know who is he is –  that student who is your greatest challenge. I know there are many reasons to call home about negative behavior, but can you think of a positive phone call home you can make on that student? I know you’re saying, “No way Sam, there is nothing positive about the student.”
I would encourage you to look a little harder. I heard someone say, “If  you can’find anything good to say about a person, you’re not looking hard enough.” I would encourage you to make the investment to call home on that student –  to brag about that student. I believe if you do this, you’re going to see a return on your investment with a more successful student and a better relationship with his/her parents.
I want to offer my thanks to Pat for reminding us how important postive phone calls are to success in the classroom.
If you want to hear the interview with Pat, you can download it here or stop over to the podcast page –
Until next time,
Here’s to your Success In The Classroom!
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  1. Pat's Gravatar Pat
    December 17, 2013    

    Thanks Sam for emphasizing this strategy. I truly believe it was one of the most important things I have done in the classroom. It was sad to see how many parents expected to hear something bad and didn’t know how to react when the news was good. By making a habit of sharing good news, I was also giving them something to be proud of and giving them some hope. This hope was that positive things could happen for their child. It changed how they saw their child and how their child saw me as their teacher which in the long run, affected how they learned.

    • Sam's Gravatar Sam
      December 17, 2013    

      Hi Pat. I totally agree. Thank you for reminding us about the benefits of positive phone calls.

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