What are we doing to help kids succeed?
"Is this a prank call?"
"Who is this?"
"This is the first time I have heard from a teacher since my child was in sixth grade. I really appreciate your call."
"Thanks for the call. Can I tell you about my child?...."
A couple of years ago I was asked to be a mentor teacher to a new teacher. We sat in on what seemed endless meetings for first year teachers. Frank Forsthoefel told a story about his young daughter. His daughter's teacher called home to talk to her...before the first day of school. He mentioned the positive impact it had on both him and his daughter. A light turned on. What would happen if I called home to everyone of my students BEFORE the first day of school? Suppose I just wanted to introduce myself, convince them that chemistry is not impossible, answer any questions and, yes, tell them that even though I am technically an "old" teacher I love chemistry and helping kids learn. I also wanted to try to convince them that I do NOT have a meth lab in my basement. Here is the routine...
"Hi. My name is Chad Husting. I have your son/daughter next year in chemistry. My goal is to call students and parents before the first day of school and introduce myself. I love teaching kids and chemistry. If you or your child ever have a question or problem, please do not hesitate to call me...the sooner the better. I know that just the word chemistry is scary for some. I hope to make the class fun but also challenging. I am really looking forward to a great year. Have a great rest of the summer."
The responses, as shown above, are varied. Most people screen their calls and when they see a number they do recognize let it go to voice mail. Some responded with an email which was encouraging. Some were totally caught off gaurd because I am pretty sure that not many high school teachers do this. The last year I tried this I had one of the best years ever with students. I really want to send a message. I don't care if you like me or hate me, I want you to know I honestly care about your well being and want you to learn. That's it. You would think this would be a no brainer. After all, school is a caring place where adults help kids grow and learn. However, the teenage brain is a funny thing. They do not always get the memo.
So far I am about half way through my class list. It is kind of like jury duty. I really dread it but always feel better afterwards. I had a great discussion with one parent who was a single parent trying to raise several kids. He/she was doing the best they could but needed some help. It was hard to keep track of all the things each of the kids were doing in school. Would I mind calling if I started seeing any problems in the classroom with his/her child? Of course I would.
That response was rare and about one out of fifty. But it was one more than if I had never tried. Maybe...just maybe...that might be the one student who gets the idea that people care and uses that to pay it forward and help others. Maybe that's a great way to start the year.....