Monday, January 9, 2017

Just making a simple phone call is not so simple

So, I got an email this morning from Mr. Fleet, telling me that my grading guidelines are incomplete.  Apparently, I’m supposed to call every parent of every failing student I have so that they understand that their child is failing.

I laughed as I deleted his email.  Sorry, but no, 45 phone calls each six weeks is not going to happen. I’m pretty easy going, and I’m person who likes to follow the rules, but on this, I plan to dig my heels in and refuse. 

TCS had a similar rule, and the teachers ignored it there as well.  Both schools have an online database for students and parents to look at their grades.  The average updates each time a new grade is put in.  I grade papers EVERY SINGLE DAY, which means I’m constantly putting new grades in.  It’s not like I wait until the last minute and students have no clue how they’re doing in class.

One of my mentors told me I should never do something for a student that he or she should do on his or her own.  I think the same rule applies to parents.  A parent should be interested in how a kid is faring in class.  Why should I care more about their kid’s progress than they do?

I certainly tried my first two years at TCS.  I made multiple phone calls each week, only to find that half of the numbers were out of service and had never been updated with the school.  Frequently I couldn’t leave a voicemail because it was full or it had never been set up.  For the most part, when I could leave a message, I never heard back from the parent.  One parent, who I called consistently every three weeks, leaving multiple voicemails, later claimed she had no clue her son was failing and that she’d never heard from me.  The only thing that kept me from getting disciplined by the administration was that he was failing ALL of his classes, and his mother claimed NONE of his eight teachers ever contacted her.  When eight teachers are disputing the story of one parent, then the burden of proof isn’t on the teachers.

I realized then that even creating a phone log was insufficient.  I could be lying, or a parent could still claim I didn’t do what I was supposed to do. So I decided to create an email template and contact parents that way.  I can send it from my work email and even take care of it on the weekends without having to use my personal phone number.  Plus, I can provide the sent email, so it’s clear that I actually followed through.  Documentation is pretty important to me, especially in a hostile work environment.

Does this do the job?  Probably not.  Most of us have to have an email address to sign up for anything web-related, and I’ve realized that only a few people even check their email.  But hey, that’s not my fault.

The biggest gripe I have with phoning parents of failing students is that once again, it puts the burden of responsibility on the teacher.  I grew up in a time when parents didn’t have emails or online databases to check my grades, but my mother knew when I wasn’t doing well in school, and you know why?  BECAUSE SHE WAS INVOLVED WITH WHAT WAS GOING ON WITH ME.  If you aren’t involved in your kids’ lives, then maybe the problem with their grades is you. 

It just occurred to me that Mr. Fleet sent me an email to say that email was insufficient to contact a parent.  Hmmmm… shouldn’t he have called me?  I mean, if it’s that important?