We all have some students whose behaviour or attitudes or despondency seems beyond our ability to impact.
Those hard nuts to crack.
Sometimes it’s that they continue to shout across the room and nothing we do seems to stop them. Sometimes it’s that they persistently do no work at all. Sometimes it’s that they just don’t seem to care so motivation is impossible.
The question is: does home contact impact classroom behaviour and academic achievement?
That’s what a small group of us have been looking at, like squirrels in the winter seeking to crack frozen nuts.
Evidence suggests that students who relate their behaviours, achievements and relationships holistically at school an home decreases disaffection and increases achievement. In raising the level of parental contact, we wondered whether some of our year eleven ‘hard nuts’ would benefit…
We decided to contact parents briefly each week, letting students know that we’d be contacting home. Initially, I made call after call but I soon settled on emails because they would definitely get through and took less time, making it more manageable. It also meant that I felt protected as everything I said was recorded.
What we found was surprising…
We’d expected most parents to welcome the contact and effort, and most did. One or two were difficult, defensive and argumentative. A number of the students, though by no means all, improved their academic grades in trial exams and there was a notable improvement in homework produced by some students. Work quantity and quality generally improved with more effort being put into lessons and more reward points being earned.
What was surprising was that the number of behaviour points tended not to dramatically decrease, instead they were gained for other things such as lateness.
Perhaps more surprising is that relationships appeared to improve. With greater accountability and the sense of teamwork, students were much less frequently rude to staff and seemed to value the teacher more. I’m not sure why.
Perhaps they feel that there is greater care and time being put into them? Perhaps it’s an extension of the parental relationship? Perhaps it’s because there are more conversations going on.
Whatever the case, this wasn’t what we predicted.
So, next steps?
Colleagues of ours were working on a project detailing the impact of ‘locus of control’ in teaching – namely who is viewed by students as responsible for their learning. Apparently, when students see themselves as responsible, their achievement and behaviour tend to improve. When there is a blame culture, obviously the reverse is true.
I wonder whether home contact encourages students to accept responsibility for themselves or whether it encourages them to rely on a team of adults to ensure they’re on the right track?
Either way, I’ll continue on this scuirine foraging expedition!