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TOY Stories Blog: Positivity is the Key – Encouraging Parental Involvement
By Jodie Hogan
What is the first thing on my to-do list on Friday mornings? You guessed it! It is to make one positive phone call home every week. I started this initiative at South River High School two years ago. I was frustrated with myself because I always had good intentions to make consistent positive connections with my parents, but I was not following through. Our initiative is called, “Fabulous Seahawk Fridays.” I created a spreadsheet to record the names of each parent I called, and shared it with my colleagues. I told them that if every faculty member made a positive call once a week, we would brighten the day of approximately 4,800 students and their parents throughout the course of the year. That was a powerful number, so many of the faculty jumped on board right away.
The response from the parents was incredible. So many of them only hear from teachers for negative reasons. If they have “good” children, they may not hear anything at all. Every parent I have called in the past two years has been thankful to hear how their child contributes to the class. Many of them will share how encouraged they were to receive a positive phone call. As we all know, being a parent of a teenager is often a challenge.
More important, the response from the students has been wonderful. These phone calls empower them to continue to do well. It lets them know that I see them and that they matter. I had a student tell me, “My mom took me to Taco Bell last night because you called.” A colleague of mine had a student tell her, “My dad let me use the car yesterday. Thank you for calling.”
This simple initiative has opened the doors to our school. Many of the parents we talk to are not involved in school activities. Our hope is that they will be encouraged to come to an event if they have had a positive contact with our faculty members. In addition, it has put a positive light on what we do, when parents tell other parents that they received a positive call.
Parent involvement does not have to be complicated. We want our parents to be informed about the Common Core standards and the PARCC assessments. Community days, parent nights, and PTSO meetings are excellent sources to educate our parents about education reform. However, a simple phone call helps build the foundation for receptiveness and ultimately success at these events.
Jodie served as the 2013-2014 Anne Arundel County Public Schools Teacher of the Year. She taught for 14 years in AACPS and is currently teaching Spanish at Anne Arundel Community College.