Wednesday 16 May 2012

Contacting Home

Last week was a tough week, it felt like my students and I were a few days away from summer break.  Not only were they arriving late, but they were unprepared (no books, pens, pencils, paper...) for the class and during class time they were unfocused.  I was frustrated and angry they had quit 5/6 weeks before the end of the year - it took two days of wallowing in my misery to break out of it.  By the third day I was tired of focusing on the negative; I did not want to dwell on things or students who were not working. 

So I took some time out of my lunch to email six parents a positive email about their child.  Instead of marks I focused on the child's work ethic, behaviour in class and interaction with peers and staff.  All were relatively brief but to the point:   "Contributes to class culture" / "Independent worker" / "Self motivated" / "Wonderful sense of curiosity" /  "Helps others after completing work" / "... proud of your son / daughter". 

I received three emails in return.  They thanked me for taking the time to send something positive home,  reaffirmed the comments I sent them (how proud they are of their child), and in return offered some insight as to how myself and my course were being received at home.  My favorite response came from a dad who called me at 3:01 on Friday.  First of all he wanted to make sure that the email was written by me and second to thank me.  It just happened that he and his son had planned a dinner out that night and he was excited to have a reason to celebrate on a Friday.  It had been a long time since he had a positive contact home about his son.  He was a bit taken aback and asked a number of questions to make sure I wasn't blowing smoke.

In writing these emails a couple of things caught my attention:

a.  We are in the business of human relationships.  Regardless of curriculum, course etc... the foundation of teaching is the connection with the student and hopefully the parent.
b.  As parents, regardless of age, we worry that our son / daughter is doing the right thing, making the right choices, behaving in the way we raised them.  Rarely are we given positive feedback that eases our worries.  It felt like a sense of relief from the parents who replied.
c.   I was surprised how each parent had some feedback for me.  We tend to forget what happens in our classroom is often relayed back to parents, friends... 
d.  To be completely selfish - this was a rewarding experience (on a number of levels).  When I was young and new to the profession I would call roughly 75% of all the students I taught to let their parents know of something positive.  I am going to make a goal of emailing / calling as many parents as I can - 5/6 a week.  
e.  When the students returned to class the next day all six of them thanked me for sending the email.

I would encourage you to try and do something similar.

Post courtesy of Russ Reid

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