Nothing good ever comes from answering my phone and hearing my formal name. Professionally I use my maiden name, so the second I pick up the phone to, "Uh, hello, Mrs. L... ," I know, no good awaits. It could be a discipline issue. It could be the umpteenth request for a volunteer gig. Sometimes it's the school nurse reporting that someone's braces broke. It's not that I wish orthodontic ill on my kids, it's just the nurse's voice doesn't raise hair on my neck like the principal's.
The boys changed schools this year and all appears to be going swimmingly. The IEP's seem to be adhered to as best as any school I've heard of, friendships are being forged, grades have been good. "WOW!" I thought last night when looking at the upcoming teacher conference schedule, "I'm kinda looking forward to this for once." And then this morning, it happened. "Mrs L....? Uh, good morning." Groooaaan. Why don't I keep a flask at work?
"Oh alright. What did Son1 do now," I fretted. My 12 year old is a continuing source for school calls, so his Social Studies teacher on my phone was unwelcome, but not a surprise. Five minutes into telling me how many homework assignments he's been skipping, I blurted out, "but we just met with his IEP case manager and none of this came up? How could (Son1) have 5 zeros and we're just hearing it?" (insert confused labrador head turn) "Um, no, I do not teach him. I teach (Son2)." This was about the point where I felt like Mother of the Year AGAIN. For not only did I jump to the conclusion one child pulled a stunt only to be surprised, it was clear to the Social Studies teacher that I didn't know my kid's teachers' names.
I could hear his mental tsk tsk through phone line. Give me a break pal, we're all getting used to the new school, and the hubs saw you on back to school night. We were among the massive group of 10 parents in the room. I'm involved. It's just Son1 has been the source of over 70% of this blog. The mind leaps. I tried to chalk it up to that annoying habit of flipping kids' names while speaking, the way I always call Son2 by Son1's name, or my husband reverses his daughters' names. I even chuckled about calling Son2 by the dog's name. He either didn't care, didn't think it was funny, or had 13 other parent calls to make. Or all three. After I got off the phone and reflected, I had two valuable takeaways:
1) Trust no one
2) Learn caller ID for individual classrooms vs. the office
WTH do those have to do with the above? Well, for starters, Son2's been skating I realized. He bats those big blue eyes at me and I'm so mesmerized by the lashes I would never have that I believe what he says. I'm much more skeptical of his brother who has the iffy reputation from school years past. "Is your homework done?" "Yes" (So I check, and it is.) But that only works if the homework planner is written out. It seems Son2 has decided homework on elections, is, in and of itself, elective. NO. Trust no one to fess up to selective homework, even when so cute you'd think they'd never lie.
And what of the fancy schmancy online interface the school has to post everything from lunch menus for the next six years to tonight's homework? Trust no one when it comes to schools actually enforcing procedures. In an attempt to show this man I was not a totally detached mom, I went on line while talking and saw, YET AGAIN, there was no homework posted. Nothing entered = nothing displayed (does not) = no homework. No, it just equals a teacher who shared with me "yeah, I don't really use the homework page. I've been teaching a long time, and my students have always had it posted on the board, so I don't use it. I wouldn't bother looking there." Can you think of EVER saying this to a boss, a client, a colleague? Thanks to NJ's teacher tenure laws, the district stands zero chance of enforcing that teachers use the tools. But I digress. Son2 has no tenure protection. And for this morning's "trick or treat" phone call, Son2, be afraid.
As to the caller ID... There's a pecking order in parent phone calls. Had I known the number was not the office number, I may have eased a bit. When you go from teacher call to Vice Principal, there's an uptick in subject matter. Bump to Principal, and you have a definite escalation. Get a call from the Superintendent, and you're at parental DEFCON 5, war game buzzers tripping on your cell phone. I think there's an app for that. Had I known it was but a lowly classroom, I would have felt a little better. I would have listened, but without the palpitations. Homework lapse or test bombs may be waiting, but generally, nothing that ends with the phrase, "in the next occurrence, law enforcement may be called."
So from now through, oh, the end of college I suppose, I will not assume poor effort from Son1 and great effort from Son2. I'll be on guard for Mr. Social Studies-skipper. And I have a plan for the phone # screening. Election day is coming next week, and I'll have the chance to be in the school. I wonder if they'd notice me going room to room to test call my cell? Armed with all those incoming numbers, I could easily prioritize the calls to take. Maybe I'll bring donuts and pretend to hand them out to the teacher, VP and principal to get to their desks. You know, I'd be all, "job well done, Mr. Whoever the Hell you are!"- then quick stealth call. It could work.