Kenowa Hills — During the middle of her week, Kimberly Swindell-Nowak received a seemingly random call from her son’s third-grade teacher.
She assumed something was wrong, until Brooke Johnston informed her she was only calling to share some positive news about her student.
Swindell-Nowak could not wait to get home and tell her two kids, fourth-grader Lauren and third-grader Matthew, how proud she was of them.
“They loved it and were happy to know their teachers noticed their hard work and the good things they are doing in school,” Swindell-Nowak said.
To celebrate the 100th day of the school year, teachers at Alpine Elementary made 100 positive phone calls to parents.
“One of our staff members saw on Twitter that a principal from another school called 100 people to share positive news, so we thought, wouldn’t that be awesome?” Johnston said. “We put the challenge out to the staff and said, ‘Let’s do this!’”
One hundred percent of Alpine teachers participated and spent the remainder of the week calling students’ families. They made a chart with 100 squares and every time someone completed a call, they wrote the student’s name on a sticky note and stuck it inside a square.
“Suddenly this was something that would take away from the negative, overwhelming side of teaching and shift our mindset to be more positive,” Johnston said.
A ‘Meaningful Practice’ for Teachers
In addition to a simple script for their calls, teachers shared personalized stories about each student.
“It’s so nice to tell parents their student is doing great things,” Johnston said. “Multiple teachers had a parent cry on the phone because they missed that connection with teachers and the school.”
Second-grade teacher Julie Mortimore made phone calls to several families and she said, “They all loved hearing good news, funny stories and quotes from their students.”
Johnston and her colleagues found making phone calls and reminding students of their successes – even the ones who struggle – to be a “meaningful practice.”
“If every student could hear their name in a positive manner, it would really make a difference,” Johnston said.
‘It’s so nice to tell parents their student is doing great things.’– third-grade teacher Brooke Johnston
Parents’ responses upon answering the phone, asking if their student was okay or what was wrong, bothered third-grade teacher Payton Cooper.
“Making positive phone calls home reset the way I communicate to parents,” Cooper said. “Being a partner with parents in their child’s education means communicating with them on all agendas, good or concerning. [Positive] phone calls come few and far between and we are totally able to reverse that.”
Student teachers at Alpine also got to participate and make some calls, which helped to “remind them of their ‘why,’”Johnston said.
She added: “During the pandemic and this year specifically has really made us all think about why we do this. Parents listened and it made their day. We captured some hearts during a difficult time.”