Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Good Student Phone Call of the Day

It started in a Twitter chat last fall - there was a challenge to make three or four good phone calls a week. The idea is an old one, too often, parents never hear from us unless there's a problem. If we continue in that way, we're not building a community with our parents and our students.

It sounds nice, but I'm terrible at scheduled activities. It got to be work, rather than a joyful, sharing thing. I already get home way too late because I can be horribly inefficient when the day's up. Then there was the matter of calling kids. Some kids seemed like they were deserving of good phone calls every day. And then there are the students who never seem to have a good day - and aren't those the kids who really need the good call?

I don't know if the change came during Breakfast Club 5:30 (#BFC530), an early morning Twitter chat, or before, but an important concept popped into my head. Don't do work for your students. Give your students opportunity to run things as much as possible. So I turned the responsibility over to the students, and now we have the Good Student Phone Call of the Day. It works like this: Students gather and nominate someone in class for a good phone call. A nomination can be for a number of reasons. A student may have been especially kind or helpful. Maybe they nailed it on a test. It might be that their behavior wasn't as bad as usual, or maybe everyone just feels like they needed a smile.

Once we have a nominee, they go over to my phone, we hit speakerphone, and they read the script. "Hi mom/dad, I'm calling on speakerphone to tell you that I was voted Good Phone Call Student of the Day." At this point, everybody in the class goes wild, cheering, and I pick up the handset so they can tell their parent more about it.

To allow freedom, you're allowed up to two phone calls before we've cycled through everyone. To make the kid who's picked last feel better, we make the last day of the cycle "KIDSNAME Day," and allow her/him to have preferrential searing, line leadership, and other perks for the day. Of course, they also get the phone call that day.

So far, response has been very positive. Students like recognizing nice things about their classmates, and several students have told me that Mom and Dad treated them like a VIP at home.

Like anything in elementary education, this isn't without problems. Sometimes the nominations are a little too, "I wanted to nominate my friend because she's nice to me," and not, "Here's why she's a good classmate." Sometimes we don't get done cleaning up in time. While I would love to do this every day, third graders don't always clean up the classroom efficiently. We look up, and it's time to leave. As I reflect on this, I realize that this problem solving, too, needs to be handed to my students. So there's my next step. Hand this off to the kids. Run the show, baby, and you'll learn to run the show.

Lastly, during one edchat, another Twitterer got very upset about parents getting called during work hours. I've never had a complaint from parents, but it is a concern worth noting.

So what do you do? How do you recognize, or help your students recognize greatness in your classroom? How do you ac-cen-tuate the positive?

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