One of the greatest challenges I have in teaching is having enough time in the day to do the things which are the arguably the most important, engage in more conversations with parents. Too often I find myself honing in the “tough” kid or the child who spent way to much time in our in-school suspension program. I make it my number one priority to win them over and make them trust an adult (sometimes the only adult they trust).
However, all of those efforts into building that critical relationship can be shot down like a plane if there is no reinforcement at home. I’ll admit, I grew up with the over barring soccer mom who went to every school event possible and was known by all the teachers. To make matters worse, my mother was a teacher in the same school district. So no secret, good or bad, ever got past her. So when I come across parents who do not have their finger on the pulse of their child’s academic and personal life I am astonished at the culture shock.
Back to my anecdote, I have learned I not only have to teach the student, but I am called onto teach the parent. For example, I call one parent every week about positive school news, even if it might seem trivial to others, because some parents never get good news. I purposefully even wait until about 4 o’clock because a middle school should even be home at that time. Many times a “good kid” will share with me about their parent’s reaction and it gives me great “street credit” as one student told me in his household (whatever that means).
However, I have come across the “bad kid” and done the same thing, but I hear nothing back. I attempt to beat around the bush to have the student tell me about the conversation with Mom about their teacher calling home. But nothing!! It frustrates me because that “bad kid” needs to hear at home how proud a parent is about getting a positive message.
So, what are you going to do about it (as my supervisor would tell me)?
Model the expected behavior to the parent over the phone. This might sound silly, but sometimes you have to be direct to individuals. For example, this week during that positive phone call I directly mentioned to the parent I wanted them to mention to their child I was calling. I explained how helpful it is for them to show their child praise for doing the little things in school. Instantly, I got to hear about the positive message from the student in homeroom the next day.
Next, I have been working with my team to send a “Positive Referral Postcard” home weekly. In a team meeting, we are going to keep track to make one another accountable for writing a short message and letting parents know of the good things they may not see at home. We are hoping the small things will make a big difference later.
**Day 3 of 30 for the Teacher Blogging Challenge Complete