As a school-based speech language pathologist, I have noticed that almost anytime parents get a phone call home from their child's school, it is usually bad news. While updating my students' files in the front office, I have overheard a bunch of these bad news phone calls, such as a teacher reporting that the student's test scores are not as high as they should be or that a student will be suspended for the next few days for fighting in the hallway. Don't get me wrong, these types of bad news phone calls need to be made from time to time, but it got me wondering about good news phone calls. Are we, as educators, taking the time out of our busy schedules to actually make positive phone calls home?
Obviously, I can't speak for every single educator in the world, but I can speak for myself. Now, I'm about to get really honest with you because honesty is the best way to be . . . I have never made a positive phone call home in regards to my speech students. Yikes, it is actually VERY embarrassing to admit that in this post.
Why didn't I make positive phone calls home?
I really don't know why. It just never came to my mind to do it. I mean, yes I called parents all the time to remind them about upcoming IEP meetings or to ask them if they received the carryover worksheets that I sent home, but I never just called to share good news about progress in speech. Well, I realized right then and there that it was time for me to start a new habit of actively calling parents when one of my speech students did something awesome in speech class. And let me tell you, I am ridiculously happy that I started doing this because the response that I have gotten from parents has been fantastic.
Here's an example of one that made me smile!
I had a 1st grade student who was struggling with being able to identify and express age-appropriate categories. During this one particular session, he was rocking it! I showed him the red paper and he was able to name many different red items he had at home (apples, cherries, his mom's car, etc.). Then, I showed him the blue paper and he was able to name tons of blue items he had at home (toothpaste, bubblegum, his blue stuffed elephant, etc.). He also said to me, "I have this painting hanging in my kitchen of a lake. The lake is blue. We can add that to the blue category because it is blue. I like that painting because it looks beautiful."
I immediately told him how much I loved the fact that he used the word beautiful to describe the painting (hooray for effective communication!). In an effort to take categories to the next level, I then asked him to name other things he had at home that he would describe as beautiful. What he said next blew my mind.
"My mother and my grandmother are beautiful. So, I would add them to the beautiful category."
Wow. Just WOW! Not only did he nail my category question, but his response might have been one of the sweetest things I have ever heard a speech student say. I clapped very loud and told him he was on fire. I even gave him an EXTRA sticker to add to his sticker chart. After the boy's session was complete, I went over to the phone to share this cute story with his mother.
Upon calling this mother, the first thing she said to me was, "Oh Mr. Raj, I am so sorry. What did he do now?" I quickly told her that this was not a bad news phone call, it was a good news phone call. I explained the categories activity and the fact that he stated that he believed his mother and his grandmother belonged in the beautiful category. The mother started to cry. She explained to me that the last few months with her son have been tough because his behavior in school wasn't the best. She admitted that they were working on that at home, but she was ecstatic that I called to report the good news. The last sentence she said to me was, "You have no idea how happy this phone call made me, Mr. Raj. Thank you for this news and I look forward to giving my son a huge hug tonight when I see him."
Will you make try to make a good news phone call soon?
Trust me, I know we are all busy. Our caseloads are huge, the paperwork is never ending, the list goes on and on, but the power of one phone call can really make a difference. I believe that making these types of phone calls helps to build rapport with not only the parents of the student, but also the student. Will you give this a shot and try to make this a habit? I hope you do. Please keep me updated on how it goes because I would love to hear from you!