Using a positive approach to discipline, I’ve discovered that five minutes of my time can win a student’s heart forever. Whether it’s part of a formal classroom procedure (five “caught being good” moments = one phone call home) or just an informal call to a student’s parents on a whim, I’ve always had success when I make a positive phone call home.

How a typical call goes:
[Ring-a-ling-a-ling]  22-2
Parent: Hello?
Me: Hi there. Is this Mrs. Smith?
Parent: Yes…
Me: Oh, great. My name is Laura Randazzo and I’m your son’s English teacher at XYZ High School. Is this a good time to talk?
Parent [hesitantly]: Yes… [Most parents assume this is a negative call since they usually only hear from the school when their kid is in trouble.]
Me: I just wanted to call and let you know how much I’m enjoying working with Michael this term. I’ve really been impressed with his [compassion toward struggling peers/knowledge of Greek mythology/willingness to keep trying when material is difficult/find something nice to say about the kid] and I just thought you should know.
Parent [a bit stunned]: Oh…thanks so much… Actually, I’m glad you called. I was wondering about…

At this point, the parent may share with you concerns or feedback. All of this is good. Even if a student is struggling academically, I do all I can to stay positive and emphasize what the student does well, offering ideas for support or tutoring as appropriate.

It takes just five minutes out of my afternoon to make such a call, but the goodwill that grows out of this interaction is huge. I’ve had students come to class the next day, beaming as they tell the whole class that I called their house last night. One girl was let off of her phone restriction two days early. Another was allowed to go to the Winter Ball, even though her parents had previously told her no. And one boy’s father was so happy to get my call that he took the family to Outback Steakhouse that night for an unexpected Wednesday night celebratory supper. Did those kids work extra-hard for me for the rest of the term? You betcha.

It may seem that our teens care only about their peers’ opinions, but the truth is that their parents are still the most important people in their hearts. When we can help make their mamas and papas happy, then we make the whole family happy. What better way to let your students know that you care about them and are on their side?

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