Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 01 2012

Project: Parents

I’m trying not to let the new misbehavior in my class ruin the learning for the rest of the kids. Tempting as it is, I don’t want to stop everyone just to lecture the 5 bad kids like I would have my first year. I want to keep things going, I want to get back some positive momentum, and I don’t want them to destroy everything I’ve built this year. From experience, I know how fast things can go down hill, so I also want to squash all of this insanity right now. It’s only been two days, and that’s already two days too many.


This was probably not the right thing to do, but at my old school I very quickly stopped using parents as a threat. There was a really strong No Snitching culture, and tattling to parents just felt weak. Plus, phone numbers were disconnected more often than not and my really tough kids were long past the point of being controlled by the adults in their homes. But this year, my kids are younger and they’re still terrified of their parents. I also read a great management book a few months ago (With All Due Respect by Ronald Morrish), which advised calling the parents with a constructive request rather than just sounding like you want them to do your discipline for you. (Can you find out if something’s going on with him? Can you make sure she’s getting enough sleep? Can you re-inforce this at home?)  I’m much more comfortable phrasing things that way than feeling like I’m just whining to other adults. And really, I’m terrified of losing my awesome classes and I’m willing to try anything before it really gets bad.


So today, I completely stopped class for only a couple minutes to address the behavior. I told them that I was trying not to slow down the rest of class and that I would address them this once and never again during class time. (SO IMPORTANT to keep the good kids on your team. They get so frustrated when all you do is yell.) I told them that their actions were obnoxious, and if I couldn’t get them to stop on my own then I was going to enlist help.


I will call your parents every day if I need to. If that doesn’t work, I’ll invite them to come in and sit with you in class to babysit. If you still can’t function, you can sit in the hall for class time and I’ll bring the work to your house for your parents to teach you. Are we clear?


Now that I’ve made that threat, I have to back it up. I spent most of this evening on the phone with parents, none of whom I’d ever spoken to before. First, I got the bad kids’ parents on my side: “It’s the strangest thing! He’s been so great all year and has been doing really well in math. I’m not sure what’s gotten into him, but he really can’t act like this in my classroom. Is there anything I should know? Can you try to find out what’s going on?”


Then, I also tried to get some positive momentum going by calling my best students’ parents too. Those are the phone calls I never think to make, because I always just assume those parents know how great their children always are. But of course, parents love to hear nice words about their children. “I’m just calling to let you know how incredible your daughter is every single day. She’s a hard worker, she’s always respectful, she’s kind to her classmates, she’s extremely good at math, and she’s genuinely a joy to have in the classroom” are words that can actually bring adults to tears. It’s cute and has the added benefit of helping me remember how wonderful most of my kids are.


And for their sakes, I’m ready to battle to win my class back.

2 Responses

  1. els

    good luck! my classes have all been weird this week too! Maybe it’s the time of year? That’s the only thing I can think of.

  2. Ashley

    Go for it! I’ve already had to chase down one of my kids twice in two days! Good luck!

About this Blog

Middle School

Subscribe to this blog (feed)

February 2012
« Jan   Mar »