For Printing

French_ND18.pdf272.63 KB

Parents & Schools: Making the Call

Principal spotlights students’ positive performance by phone almost every day.
By Mark French
Principal, November/December 2018. Volume 98, Number 2.

If you could make parents cry tears of happiness, students smile, and build a positive school culture by doing something that takes 10 minutes a day and costs nothing, would you do it? If you answered “Yes,” you’re in luck, because you can do all of those things by making what I refer to as a “Good News Call of the Day.”

During the summer of 2015, I was participating in a Twitter chat when a teacher mentioned that she made a positive phone call home on behalf of one of her students every day. I thought this was a great idea; I have 750 students and could certainly find a student worthy of a positive phone call each day. Thus, the #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay was born.

Expanding the Effort

It has now been three years since I started making these phone calls, and my original goal was to make one call per day, every day I was at school. The first year, I made 130 calls; the second year, I increased that total to 135. Last year, I made calls for 137 different students. I call moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas—whomever the student wants me to phone.

I use a spreadsheet to identify the student, the date, the student’s teacher, and the reason for the call. I do this so I don’t repeat students during a school year, and so I can spread the positive news from pre-K to 6th grade.

I pick most students based on something I’ve observed and experienced myself. I might have seen the student help a younger child, clean up in the cafeteria without being asked, improve their behavior, volunteer and answer questions during a lesson, or simply exhibit kindness.

I also created a simple recommendation form I keep in a folder on my office door that all staff members can use to nominate a student. I’ve had teachers, custodians, kitchen staff, office team members, and bus drivers nominate students for a Good News Call of the Day.

Recognizing an Accomplishment

When it’s their day, I go to the student’s classroom, tell the teacher I’m there to get someone for the Good News Call of the Day, name the student and announce their good deed, lead a round of applause, and bring the student to my office. There, I give the student a #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay wristband, and I look up the phone number.

I can usually reach a parent on their cellphone or work phone on the first try. I tell them why I’m calling and how proud I am of their child and then hand the phone over to let the student and parent talk to each other. Then we go into the hallway to take a selfie, which I share on Twitter with the hashtag #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay.

Since I need permission to share student photos on social media, the last thing I ask on the call is, “My practice is to take a selfie with your child and share that with others on social media, only using their first name. Are you comfortable with that?” So far, not a single parent has said no.

If a family member can’t answer the phone, I leave a message and check to see if they got my Good News Call the following day. This year, I plan to add a certificate for the student to take home.

At first, I used a dramatic pause during my calls: “Hello, this is Principal French, and I have your child in the office with me ... for the Good News Call of the Day!” Now I say, “Hi, this is Principal French, do you have time for some good news?” instead of making the parent anxious.

Spreading the News

I shared this practice with others, and there is now a community of principals and educators making positive phone calls using the hashtag #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay. They often add their own personal flair, wearing hats for selfies, giving certificates, and posting photos on school bulletin boards. One principal even uses a gong in announcing the recognition!

Many say that it’s the best part of their day, and I agree. If I’m out of the building at a meeting or have been too busy to make the #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay, I feel like something is missing. I love making that connection with students, identifying the positive things they do, reaching out to families, and spreading the good news. Why should a phone call from the principal be a dreaded event? We should share what the great students in our schools are doing.

This year, I plan to make at least 150 #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay calls, and you can make them, too. Visit for ideas. You’ll be glad you did.

Mark French is principal of Gatewood Elementary in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

Copyright © National Association of Elementary School Principals. No part of the articles in NAESP magazines, newsletters, or website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. For more information, view NAESP's reprint policy.

French_ND18.pdf272.63 KB