I’m happy to introduce guest bloggers Rik Rowe, a secondary math teacher from Wilmington, Massachusetts, USA, and Anabel Gonzalez, a Grade 7–12 ESL teacher from Mooresville, North Carolina, USA. Rik and Anabel met on Twitter while chatting on #GoodCallsHome, a movement to encourage teachers to make positive calls to the homes of their students.
What started out as a simple hashtag, #GoodCallsHome, has evolved into a powerful movement that is changing lives and altering academic destinies. #GoodCallsHome is an undertaking that encourages teachers to commit themselves to making positive phone calls to the homes of at least two of their students each week in the hopes of reaching the families of every single learner by the end of the semester or year. But this goes beyond positive phone calls. #GoodCallsHome is a mindset shift for educators to proactively reach out to families, thereby establishing an invaluable parental rapport.
Are you intrigued, but think you don’t have the time? If you are like most educators, you probably have way too much on your plate already, and time is a precious commodity. However, investing a few minutes each week in making proactive phone calls home will generate much needed parental support. Students will know you have their best interest in mind which, for an English learner, may be the difference between graduating or dropping out.
The #GoodCallsHome inspiration originated from the parent of one of Rik Rowe’s learners. The learner was a hard-working student whose engagement in learning, class contributions, and discussion questions were at a higher level than he had previously witnessed, even in honors classes. During an Underclassman Awards Night, this young lady earned more honors than were typically awarded to a single student. She was cited as an exceptional individual, communicator, and contributor. During the reception following the awards ceremony, Rik had an inspiring conversation with the parents of this young lady. The most compelling moment was when the student’s dad asked him why he had not called home to share of the incredible learning their daughter was experiencing in class.
Rik was speechless. His initial thought was that he had had no reason to call home because everything was fine. The more he pondered the dad’s question, the more he realized that the student had given him every reason to make a positive call home, yet he had not taken the opportunity. Rik and the parents talked at length about the need for parents to know of the good things taking place in our schools. That dad then asked Rik if he would commit to communicating with the parents about the success of his students. Rik indicated that he would think seriously about making positive phone calls. And so #GoodCallsHome was born. To this day, the young lady’s dad and Rik share on Twitter about the profound impact educators across the country are making with weekly good calls home.
Coincidentally, Anabel felt the need to implement a more proactive approach to connecting with her learners’ families. Parent nights and meetings specifically targeted toward the families of English learners were not well attended. She was intrigued and inspired after seeing the #GoodCallsHome hashtag on Twitter. In the fall of 2014, Anabel stepped up her commitment to making positive phone calls home by adding #GoodCallsHome to her professional goals for the year.
Both Rik and Anabel agree that finding the hidden gems in every student to share with parents is not always easy, but they maintain an open mind and have always been able to find something to celebrate in each learner. Positive phone calls are a collaborative way to build trusting relationships: first with parents, and second with students. Once word gets around that they are making positive calls, behavioral issues start to diminish as students realize that their teachers are not only their teachers but also their allies.
Based on their experience, here are a few reactions you can expect when making good calls home:
- Anxious Silence: When calling families who rarely receive calls from teachers, much less positive calls, you can expect parents to suspect that there’s a problem. Even if you immediately blurt out your good news, they tend to remain silent as they anticipate trouble or the other shoe to drop.
- Defensiveness: Sadly, parents never expect teachers to take time to call with a compliment, and they feel suspicious and wonder what’s really behind your call. We find that it may take a few phone calls before parents let their guard down.
- Tears: Some parents may become emotional, especially if it is the very first time a teacher has acknowledged their child’s strengths.
So why make these calls? Rik and Anabel make positive calls home because they truly care about the development and well-being of their students. They want to foster a support system that connects home and school. They want parents to be aware of the growth, perseverance, and grit that their students exhibit on the learning journey. There really is so much to share when you look at engagement, feedback, and communication that so often blooms into learning.
#GoodCallsHome has brought a heightened awareness of the power of positive calls and the encouragement and motivation that they generate. The perseverance through challenges, the tireless effort, and the commitment of learners to reach for higher levels of proficiency is inspiring educators across the United States. Weekly good calls home can translate into increased academic achievement and an improved overall school experience. Join the nationwide movement and watch the purposeful calls generate more meaningful relationships, deeper learning, and collaborative excitement between educators, parents, and learners!
Rik Rowe is a 16-year secondary math teacher from Wilmington, Massachusetts, and a connected educator with a passion for learning and a passion for empowering his learners to engage in exciting learning opportunities. He’s an avid reader and participates in many Twitter chats. Follow him on Twitter @RoweRikW.
Anabel Gonzalez began teaching in 1996 and is currently a secondary ESL teacher for the Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina, serving English learners in Grades 7–12. She is also a trainer for NCDPI’s English Learner Support Team. Follow her on Twitter @amgonza.
Love this message. It is so important to share successes, especially when trying to develop a growth mindset. Thanks for sharing.
The importance of positivity in the life of any student cannot be overstated. In the lives of English learners who are struggling to learn the English language and be successful in academic subjects, it is of immeasurable worth. As a teacher of a large number of English learners, I have been making phone calls to parents to share positive information. Therefore, I am very pleased to hear about the #GoodCallsHome movement! I feel that this is a wonderful step in the right direction in the praxis of critical pedagogy. When students are praised for what they are doing well, not only to them, but also to their families, a foundation of trust is built that helps the students to see that you are advocating on their behalf which increases their desire to be productive.
I had a wonderful experience a couple of weeks ago while talking to the mother of an English learner in my classroom. This particular child gets distracted very easily and tends to misbehave, but I thought about positive things that I could say to his mother when I made a phone call home. I made a conscious effort to find ways to let this child know that I believe in him and that I know he can do a great job with his behavior and with his school work. Then, when I called home, I told his mother that I was glad to have him in my class and that I wanted her to know that she could contact me any time with questions. I was so thrilled when she proceeded to share something with me. She told me that she had a lot of difficulty in the previous school year with getting him going in the mornings to go to school. She said that he did not want to go. Then, she proceeded to tell me that this year, he gets up and is glad to be going to school. She said that he really likes me, and she told me that she appreciated the fact that I was trying to find the good in him and that I was patient with him. I thanked her for her kind words and told her how glad I was to hear that he felt that way and was glad to help in any way that I could. As I hung up the phone, I realized that I had begun a trust relationship with this mother. She communicated to me that she knew that I wanted to help him and be patient with him, which showed that the foundation had been laid for a trust relationship.
I am thrilled to hear that the #GoodCallsHome movement is taking place. In my work with English learners, I hope to build more trust relationships by communicating with family members in a positive manner. I look forward to seeing the results in learning throughout this school year that come from building these trust relationships with students and their families.