A small amount of time can make a huge difference for a child.
Another Interesting Idea that I adopted early in my administration career was something I heard at a conference from Todd Whitaker. I heard him speak when I was a teacher and considering leadership and this one Interesting Idea stuck with me. I remember how practical his session was and that aspect became a promise I made to myself as a presenter and facilitator. A goal for me each session was going to be to inspire and motivate my audience to take even one or two ideas and incorporate the skill/idea into their practice the very next day.
Now ideally, in training, you want educators to take what you are sharing and utilize a lot of it but we all know that we have left training sessions with a few good stories, a chance to catch up with some colleagues and meet some new people, but unfortunately sometimes that is it.
I want to speak about two Interesting Ideas this week. The first is just a simple reminder as a presenter to highlight in your presentations the things you want the people to go back and do right away. Make it part of your objectives. Give them an opportunity to write it down, make a commitment to do it, maybe get a critical friend and together they can be each others’ accountability partner to make sure the practice is going to be done.
The second Interesting Idea in this blog is the actual new practice that Todd Whitaker shared many, many years ago and then I did it as part of my weekly practice as both a vice principal and a principal.
Find a moment to call on Friday Afternoon
Each week I would make Friday phone calls. I would make three phone calls Friday afternoon to the families of three of our students and share some great news about their child.
I kept a list of the classes and teacher names and would rotate through the school on a regular pattern. Something like, Kindergarten, grade 4, grade 6 and then the following week grade 1, 5, 7 to make sure I got different grades and different classes each week. If you are mathematically inclined this is three phone calls a week, for forty school weeks, so in total 120 phone calls so I could brag about kids to their parents. And here is the beautiful thing, each one only took a couple of minutes but the impact was immense.
These were phone calls, not emails. You know the reasons why the phone call would be so much better than an email.
Approaching a teacher on Friday morning I would ask for a good news story about a child in their classroom. I explained what I was going to do and asked them which child needs a good news story. The variety in the stories was huge. Some were about academic improvement, some were about working so well in class, about being a good friend to others. You can probably guess, based on our school mantra, the stories were all about Working Hard, Being Nice and Making a Difference. We all know the students in our schools that deserve and would benefit from this kind of attention.
I would jot down a little about the story and then in the afternoon I would make my three phone calls. I would often have to call parents at work, on a Friday afternoon! Sometimes they would have to call me back and often I would have to interrupt what they were doing. Quickly I would explain that I am calling for a fabulous reason and then share the story. Or in my message I would ask them to call me back and I promised I had good news.
I would start off with something about walking through the school and I overheard your child’s teacher bragging about your child, or that the teacher approached me and shared the good news because they know I love to hear stories like this, or that the child was asked by the teacher to have a ‘walk of pride’ and come down to the office to share with me their good news (another school tradition that we made sure staff included in their practice, having students come to the office to share good news, proud moments with us). I would end by saying since I had heard such wonderful things I just felt I needed to call you, not keep it to myself and share it with you. I’ve had parents tear up. I’ve had parents call their partners to the phone and ask me to repeat it. I’ve had parents ask if I had the wrong number.
Imagine getting a phone call on a Friday afternoon from your child’s school? Imagine the thoughts going through your mind? Now imagine the sense of pride.
I like to think about the first thing that will happen when that adult gets back to work and shares, ‘you know what, that was my child’s school and they called to tell me that….’ What a great promotion for the school and the hard working people inside the school. Imagine the weekend that child is going to have at home and the reaction of the parent when they first see their child Friday after school.
All of these good feelings. All of this positive energy, and how long does it take from my day?
If I never made the phone calls, simply hearing wonderful stories about the students in our school was enough to get me in the right frame of mind going into the weekend.
There were Fridays that were hectic and I just didn’t think I wanted to make the calls. I was too busy, and one week off is not going to make a big difference. No lie, although difficult to get started some times, I was always so glad I made the calls when it was all over and done. The parent reactions were worth every second.
Try it. Try it this Friday. See what you think. I’m thinking it is something you are going to start to do on a regular basis.
There you have it, another Interesting Idea, for you to consider. This one takes a total of about 10 minutes once a week but worth so much more.
As always I appreciate when you email or comment back to me about using the ideas and if you start this tradition I would love to hear about your experiences.