You are here

Find A Mother (Total Teacher Transformation Day 4)

This is an article in the Total Teacher Transformation series. Click here for a complete table of contents.

948175_telephone_4Face it, misbehavior has been around only slightly longer than behavior has been. As teachers, we are often expected to fill every possible role in the lives of the students. Unfortunately, that can’t always happen. Sometimes our control and influence over the actions of the students is limited.

Every teacher has students who misbehave from time to time.

One of the things that revolutionized my teaching was to realize that most of the parents really wanted to help me help their child be successful. Most parents also have no real idea of how their children really act.

To really get through to the students, I found it was very effective to pick up the phone and call a parent. Don’t do this when you’re mad or upset, because that is likely to carry through in your tone of voice across the phone, but make sure you call.

I generally have the students call, them tell their parent what they did to get in trouble, what the consequences will be, and all that. I then have them hand me the phone when they were finished talking and clarify a few things with the parent. I do this in a calm voice and just very clearly talk about the unacceptable behavior, why it is unacceptable, and try to help them understand more if necessary.

They generally thank me for letting them know, and ask to speak to their child. I assume they then tell the kid how much they have embarrassed them, and the behavior problem is usually resolved right then and there. It’s a great sense of control when you realize that the simple act of communication with the parent can weild such powerful results.

It also keeps you from bugging the administrators with something that generally should be handled in house.

Today’s assignment
Clarify to your students that any misbehavior may result in phone calls home. Then if one happens, feel free to make it happen. The younger your students are, the more effective a phone call home will be. But what parent of a 16-year-old wants to know that their son who wants to borrow the car this weekend is talking back to a teacher? You’ll be surprised by the effectiveness at pretty much all levels.

Setting this clear expectation will be a positive step toward reestablishing power and control of your classroom. And when the classroom is out of control, that is exactly what you need to do!

See also  Be Fair (Total Teacher Transformation Day 10)

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.

Joel Wagner
Joel Wagner (<strong><a href="">@sywtt</a></strong>) 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. <strong><a href="">So You Want To Teach?</a></strong> is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

10 thoughts on “Find A Mother (Total Teacher Transformation Day 4)

  1. This was the most effective tool I used in 30 years of teaching. Usually if you make one or two calls during class, it will set the tone for the rest of the year. I went some years without ever writing an office referral because of this. The parents appreciated it and so did I. This worked even better when I also called home to praise their child too, not just to relay misbehavior. But I also think what made it work was when I let the students call when they did something great or special too.

  2. In my experience, with elementary students and the population I work with, parents do know how their students act and I found phone calls home to be mostly ineffective. The students who misbehaved tended to be the students whose parents didn’t know what to do with them at home to help them to behave. I also found that if my first contact with parents was about misbehavior then I would lose that parent forever.

    So I would try to have some positive contact with parents before calling home about any problems. And then I would calls home as an important part of communication but not so much an important part of my behavior management.

    1. Great point, Mathew. I find that positive contact is a great start. I guess for me, most of the parents have heard from me either at concerts, parades, other performances or through informative emails that I send throughout the year.

      Also, it’s a good point you raise re: different populations. Parents in higher socio-economic environments tend to be more involved in the lives of their children. I currently am in a situation with nearly 75% of the population under the poverty line (many of the parents don’t even speak English), so it’s clearly different here than it would be if I were in a much more high-scale neighborhood.

      However, calling home was at least a start in opening up some communication channels with the parents when I was first learning how to do this. Clearly fear is not the most effective means of classroom management, but it is one more tool to add to the teacher’s arsenal of preventative measures. Tomorrow, we’ll look at some positive reinforcements…

  3. Joel, you are VERY fortunate to have parents who want to speak to their kids about their misbehavior when you call and who help you resolve the problem. I have been VERY fortunate this year, as I have had similarly supportive parents.

    But believe me, that has not always been the case. I agree with Mathew that some parents don’t know how to help us with school behavior. Even worse, I’ve had a lot of kids whose parents flat out don’t care how their child behaves OR who actually get offended that anyone would even suggest that their child was anything less than an angel.

    I’ve actually had parents tell me not to bother them anymore or hang up the phone instead of listening.

  4. What do you recommend when a teacher consistently punishes a child based on the word of another child and never asks the alleged misbehaving child what happened or what they were actually doing?

    This has been a recurring problem with my daughter and her teacher. She was recently punished for being under the table at school. Another child told on her and the punishment was handed down, no questions asked. If the teacher had bothered to ask my daughter about it, she would have learned that my daughter was under the table picking up her Medic Alert bracelet that that fallen off—the bracelet that could save her life in a medical emergency.

    1. Well, my first question would be, have you talked to the teacher and brought these situations to the teacher’s attention?

      Beyond that, what do I recommend? I recommend teaching your child that life isn’t always fair. We’ve all had our share of teachers (and bosses) who for whatever reason didn’t take all things into consideration when dealing with certain situations.

      In those situations, we have all had to learn to cope with them, to adjust out actions, and move on if we want to be successful. This close to the end of the year, if the teacher doesn’t stop, then your daughter should probably just be extra careful to understand how her actions might be perceived as being wrong.

  5. My child already knows life is not fair because she lives it every day that she goes to school with this teacher. And of course I brought it up with the teacher. She admitted she made a mistake. Other than that, it’s made no difference as the same scenario has happened numerous times since then.

    Thanks so much for this biased, and thus, useless advice. Take heart, Joel—you did succeed in teaching me one thing…don’t ask a teacher about problems with a teacher.

  6. Just wanted to give an “Amen” to your statement that “Every teacher has students who misbehave from time to time.” May I suggest a corollary? Every teacher has a really tough class or two in their career.

    One of my colleagues, a very respectable veteran classroom teacher, has had one heck of a tough year. We often have lunch together, and she shares with me her woes and her strategies, few of which have had much lasting impact. Knowing her style and her experience, I’m slow to offer simple pat answers. I think this has just been one of those years she will look back on at the end of her career and be thankful she survived.

  7. I have been the parent, and the teacher. I also have a boss that will not allow me to have kids call parents on the spot in class because he deems that sort of conversation in mixed company to be a breech of confidentiality. But during my time in the classroom I did send positive and negative notes home, as well as call during conference periods. I think with a more common sense approach, brief calls home can be handled during class. I eman, when a kid breaks a rule worthy of a call home, it is usually no secret what happened!
    As a parent, we take immediate and decisive action when our kids act up in class. We have 4 kids, and I have received 3 positive notes, one each for my oldest 3, and numerous negative ones over the years. I will never forget the nice notes! As a teacher, I have seen supportive and nonsupportive parents. I have also dealt with those parents who do not return calls, no matter how serious their child’s behavior!

Comments are closed.