The Two Worst Times

14 years oldHaving Trouble? Call Home!

Imagine I am a novice teacher. I’m having trouble with a student’s behavior. The kid is talking at inappropriate times, won’t take directions seriously – that sort of thing. Nothing dangerous, but still disruptive and/or disrespectful. I go to my principal (or my university professor) and explain the situation. What’s the first question they will ask? “Have you called home on the student?”

Calling home is the most often recommended behavior management tool we teachers are given. But I was (we are) never told what the given assumptions were with that advice. Nor was I told what to do if calling home didn’t produce any positive behavioral changes in the student.

Unspoken Assumptions

The advice to call home assumes several things. It assumes that the parent will see the problematic behavior the same way the teacher sees it. We are never told what to do if the parent ignores our calls (see Expert?). And that’s not even counting all the times we couldn’t reach a responsible adult due to disconnected numbers, false numbers, phones with no voicemail (yes, even in this modern age they do exist) or family transience without the follow up of keeping the school informed.

We are never told what to do if the parent vehemently disagrees with our assessment of the situation and then threatens legal action (see Expert?). We are never told what to do if the parent chooses to discipline the child in some crazy, illegal or immoral way (see Consequences).

Probably the most damaging, dangerous and erroneous assumption about classroom management is the assumption that all children (and/or parents) respect authority. That includes the authority of parents, teachers, school administrators and/or law enforcement.

So imagine my frustration and surprise when I’d call home and the parent would agree with me that the child’s behavior was inappropriate but they (the parent) had given up and could do nothing about it!

The New Guy at School

I’ve written before about my first long term assignment as the third band instructor of the semester at Living Hell Performing Arts Magnet (see Godfather). I understood the anger and frustration of the orchestra.They sounded terrible when I first got there and it took every bit of patience I had not to run out of there screaming. But it seemed to me that my Music Appreciation class should have been a cakewalk for the kids and I felt they owed me a bit of cooperation. I didn’t get it. I was having particular problems with a girl named Amy. She wouldn’t do her homework (the assignments were easy for anyone to do). She was disrespectful and defiant. Again – nothing dangerous just a major pain in the ass! So I called home.

The Two Worst Times

Amy’s mom listened quietly and patiently as I explained who I was and the problems I was facing. Her response left me speechless. She sighed and said, “The two worst times in a woman’s life are when she is 14 years old or when she has a 14 year old daughter.”

What do you say to that?

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