Calling home doesn’t work sometimes

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She’s a single mom raising teen-age boys on her own. She’s got a fierce work ethic but she’s struggling to find employment. I’m pretty sure her world just tilted on its axis at some time in the past. Maybe the company folded or was sold to another company that shut down her division. Maybe dad left with a younger woman. Maybe he died. I never felt comfortable asking personal questions about the past.

Her son drove me nuts. He messed with me just to mess with me. He talked when I asked for quiet just to push my buttons. I’d say by the end he might even have been bullying me. Stepping outside the picture, I can understand some of what was happening. Mom had no job. Mom was scared. In a middle-class neighborhood, that kid had to be feeling poor. Passive-aggression was a completely understandable response to the pressures in his life.

That said, I called home a couple of times to flag mom to problems. The last time I encountered the following scenario:

Me: He … (story deleted to protect the guilty.)
Mom: Well that’s not what he says. He says you … He says…

It was my word versus her kid’s word. Suddenly I was on “Law and Order” and I was supposed to present my case.

I gave her the facts. Then I stopped calling.

Her son has chosen the wrong friends. I believe mom will be lucky not to have to bail him out of jail eventually. Those friends were busted during the school year for a pretty brazen theft.

But the whole thing ceased to be my problem with that last phone call.

Eduhonesty: I like to come home from school, plan tomorrow’s lesson, and then watch Sleepy Hollow or Dr. Who. I often need to grade some papers. I also have books to read. I have blogging to do. I have a life. If I take time out of my evening to call a parent, it’s because I think there’s an issue that matters enough for me to sacrifice my time.

I don’t just make up stories to oppress innocent little 16-year old boys.

For parents: If the teacher calls, the teacher has a pretty good reason. He or she is using valuable minutes — I don’t have nearly enough of those minutes — to try to alert you to trouble, in hopes that a bad habit or social situation can be managed before it gets out of hand. When a parent then leaps in to defend the kid, the teacher will likely make a mental note not to mess (or help) with the situation. I may make a few more calls to document that I did not let “Johnnie” fail or get arrested without trying to intervene. But there’s the two minute call that says “he needs to turn in his homework” and there’s the 10 minute call where we actually make a plan to get that homework turned in. If I am going to be cross-examined, you’ll get the two-minute call — if you get any call at all.