If you are a principal, when was the last time you phoned a parent of a student… just because? If you are a teacher, when have you called a parent to tell him/her the wonderful qualities within his/her child? If you are a parent, how often are you at the receiving end of a positive phone call from the school?
This year, to try to better the school-parent relationship, my vice principal and I are trying to increase the number of positive contacts we have with parents. We have implemented what we call the “Friday 5”; each and every Friday, both he and and I make 5 positive phone calls to parents of students at Kent Elementary. The phone calls are not usually about what the child has done but more about who they are as a person; all students have strengths and amazing qualities within them, it is important for the school to let the parents know that these are recognized at the school. Our goal is to reach every parent at least once during the year over the phone and then speak positively about the child when we see the parent in the parking lot, hallways, or community. Students are selected at random but if we feel a parent may need a positive call, we do just that (and not just on Fridays).
Although this began as a way to build trusting relationships with parents, it has evolved into something that I look forward to every week and something that not only starts off the families’ weekend on a positive note, but also, ends my week on a high.
Although every phone call is wonderful, here is a retelling of one in which I will never forget. Natalie O. (pseudonym) is an intermediate student at our school having a very difficult year. She has been both verbal and physical with other students and has found herself meeting with me on a consistent basis to work on learning to make different choices. I speak with her mother, whom is very supportive, on a regular basis and provide her with updates on Natalie’s progress. Three weeks ago, I called Natalie’s mother as part of my Friday 5. It went something like this:
Me: Good evening Mrs. O., It’s Chris Wejr calling from Kent Elementary. How are you doing?
Mrs. O: Ummm… I am not sure, can you ask me that again after you tell me why you are calling (with a nervous chuckle).
Me: I just wanted to let you know that we had a concern with a younger student today who was having a bit of an emotionally challenging time. Neither I nor Mr. K (the VP) were available as we were both teaching. Natalie’s teacher heard and saw this other child crying in the hall (with her teacher). Natalie saw this too and recognized her from her neighbourhood; she then asked if she could help her out. The teacher jumped at this opportunity and offered the two students a room and some whiteboard pens. When the teacher returned later, Natalie had smiley faces and sad faces drawn on the white board and both girls were laughing and drawing. The younger student returned to class and had a great day. Once I found out about this, I approached Natalie and thanked her and asked her what she said… she responded, “It’s girl stuff Mr. Wejr” and smiled. Mrs. O, I know that Natalie has been making some poor choices lately but this just shows exactly what you and I have spoken about – Natalie has a caring, nurturing side that is so helpful to others. This side has also been noticed by her peers as they have written in class about how she is such a good friend and stands up for others all the time. I just wanted to let you know that the school truly appreciates the caring and nurturing qualities that Natalie brings to our school.
Me: Mrs. O, are you still there? (Tears)
Mrs. O: Is that really why you are calling? There`s nothing else?
Me: Yes, that is all. Have a great weekend!
Mrs. O: Thank you so much, I cannot wait to go and hug my daughter. That is the first time that anyone has ever called to tell me anything good at school! I saw the number on the call display and my stomach churned… wow, you have a wonderful weekend!
This phone call not only bettered the relationship with Mrs. O but also modeled to Natalie that we appreciate so much the strengths that she has within her. My relationship with Natalie has also changed and we often joke around about the “girl stuff” comment.
As we approach 2011, if you are a teacher or an administrator, my challenge to you is: notice the strengths that each child brings to your school and do the Friday 5. Not only will it help build the relationships with the parents of your students but it will also help you to seek out the positives in each child and provide you with a positive end to your week so you leave your school with a smile.
Also, thank you to fellow BC principal, Cale Birk, for the conversations and inspiration to write this post.