Starting the year on a positive note

ROCKSPRINGS — You look at your caller ID and its is your child’s school. What is your first thought?

For some the thought may go to “what did my child do to get in trouble” “is my child hurt or sick” or is something else wrong.

For parents of Meigs High School students it may not be the bad news call which so many parents dread receiving from the school.

As students returned to the classroom this week, the school will be entering year two of what Principal Travis Abbott refers to as “Good Kid Calls.”

The idea behind the good kid calls is that for so long, the only time parents would receive a call from the school it was for something negative.

“We want the parents to know when their kids have done something good or positive,” said Abbott, the second year high school principal.

Before coming back to Meigs High School for the 2016-17 school year, Abbott was the assistant principal at Marietta where he was tasked with dealing with discipline of students.

“I realized that not every call had to be like that. That does not define how we see the child,” said Abbott.

Teachers, staff and the administration at Meigs High School are asked to see the random acts of kindness or the good that a student has done and convey that message to the student’s parents.

As part of the Good Kid Calls, they are asked to, at least once a week, reach out to the parents of a student that they have seen do something positive.

“We have so many good kids. We tend to see the bad first and expect the good so we don’t point it out. It is important to point out and reinforce the good. There is far more good than bad,” said Abbott.

In the 2016-17 school year, staff at Meigs High School made more than 1,000 positive contacts or good calls to parents of students. These can come in the form of actual phone calls or sending letters home to the parents.

Kathy Sargent, a math teacher at the school, said that the good calls were a positive experience and uplifting for both the teachers and parents.

And while the calls can be related to academics, it is the other positive interactions which Sargent said speak to her, particularly when it comes to students helping one another.

Abbott said that it is often easier for the parents to see the academic success, but many do not realize the other positives.

“So many are raising outstanding youth and we need to let them know that. It helps the community grow in a positive way,” said Abbott.

Meigs High School parent Kathie Hoffman said that she had received a letter about her son, with the letter being very personalized for the specific student.

Hoffman said that her son was nervous to bring the letter home as he did not know what it was, other than being a letter from his teacher to his parents.

“He thought something was wrong,” said Hoffman.

While the calls are nice, the letter becomes a nice keepsake for the parents and the student. The letters are also something that the students have the opportunity to read to know exactly what it is that they have done to make a positive impact.

The students do not have to get an “A” to do a good job, it is the participating in class, being nice to others, making friendships and how you treat others that matters, explained Abbott. These are important life skills that reach beyond the classroom and being acknowledged for such things can be a confidence booster for the students and encourage them to do even more good things.

Spanish teacher Richelle Hecker explained that previously one of the main interactions with parents occurred at the parent teacher conferences and that it was mostly with students and parents where there was a negative situation.

“I love to have conferences to brag on a kid,” said Hecker. The letters and good calls are another way for those teacher-parent interactions to become more positive.

“When parents and the school work together it leads to success which is what we want,” said Abbott.

Cara Kight, both a teacher at the school and a parent of a high schooler, said that each week she would announce to her class who had received the call and the class would applaud. It motivated those who had not yet received the call to do better because they wanted to get that call too, Kight added.

Hoffman added that the good kid call provided a boost for her son, and allowed him to know that what he was doing mattered.

It also becomes a reflection tool for the teachers to look and see what student made a difference and stood out during the week.

Grant Adams, a 2017 graduate, said that as soon as his dad told him he had received a call from the school it was “like a shot through the heart.” But to learn that it was a good call was a “gratifying experience” which was inspiring and motivating for the then senior.

Lydia Edwards, now a junior, agreed that the good call serves as something uplifting and motivating, encouraging students to keep up to the standards of receiving the call.

“You never know what a kind word can do or what’s happening in their world. It can make a true difference even if you don’t see it,” said Abbott.

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By Sarah Hawley

Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.