hang ups

In my fifth year of teaching, I’ve almost earned the right to say “I’ve had a lot of things happen to me in my teaching career.” 

There was the time a girl asked about visiting her baby’s daddy in prison, and why she had to sign in as his sister. 

There was the time I got a little too angry and told the girl who stormed out of my classroom to “have fun working at McDonalds”.

There was the time I found out my student’s mom died in a car accident a month into his freshman year of high school.

There was the bomb threat.

But I’ve never had a situation quite like the one I found myself in last Thursday.  On the second day with this particular class, I had to make some not-so-pleasant phone calls home.  I actually got a hold of one student’s mother.  After explaining to her that her son couldn’t keep his hands to himself, seemed very hyperactive, ripped the arm off of the chair in the auditorium, and had to be escorted out by the resource officer, I asked if she had any insights.  She said, “no”.  But then she did something I did not expect – she hung up.

I was stunned. 

I have endured countless parental rants over the past five years.  I have been called many things via email, over the phone, and to my face.  I have been threatened.  But I have never, ever had a parent hang up on me.  I didn’t even know if she was angry.  Did she hear what I said?  Did she understand that I wasn’t trying to indict her as a parent?  After all that, how could she just hang up?  Did she just not care?

It was then that I began to get a clearer picture of my student, because it’s really the parents who tell you what you need to know.  This woman, whatever her circumstances, hung up.  If she hung up on me, how did she treat her son every day?  What kind of situation has she found herself in that makes it ok to do that?  And how do I respond to that as a teacher?

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