Sunday, May 12, 2019

Phone Home

The advent of cellular telephones has been quite a boon to teachers like me who sometimes look outside the box of their classroom to manage their classroom. Back in the olden days, we didn't even have telephones in our rooms. If we wanted to reach anyone aside from the office, the handset stuck on the wall of our rooms was just decoration. Then when we did get actual telephones, a world opened for us that allowed contact with a student's home before the end of the school day. Instead of waiting for the earliest possible moment to rush up to the office to use the land line located there, we could put the rest of the class on hold while we stood on one side of the room and made the call. When we eventually shifted our lifestyles to maintain a cell phone bill, we were free to make those calls from the playground, the hallway, even in the boys' room, when necessary.
And I know that more than eighty percent of the time, those calls are directed to mothers. Those are the numbers listed first on the emergency cards, and those are the ones that seem to be more steadfastly connected to the work we are trying to do at school. "Hello, is this (bad kid)'s mother? This is Mister Caven, and I wonder if you might have a word with (bad kid). Heorshe seems to be having some trouble settling down and getting to work, and since I know how important education is to you and to (bad kid) I thought a reminder from you might help settle things down." At which point I hand my phone to the child whose focus is now rooted on the interaction that is about to take place, and the bluff has been called.
Unless the child in question has prior knowledge, like mom doesn't answer the phone unless she recognizes the number or she's busy at work or she just doesn't care. Which is about the time that I hope to have dad's number available, but that tends to lead to more unpleasantness than I am after as a general rule. I would rather have a kid loaded up with some level of parental disapproval than threatened with a beating.
Which is why I have been calling someone else's mom lately. My wife receives a percentage of the calls I make from the playground because she's on speed dial and I can modulate that experience into something I can use. Making a call of any sort lets kids know I mean business, and if it means I have to resort to a little chicanery to get them to settle long enough to get through a lesson, so be it.
Have there been times when kids have observed me doing things I ought not and wanted to call my mom? Yes. And I have made that call. Sometimes to the profound confusion of my mother, who then proceeds to play along, admonishing me for showing up late or whatever the offense was. It's what a mother does, after all.
To all the mothers I have called, I promise today it will only be for glad tidings on the day. You deserve a moment of peace.

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