Less Stress: Reduce Phone Calls

old-school-phone1I got an email from one of our secretaries yesterday asking me to call one of the other administrative assistants. The message left no indication of why I should call her. I have not yet called her and I don’t intend to do so. I have a problem with phone calls.

In a world where email has become a standard of communication at work, phone calls are a mere inconvenience

Phone calls pose as important interruptions
Often they are unimportant or at the very least delayable. At the worst, they are totally unimportant. Phone calls allow someone else to control our environment.

I don’t answer the phone during class
I made the decision my third year of teaching to never stop to answer the phone during class. I didn’t always hold to it for a while, but I have the habit fully established now and when I hear a phone ring, I simply block it out. That is why they invented voice mail!

I make a habit of never answering call waiting
Why? Because voice mail is there to catch the call, and when I switch to another call while talking with someone else, it subconsciously tells them that they are just not that important to me. The same happens when I answer the phone during class.

I keep my ringers to a minimum
This school year, I decided to keep my cell phone on silent (not even vibrate) when I am at school. I keep it on my music stand since we don’t have a clock in the room, but I don’t answer it when I am teaching class. If I had a desk phone in my classroom, I would keep it completely off completely at all times. It has a light and if I happen to see the light flashing, I can answer (when not teaching) or simply let it go to voice mail.

What does this all do?
It allows me to remain intensely focused on teaching. My job as a teacher is to teach. I am paid to do that. Other people get paid to answer phones or even to make sure messages get delivered to me. My preferred medium of communication is email. It reduces paperwork, and allows me to have documentation of a problem if one arises.

So when do I return phone calls
I return phone calls at my convenience. Very rarely do I return phone calls immediately. I find that a lot of parent concerns are about things that have already been answered, or that I can address with the student during the day. Then I make sure that student knows to clarify it with their parent. After a day or two, I may make a follow-up phone call to touch base with the parent, ask if everything has been straightened out, and leave a positive impression with them of someone who returns phone calls. If I get voicemail, I leave a message and leave the responsibility on the other person to get back to me if they have further questions. I usually mention that email is the easiest and quickest way to respond to me in the voicemail.

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This won’t necessarily work for everyone but they are just some ideas on something that really eliminates a lot of distractions for me. If phone calls during class bother you, maybe you could look into taking some of these ideas.

About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

4 Comments on Less Stress: Reduce Phone Calls

  1. To me this all seems a bit rude. A parent called you b/c they have a concern. If they took the time to leave you a msg it must be important to them. Also if you have caller id, sometimes you don’t know who is calling and it could be an emergency.

  2. You have a good point that it seems rude. Parent phone calls always get returned. Parent emails usually get returned. They don’t get returned immediately, however.

    Most parent communication is based on poor communication on either my part, the part of the students, or both. I generally try to clarify the information by discussing it with the student beforehand, if at all possible. So my phone call is something along the lines of:

    “I got your phone call yesterday afternoon. Thank you for calling. I talked with Billy today and explained to him that he is not allowed to go to march in the parade because he failed his History class on the first six weeks report card. The Texas House Bill 72 ‘No Pass No Play’ law states that any student who receives a single failing grade on a report card is ineligible and is therefore not allowed to participate in any extra-curricular event. He is, however, required to perform in the concert next Thursday because it is an extension of the classroom education and is defined as a co-curricular activity.”

    Also, I know that in the case of an emergency, they will contact the main office who will send an office aide to let that student know of the problem.

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