“Mrs. Willis, this is Mr. West from the school. Do you have a minute to talk?” Silence.
“Yes,” she finally replied quietly.
“I just called to tell you that Natasha had a great day at school today.” More silence.
“Really?” she questioned.
So I went on. “I can tell that Natasha is really proud of her new coat.” Luxuries like new coats were a rarity in Natasha’s household. Just keeping the utilities turned on and having food to eat was a constant challenge. Natasha’s new coat had been provided through a holiday coat drive.
Natasha was a seventh grade, special needs student who often had emotional outbursts. Outbursts when asked to participate in class, outbursts when the prior night at home had been chaotic, and outbursts when facing several days away from school over a holiday break.
Finally, I heard quiet sobbing at the other end of the phone. “Thank you.” Silence again. “Thank you, Mr. West. Not one person has ever called me from school with good news about Natasha. Not for any of my kids. Not once.”
I felt sad. “Mrs. Willis, I’m sorry I haven’t made this call sooner, and I’m sorry no one else from school has ever made this call either. Sure, Natasha has some tough days, but she also has a lot of okay days. Heck, she has plenty of really good days too.” Over the next few minutes I talked about Natasha’s infectious smile, about her great laugh, about how she responded so positively to compliments. Mrs. Willis was truly grateful for the call. So was I. Over the next year and a half, I called Mrs. Willis several more times, sometimes to share positive reports and sometimes to discuss concerns.
Some 23+ years and several career posts later, I still make it a priority to make those calls as often as possible. A lot has changed in education over 23 years, but parents still like to hear positive reports about their children, just as Mrs. Willis did that day.