Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Pencil... a Phone Call... and a Mom's Tears

It was a phone call that I will not soon forget.

This year I set a goal of making 100 positive phone calls home by the 100th day of school. I asked my teachers to let me know when they had a student they wanted to brag on. Last week, a teacher emailed me about a student she was proud of. This particular student was always coming to class unprepared. The teacher and student had a "heart to heart" conversation, and since then, the student has been bringing her pencil to class everyday.  I know that coming to class prepared is a big deal, and it can certainly be aggravating to a teacher always to be loaning pencils. Our students after all, need to be responsible. But I'll admit, I was a bit reluctant to call mom about something as petty as bringing a pencil to class.

I called the student down to my office to give her a high five, and despite my misgivings, I called mom. I told her how proud her daughter's teacher was of her for bringing a pencil every day.  The mom started crying. Through her tears, she said, "My daughter struggles in school. Thank you so much for telling me this." I had to end the conversation quickly because I didn't want to start crying in front of our sixth grader.  I hung up the phone, and the student's eyes were wet too. I could tell she was proud.

So this pencil was not petty; it was huge.

This phone call reinforced two important lessons for me:

First, teachers have tremendous power to brighten a student's day.  And through a quick phone call to a parent, they can bring some sunshine into their life as well.  Do not leave compliments left unsaid. When we're proud of our kids, we should tell them. When they're making progress, we should encourage them.  They will remember our kind words longer than they will remember our lesson.  We are not just offering our students an education; we are offering them hope.

And second, when we struggle with students, there is a good chance that parents experience those same struggles. There are parents who are nervous every time they put their kids on the bus; they experience a little bit of anxiety every time they drop their students off at school. They are wondering... 

"Will he get in trouble again today?"

"Will anyone sit with her at lunch?"

"Will the kids mess with him in the hallway?

"Will she forget her pencil again?"

There are some students for whom school is not a good experience, and parents share in that struggle with their child. They experience it through the silence in the car, through the constant "stomach aches" in the morning, and sometimes through the very real tears.  These students need our attention, they need our patience, and they need our love.  Educators make a difference for students every day, and as it turns out... they make a difference for parents too.


  1. Danny, what a wonderful story. I'm so glad you made that phone call, and did not give in to your initial reservations. One positive message can really turn things around for a student, and a parent as well, as this post shows. Thanks for writing this.

    1. Thank you for your kind comments... and for taking the time to read this!

  2. Nice post! Little things in life accumulate to big moments. Even though a call may seem simple/silly, it did and will continue to pay off.

    1. Thanks, Shane! The positive phone calls have a been a big deal!

  3. This is a great post. Little things to us mean the world to someone else

    1. No doubt! Thanks for reading and sharing, Derek!