Every parent dreads it. The call. You know darn well what I’m talking about. The phone rings innocently enough. You fish it out of your pocket, checking the caller ID like you would any other call. Suddenly your heart skips a beat. Your son or daughter’s school district is blinking at you. Your mind ricochets to about 15 million different possibilities in a matter of seconds. Is this my kid’s teacher? Did he bomb that math test? What happened at recess today? Did he get in a fight with that kid who was calling him names last week? Oh, crud, he’s sick! I knew that cough was nasty enough to take him into the doctor! How am I ever going to pick him up from school? No, wait … isn’t he struggling in language arts too??? Lord, help me!!!
Picking up that phone call is like picking up a time bomb. You never know when it will go off. Or if it will even go off at all! So, you resort to the final trick in your bag. You take a deep breath and let the call go to voicemail. Whoops! Round two of the above possibilities begins to percolate in your head—again. It’s a no-win situation. Ever been there before? Or maybe you’ve been on the student end of it, knowing your teacher is calling home. That’s a rough one. Before we dive any further into the negative connotations involving that dreaded phone call home from school, what if I told you the person on the other end of the line was going to praise your child? Would that make you want to pick up that much quicker?
Crazy how the mind works. Let’s be honest. As a teacher, how often do we call home for negative reasons? Normally, a phone call home is to communicate something we need from the student. A missing assignment or two (or three). A behavior problem. A test to make up. How often do we call home just to praise a kid for doing the right thing? Here’s a little secret I found out a few years ago … the best way to rock mom or dad’s world is to call them at home or even at work just to let them know their son or daughter is doing something amazing at school. I speak life right into these parents who are beyond hesitant to push the talk button. And you can never go wrong with it. Before I explain myself any further, let’s look at what God has to say about praising others. Stop after reading each of the following scriptures and let it soak in. Meditate on them.
“Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body” (Proverbs 16: 24).
“Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing” (Proverbs 12: 18).
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25: 11).
“In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire” (James 3: 5).
Do you want to start a fire—for the good of someone else? A fire that will undoubtedly sweep back to you? A fire that has the possibility of lifting a parent or a student through a difficult time? I have seen all too often how the power of words can change the course of a child in my class. Especially if I pick the right kid at the right time. Especially if the kid’s parent I am calling has never received a positive phone call before. I started this tradition three years ago when I began giving out an award called my King or Queen of the Week.
Back then I made one call a week, but I saw such success that I have amped that one call a week up to five per week. The benefits were astronomical. Parents were shocked—for the good! They praised their kids when they got home. They rewarded them with a special dinner or a new video game. The kids came back to school rejuvenated, aching to do something even better. Grades got better. Attitudes improved. And the other students around them saw it happening too, wondering to themselves, “How can I get my teacher to call home?” A fire was started!
Crowning the King or Queen of the Week is invaluable. Literally putting that crown or tiara on their head (less than six bucks total at US Toy, thank you very much) sends shivers down my spine. But to take a few seconds out of my day to call that kid’s parents, to hear their astonished reaction on the other end of the phone, it is priceless. If there is a day when I can afford to, I make the call during class to see that kid’s face light up as I talk to their mom or dad. I model what I say to parents, letting the other kids hear it, saying to them, “Hey, this could be you,” afterwards. The ten minutes I spend on the phone every week is hands down the most valuable ten minutes I own. Be that positive word of encouragement. Start a fire and speak life into not just your students but the parents too. Shake up their world! I guarantee the fire will sweep right back to you, making next week’s phone calls even that much more necessary.
(Do you speak life into your students? Let Toby Mac’s song “Speak Life” inspire you to get on the horn this week and praise a kid who needs it.)