Don’t Call Home

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Dec
  • 14
  • 2006

It is December 14th. We start Winter Holiday tomorrow at 1:15. When we get back from break, there are only 2 weeks before semester finals. That means that, even though it’s a month away on the calendar, there are only 2 weeks left in this semester.

And this is the week that parents start to call or email teachers about their child who is failing or in danger of failing a course. Why are those calls coming now, when it’s so late in the semester?

Do The Math

There’s really nothing that can be done in the next 14 school days to improve a grade. It took them all year to get this far down. As far as I can see, 2 weeks are not enough time to change a grade made up by 16 weeks of work (or lack thereof).

Extra Credit Should Never Be An Option

‘Nuff said.

Where Is The Student?

College or a trade, that choice is just around the corner for all high school students. Right now is a great opportunity for students to practice taking responsibility for their education, fighting their own battles, and figuring out how to dig out of holes they create. After all, colleges, bosses, and clients do not deal with parents of students, employees, or hired professionals.

Thanks to things like School Loop, Edline, InTouch,, and TeleParent (grants could pay for these), parents might be receiving email and/or phone calls with information about homework assignments and attendance.

This semester, I sent out 4 grade updates in addition to the 2 progress reports. The other teachers I know of who get these kinds of parent contacts have the same transparency with their gradebooks. It’s not as if the second grade period results are a surprise.

Not Worth It

Though completely anecdotal, an additional note is this: of all the phone calls home I’ve made over the last 9 years (I’d estimate that to be 40 phone calls because I had a particularly tough 4th year), around 3 have resulted in an improvement performance and all of those happened in the same year. Of the 4 parents I’ve contacted this year, not a single one has made a difference.

Parents who abdicate their responsibility to me (Parent: “I know, s/he’s like that at home, too. What should we do?”), incorrect phone numbers, parents who never seem to be home. I do not have much faith that phone calls home to the parents of high school students are the right investment of time. Grading all those essays as quickly as possible, that’s a good investment of time.

Students and teachers need to develop answers to troubling questions about grades. How can we expect students to take pride in their work, to take school seriously, when we rob them of the chances they have to actually be in charge of their education?

Reasons To Call

Next week, I’ll throw a post together gathering all the reasons I can think of in favor of making those phone calls home. Maybe there are legitimate reasons teachers should spent time on the phone. Maybe you can help me think of them.


1. understanding » Continuum to Burnout says:

[12/16/2006 - 5:44 pm]

[…] 4. Wow, everyone, everywhere who writes from a firsthand perspective always says the same things. We’re always asking the same questions and struggling with these same issues. I bet students have been choosing not to do their homework, for one reason or another, since homework was invented. I feel powerless against all the forces that conspire to make this the case. We worry about the consequences, and are mystified by the causes. There are deeper social problems in play here. Do I really have the ability to address those issues in an hour a day as a math teacher? Should I even bother asking that question when it feels like no one in charge of anything here cares? Do I have a chance to make a difference, or is all this effort thrown away like the half-done homework papers I had back? […]

2. Tom says:

[12/23/2006 - 5:38 pm]

With some middle school students I had it made a difference but it was more about building a solid relationship with the parents. I called them mainly about good things at first to try to get to know them and to get them to trust me. That worked well with some of them but it took a huge amount of time. I called all the parents every week and some several times a week. It was an alternative school and so I felt it was worth it (and possibly the only chance I had). It failed miserably with other parents and I’m not sure why. With regular or older students I doubt it’d matter much especially if it was more of a one time thing.

At some point it always comes down to the student and what they want to do.