Saturday, October 17, 2015

I Thrive on the Friday Five

"They may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel."
- Carol Buchner 

We are only nine weeks into the school year and I have already called parents 45 times. I don't think in all of my years of teaching I have ever had to contact parents this much in such a short timeframe. However, all 45 calls have been positive calls. This year, as part of my positive mindset plan, I have incorporated the Friday Five into my schedule. 

I want to make it clear that I did not come up with this idea. I heard about it a while ago, but couldn't remember how or when. When I tried to track down the original idea to give the due credit, I found two different articles here and here. So kudos to those educators for inspiring me!

Here's the quick version of it: Every Friday, I call five parents. While calling them, I share something great about their student from that week. It could be a concept they worked hard to improve, a great peer interaction, or showing respect to me or another teacher. I do this every Friday without fail. I aim for verbal contact with the parent, but if I can't reach them I will leave a voicemail. Yesterday, I was fortunate to connect with all families.

Google Sheet with specific comments and dates
How do I pick the students? Randomly. I have a Google Sheet set up with all the names of the students. I quite literally press my random name generator until I get five names. This way I'm not targeting specific "problematic" kids or the "overachievers."  Under this system, each student gets a call about once a month. I write the date down that I'll be calling them and then use the comments feature to write down what I want to share. I aim to be highly specific. Saying, "On Tuesday, Johnny worked really hard to master decimals" is much more powerful than "Johnny had a good week."

How has this impacted the classroom? In a word: hugely. The parents are very appreciative. Taking a tip from one of the provided articles, I now start each call by asking if they have time to hear something awesome about their students. Before starting this, parents seemed worried or hesitated to listen. You can hear the sound of relief in their voices and they thank me profusely. I have even had parents email me thanking me for the voicemail. 

The students love it too. They are aware that I'll be calling their parents because I tell them that day. On Monday, they normally come in beaming saying, "My mom said you were bragging about me!" This sticks with them for the next few weeks and I rarely have major behavior problems. Relationships matter.

One thing I would like to try is make the calls in class. I saw this idea from David Huber during #FlyHighFri. He posted a video of teachers and him doing this in front of the whole class. I'm sure that moment sticks with the students for a long time. 
I have also benefited from it. While I like to think that I watch over all my students all the time, this  holds me accountable to be looking for specific moments of success and greatness. I've realized that I am now looking for excellence in all kids all the time versus just those five. Using the Track Record idea from Hacking Education by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez, I have a Google Form set up where I record both good and bad choices that are made. With the RowCall add on, the Sheet sorts it into each students' individual page for me to review later.

Try it yourself. On Monday, pick five students. They could be random or they could be targeted. Look for something amazing they do during the week. Write it down somewhere. On Friday, surprise both them and their parents by calling them and praising their child. A two minute phone call will pay off in dividends. 

Who's with me? Who's trying it this week? Share your comments and experiences in the comments below.