I’m old enough to remember when doctors used to make house calls. I remember our family doctor coming into my bedroom, carrying his little black bag, and taking my temperature. Whether or not he cured what ailed me, his caring presence made me feel better.
My teachers, however, never came to my home. In fact, I didn’t know that teachers made house calls until I talked with Glenn Allen Jr.
Mr. Allen, whom we honored as an Alma Exley Scholar in 1998, began making home visits in his first year of teaching, and has been doing so ever since. Generally, he visits when a youngster is getting into trouble or has attendance issues.
“Sometimes when I say I’m going to their house, they don’t believe me,” he told me recently. “And they’re shocked when I arrive. But visiting students at home with their parents enables me to make a deeper connection. When I’m sitting on the couch in their living room, it brings our relationship to a different level.”
Mr. Allen, who grew up in East Hartford, Conn., has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Connecticut. He teaches Special Education English at Carson High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He has also served two years as a dean of students, and for several years he was on the coaching staffs for football and track & field.
I had the opportunity to visit Mr. Allen at Carson High School on a recent trip to Los Angeles. It was a great pleasure to see him in action with a class of 10th graders, who responded to his caring manner.
“Making the effort to visit students at home always has an impact,” he said. “Over the past 14 years, not once have I been to a student’s home that his or her behavior hasn’t improved.”
When students have been in trouble, they’re usually resistant to Mr. Allen’s visits. Sometimes, when they greet him at the door, they tell him their parents aren’t home. Or Hispanic students sometimes tell him their parents don’t speak English. But he persists, and the students’ jaws drop when he speaks to their parents in fluent Spanish.
When students are resistant, he tells them, “Look, I don’t have to be here. I’m not getting paid extra to do this. I’m here because I care about you and want you to be successful.”
Showing that he cares has an impact. He continues to make these home visits because he sees the results in improved behavior and academic performance.
Mr. Allen says he has become more forgiving of students in the classroom as a result of seeing the conditions they are dealing with at home. Many of his students live in poverty, and some are in group homes.
“I wish more teachers would make home visits,” he said. “Some personal attention from the teacher can make all the difference.”
– Woody Exley