Saturday, July 31, 2010

Home Visits

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The afternoon sun blistered down from a nearly cloud-barren sky as I drove the neighborhoods around my school. Upon reaching the first designated address, I stepped from my weakly air-conditioned vehicle into the sweltering summer heat.

It was time for home visits.

Now, undoubtedly some of you are wondering just what home visits are…well, to put it simply: they are visits to someone’s home.

Yeah, pretty self-explanatory.

I decided to start doing home visits a few years ago when I transferred to a new school. My incoming students (as well as their parents) had absolutely no idea of who I was, and I could think of no better way to introduce myself than to personally swing by. This way I could let the kids know just who I was, tell them how excited I was to have them in my class, and drop off their first two homework assignments of the school year—due the first day.

I already can tell what you’re probably thinking. Teachinfourth, you really give homework during the summer? Before the year even begins? The answer I give to that question is a hearty, “You betcha.”

As I see it, being required to do homework before school starts sets the standard for the rest of the year, and gives the students a basic idea of what to expect in the days ahead. No only that, many of the students are bored after three or four weeks of vacation, so homework is a way of fixing this little predicament.

Okay, the assignments are fun, too. After all, I don’t have a heart completely made of ice.

Home visits can be—like I said earlier—a lot of fun; however, you never can be too sure just what it is you’re going to get in regard to parents (most of whom I’ve never met) or students who are—more often than not—surprised to see you at their house…after all, teachers belong at the school, seeing them someplace else is usually cause for something like a brain aneurysm.

I approached the door of my student’s home and knocked soundly. A moment later, the door cracked open and I immediately recognized ‘Joey,’ one of the boys who’d be in my class this year. He looked sheepishly through the crack in the door, and upon seeing me, a look of recognition flashed across his face, followed by a glaze of excitement.

I let him know that I was coming around for a short visit to meet with he and his parents, and to drop off his first homework assignments. I asked if they had a few minutes of time.

Joey’s eyes widened a little, and he stammered for a second before admitting, “I’m not wearing any clothes right now, Mr. Z.”

How does one respond to something like this? After all, I know that when somebody comes by my house and I’m not dressed, I usually put something on before answering the door—or I don’t answer the door at all. Of course, maybe he wasn’t ready for the day because it was simply too early—one o’clock in the afternoon can be such an early hour for some people, or perhaps it was just too hot to get dressed.

From the interior of the house Joey’s father told him to go and put something on. The boy turned and walked down the hall, inadvertently causing the door to swing inward, revealing him walking down the hall wearing nothing more than a pair of Fruit of the Loom.

And this, my friends, was just the beginning.

It was nearly 4 hours later that I finally completed my last call, and slumped down in my car with a migraine beginning to pulse in my skull. The visits were fun, the day was long, and I had met with 20 of 26 students and/or their parents. My mind careened through the varied reactions I’d received on doorsteps including everything from bewilderment, awe, and pure unadulterated excitement as groups of students and their friends shrieked like they were attendees at a Justin Bieber concert.

Home visits, just like those Christmas presents from your eccentric Aunt Rhonda, make you realize that you just never know quite what you’re going to get.

P.S. If you’d like to do one of the class’ assignments, you can view that here.

Image garnered from: http://www.examiner.com

41 comments:

Cheeseboy said...

"seeing them someplace else is usually cause for something like a brain aneurysm." Truer words have never been said.

This post makes me really want to try home visits. However, I wonder - since I teach the younger grades - if folks might find it creepy???

Also, the nature of my class right now (gifted), almost all of my students had never seen me or know who I am. Maybe that would add to the surprise?

Teachinfourth said...

Abe - I think that home visits are a great idea, no matter what grade you teach. One good thing about home visits is that the students wouldn't be so nervous on the first day of school, heck, or on back-to-school night.

I won't lie, it's a very time-consuming process but I think it yields great results in the end. Also, the parents really seem to like it because most teachers don't do these types of visits anymore.

I say, "go for it."

Kristina P. said...

I have never heard of a teacher doing this. How interesting! You must learn a lot about your students and their families.

Carrie Stuart said...

What a fantastic idea! As a parent, communication from the classroom is something I value SO much. The older my children get, the less information I seem to receive from school. If I was not so involved at the high school level, I would probably know zilch. If a teacher showed up on my doorstep (or even called or emailed...anything!) before school even started, I would think, "Yes! This is going to be a great year!" Way to reach out and set the tone!

Kelly said...

I bet you learn all kinds of interesting things by seeing your kids in their home environment. If my kid's teacher did this I would love it! Unless my kid was in his underoos that is.

FabuLeslie said...

Ahh. The home visits. Coming soon to a neighborhood near you. I'm looking forward to them. Sorta. Although we give them homework as they leave for the summer, not at the home visit... that's a great idea you have there.

Cheeseboy- They are fine for my first graders. They LOVE seeing us when we roll up in our teacher-mobiles to their apartment complexes.. they go running to tell their friends.."The teachers are here! The teachers are here!!..."

Buckle up! Here comes another year.

Kalei's Best Friend said...

I read an article recently that said that kids do need that extra bit of work during the summer.. They lose what they retained prior to summer.. where I live, we have a 4 vacation schedule... 6 weeks on 2 weeks off... it causes havoc for day care kids, and parents.. My kids retained alot and if kids don't have a summer program to keep them busy- school is the answer...

Vanessa said...

We need more teachers like you!!!! That you would take a whole day to do this just because you love your job so much makes you an exemplary teacher and person.

Mamma has spoken said...

Another funny home visit story:
The preschool teachers are required to do two home visits a year with their students' parents. It was time for "Joey's" home visit and none of the assistants would go with the teacher (it is a school board requirement that someone goes with the preschool teacher). They all knew that 'Joey's' parents were a little on the weird side. I like weird so I agreed to go with the preschool teacher. We knocked on the door, and was greeted by a "come on in!" When we opened the door, there was dad, sitting on the couch in his underwear! "Joey" was upstairs in a diaper.
Dad never excused himself, instead sat on the couch as the teacher went over Joey's progress in the program. One of the things Joey was having trouble with was toliet training. We now understood why and explain to dad sitting in his underwear not even covering up the bulge with the blanket found on the back of the couch, that Joey need to stay out of the diaper, at least during the day, if he wanted Joey potty trained.
Have to say, it was one of the most interesting home visit ever!

Just SO said...

I'm pretty sure there were many more who "shrieked like they were attendees at a Justin Bieber concert." than any other kind.

I think this is the coolest. We've had one one of our kids' teachers who have called before school started and then would call randomly through the year but never a home visit.

tammy said...

You could have been knocking on our door as Connor spends most of his time at home in nothing but his undies. He actually asked me yesterday if he could get dressed. Like I'm making him stay in his undies. Silly boy.

I think home visits are a great idea. Now off to go do my homework...

Diana said...

I've never known a teacher who did home visits but what a great idea! Love the website Mr Zimmerman. I might check out the assignment later (after laundry, grocery shopping, and a little WOW time). I'm curious about the Mystery Page though. =)

Corine said...

Home visits sound awesome. I know I would have loved them... and I mean as a student, parent, or even a teacher. Good for you for going the extra mile once again in all you do! You have my applause. :)
PS I'll have to check out your homework for the heck of it. Just curious... how long do you anticipate the homework taking? I did see your website some time ago... brilliant! Good job teach! ;)

Omgirl said...

Hey, at least he was wearing Fruit of the Looms! Could have been worse.

Joan said...

I sure wish we could do this. We get our lists two days before school starts, right before, and I mean an hour before, Meet the Teacher Day. It's all a big surprise for everyone and really stressful.

Good for you for taking the time to make the home visit.

T said...

These would be awesome... I'll have to remember to be presentable (a.k.a. in more than my fruit of the looms) just in case this happens around here.

and nothing is funnier to me than running into the kids I tutor elsewhere... last week at the pool one of them nearly drowned themselves trying to get over to say hi :)

Richard & Natalie said...

It sounds like you may have found your "Joey" for this year.

I will never forget our home visit- humiliation and all...

Rachel said...

I would totally be freaking out if you were one of The Native's teacher's. I'd be telling you to get the heck off of my porch! And homework before school starts? The very idea!

You are manipulating the parents into thinking that they have to be involved in their kid's education. When I send a kid to school, I send them demanding that you not only feed and take care of my kid all day but I take no responsibility for their education and my kid better NOT be left behind!! What is the state paying you for?

You think coming to my house in your CIA get up is going to change that???

Honestly, what is public education coming to?

Natasha said...

What a great idea! I'm sure the parents (and students) appreciate the visit so they have an idea of who you are before school starts. I'm glad "Joey" will be in your class again this year. :)

Yup, I was shocked to see my elementary school teachers outside of school too. Now, off to do my homework...

imbeingheldhostage said...

As awesome as I think it would be for my kids to receive a home visit, the a.retentive me would be a little put off by the surprise visit into the chaos we call home. At least I could send a kid in his underpants to the door to stall while I shoved things under the sofa cushions.

Farscaper said...

Ya know.... I am in awe of teachers these days. When I was a kid my teachers all drove in from different cities to teach at my school. I never saw them outside school because they simply lived too far away. We never received a note saying "Hi! I'm going to be your teacher." We had no clue who would be standing at the front of the room until open house the night before school started.

A couple of years ago my twins had a teacher who wrote a letter of welcome. My son immediately wrote her back. She said that he was the only student who did that. During the summer (after the school year finished) she invited all her students to her wedding reception. Towards the end of the school year her fiancee got permission from the class to propose. The kids were so giggly.

As I sit here I am in AWE with teachers like you who bring the human element into everyday life. Teachers are not these emotionless robots who bark out rules and orders from the front of the classroom.

BTW.. you know what's weirder than seeing your teacher in a grocery store? Seeing your pediatrician in a grocery store. Ped's see "things". LOL

Linn said...

COOLEST TEACHER EVER.

EVER.

Amy said...

I think the home visit idea is awesome. I use to do them when I worked in Head Start, however, they were planned and when the doorbell rang they knew it was me. I do like the element of surprise!

cari said...

Max was pretty bummed he missed you! He's been (slowly) working on his homework. I think he's going to have a rude awakening August 24th! :)

Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

You are a brave, brave man. I can't imagine how my students would react! It might be worth a try though!

Powdered Toast Man said...

I think I would be very confused if one of my teachers stopped by my house. The assignments did look fun and easy.

Arriving to a student's house with the student just in fruit of the looms seems like the start of some sort of scandal.

Jody said...

Well it has been a while since I stopped by here and to my suprise, NO CONTESTS this time. But to no avail, a homework assignment? It never ends with you?! Hee. In my one measly little opinoin, I actually think what you are doing here is amazing. You should be proud of yourself for this extra effort. Just this one visit to the home environment will unlock many clues perhaps regarding how to teach your children. You rock!

Shannon said...

You forgot to stop by our place - at least two of the three boys would have greeted you in their boxers. They're tired of my home visits since I rarely leave.

Stef said...

Okay so why can't you just move here and teach all of my children already? What a great teacher!! I bet you make a great impression on your parents. That would carry a lot of weight with me. And I served a mission so I can tell you I was always amazed that there were people who do answer the door...with only sheets and whitie-tighties on.

M-Cat said...

The only home visits we ever got was when Tuffy was on home and hosptial when he had Mono. The teacher was nearly as fun as you.

I think as a parent of an elementary aged kid, I would find this a great idea. And I would have had you just meet with Joey in his underwear. Likely mom and dad had been nagging him to get dressed for the previous twohours so to have to meet with his teacher in his batman underwear would have been jus the right consequence

or as Abe said - creepy.

Marnie said...

Now this is a great idea. I am sure the parents appreciate this as you are clearly demonstrating that you have an open door policy.

Shauna_Rae said...

Can you move to Colorado and be a teacher to one of my kids?!?!

I have only had one teacher over the years come and do a home visit before the school year started. I asked her why she went to this extra effort, to which she replied that it gives her a "jump start" on her kids. She gets a quick assessment which would take other teachers months to figure out what is going on at home.

I have often toyed with the idea of having the kids teachers over for dinner to get to know them better.

Ms Bibi said...

I love teachers doing home visits. Especially new teachers or grade 1 teachers.

So far my kids had 10 years of combined grade school education and I had 2 teachers visits.I thinks they are great ideas.

My older son is gifted (no gifted classes in his school) and bit of a spazz so it takes most teachers the whole year to figure him out.The home visits gets them ready from day 1,lol.

mama-face said...

ah, I wish that any of my children had been visited by their teacher before the new school year. It must ease a lot of fears. (And maybe cause you to have a few more).

Mindee@ourfrontdoor said...

I love that you do home visits. It takes a lot of courage and time, but I bet it pays off in big dividends. Thanks for going the extra mile.

(I just accidentally typed "extra mild" which sounded more like a commentary on Taco Bell than teaching.)

RawknRobynsGoneBlogWild said...

I think you are a wonderfully dedicated teacher to make home-visits. I do it all the time as a social worker. It gives you a new perspective, for sure.
An A for you, teacher!
xoRobyn

Jenny said...

I have never had a teacher come by for a home visit. Although, I have had teachers mail us the first few homework assignments all due the first day of school. We thought it was a fun way to start the year off.

Nancy C said...

I think this is such a fantastic thing to do. Having taught middle school in the past, it would be too overwhelming to visit all 100+ kids. But, I always had the parents write me a letter about their kids...I called it "parent homework."

It taught me so much about my kids and their worlds.

Connie said...

You're the coolest!
There have been times that I have gone to the home of one of our special ed students to drop something off or even pick up a mother without a car who needs to come to a program. It is SO enlightening to see them in their home environment.

Love your homework! I'm sure the students enjoy doing it before the first day of school. Sign language? That's awesome!

Serene is my name, not my life! said...

Wow! I'm impressed! I've never heard of a teacher doing that.

And uh, well, admittedly, if you had come to my house, chances are one of the kids would have answered the door... buck naked.

I try, ya know? But sometimes... well, sometimes it just doesn't happen. :D

By the way, you should set you your blogger account so people can respond to the comments you leave through email.
I wrote up this whole response to one of your comments before realizing I couldn't send it. LOL!

Charlotte said...

This is a great idea. Although I hope you give the parents enough notice. I had a teacher drop by with something the kids forgot at school. I'll never forget how impressed I was, or how mortified by the state of my front room.

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