Should teachers make house calls? Absolutely!

When I first meet a school leader (teacher leader, AP or principal) in a social setting and they find out what I do, a common question (whispered quietly) is “what can I do to address the needs of the (insert the smallest represented demographic group) students on my campus?”

My first answer is, “you and the staff need to make regular home visits.” The person looks at me and makes some excuse about why that’s not feasible or necessary and asks for another idea.

My second answer is, “you and the staff need to make weekly phone calls to the parent.” Again, more excuses. To which I respond, “You asked what you can do, but you’re right, your situation is probably different.”

But the situation at that school isn’t different. The key to meeting the needs of your academically fragile student populations is to first change adult behaviors. And not the behaviors of their parents, but the behaviors of school personnel. We have to reach out to build relationships and change the status quo. If we’re not willing to do that, are we really serious?

I’ll finish with this example: My first teaching job, I was a 22 year old white teacher at a predominantly African American campus, with some students that were 19 and 20 years old. In the first week, my mentor teacher came to my room and said, “Starting this afternoon, we’re making home visits.”

I asked why and she said, “Because if you don’t reach out to these parents, the kids are going to eat you alive and the parents will dismiss you as a racist.”

So we started making visits, just knocking on the door, introducing ourselves and sitting down and talking to the parents of my students for 10 to 20 minutes over a Coke. I told them who I was (one of their child’s teachers), what I taught (math), what I expected (their child to come to class and work hard everyday) and what I wanted (their child to graduate).

The results from the visits were almost instantaneous. After I visited a home, the student started working harder and started to behave better. When there was an issue and I called home, the parent was responsive and worked with me. With the parents I hadn’t visited, the students were a little more lackadaisical, behaved a little worse and when I called the parent to report an issue, the response was less than enthusiastic. And whenever the defensive “racist” label was thrown out, it was always from a parent whose home I had not yet visited.

Looking back at my days in the classroom, the home visit was the most powerful and best thing I did as a teacher.

Thank you Ms. Campbell.

T.W.A. – Your turn…

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