The Handwriting's on the Wall

I called more parents today. And I had forgotten this, but last year I wrote on my summative evaluation that I was going to work building and maintaining the parent/teacher relationship this year.

To tell the truth, I wasn't sure, when I wrote that, that I was fully invested in following through. I HATE calling parents. It's only rarely that I will run across a mean one, but I tend to psych myself out before the call, so the anticipation is actually worse than the event itself.

So I took my list of phone numbers down to the teachers lounge, which is twelve million miles away from my room, and settled in for a long round of phone calls. I only made contact with three parents, but I think they were worthwhile.

My last phone call was to a parent of one of my freshmen reading students. He is currently carrying a 26 average, and he doesn't seem to care. Oh, but his parents care. They care a LOT. And I have to tell you, I think this is probably the funniest parent phone call I've had.

Student's Mom: Hello?

Me: Hello, my name is Mei Flower, and I'm calling from Randomville High School. May I please speak to one of X's parents?

SM: OH! Miss Flower! I LOVE you!

Me: [crickets]

SM: I was going to write you a note today; you're the first teacher that has ever cared enough to tell my son that he needs to IMPROVE HIS HANDWRITING. [emphasis mine]

Me: [crickets} [This was not what I expected.]

So here's the thing: My reading kids have to write original sentences to show me that they understand a word's definition and how to use it correctly. I read the sentences, check them for grammar and spelling, and make comments to sort of help them have a clearer understanding. (One of the units gives the definition of nemesis as "undoing." So I get sentences like, "The boy was nemesis his shoes when he got home from school." Come ON! How much easier would it be just to write
NEMESIS (n) - enemy ?

That's what I always write: Use this word as a synonym for enemy.
And the kids get this right away, and they remember that they've heard the word before, in a Batman movie or something.)

Anyway, two or three times a day, I write this across the top of a paper:

Please take your time when you write. It's very hard for me to read what you have written.

I struggle through, and I read as much as I can, but sometimes I leave little notes in the margins:
? I don't know what this word is.

So anyway, this mom went on about that for awhile, about how she's tried to tell X that he needs to work on his handwriting skills. And we talked about how to motivate him to do his work (solution: Tattle to the band director). THEN, she said, "Hold on, let me let you talk to my husband." And she took the phone OUTSIDE, where her husband was MOWING THE LAWN, and said, "It's Ms. Flower on the phone."

So HE gets on and says, "Ms. Flower! I was going to write you a note today to THANK YOU for pointing out that my son needs to have better handwriting!" He went on to say that he's told X for years that, even though a lot of things are typed nowadays, being able to write clearly is a necessary skill. And X has always said to him, "But my teachers never say anything." So X's dad gave it up, but now I HAVE GIVEN HIM A REASON to start up again.

We talked some more; it was pretty much the same conversation I'd had with the mom, and I think X is going to get an earful when he gets home. (At least they didn't threaten to beat him).

But I was laughing to myself when I hung up, because it's not often that you call a student's parent and get greeted with, "I LOVE you!" and it's just because you didn't want to squint at a kid's paper to decipher his handwriting ... because it might cause wrinkles.


Dree said...

It cracks me up what parents choose to obsess over. The parents of my first graders will study their spelling words with them until they can recite them in their sleep. But do they practice math facts? Nope. Do they read books to/with them at home? Nope. Spelling is the "safe" subject... and apparently, so is handwriting. :)

Mei said...

Some of these phone calls really take an unexpected turn, Dree. I never thought a 14 year old boy's parents would get so excited about a note on handwriting!


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