When teachers have a problem with a student the principal frequently asks “Did you call the parents?” Should they have failed to do that, they might be “written up” or at least looked at askance. The underlying assumption is that calling the parents will be helpful. But, as my commanding officer in the Army once made clear to me, “Assumption is the mother of all f-ups!” Then there is another angle. Asking the “did you call …” question is a great way for principals to avoid taking the problem on their own shoulders.

Let’s examine this “Did you call the parents?” phenomenon. What presumptions underlie it?
  1. That the student has parents (notice the often inaccurate plural) active in his or her life? That they are not, for example, a foster child, or being raised by a grandparent, or aunt or uncle, or someone who exploits them, or even someone who just took pity on them and took them in.
  2. That the “parents” can be reached. Foster children, for example, can move from “home” to “home” two or three times per year. Reaching them is problematic. Also, some schools rely on the kids for their “parent’s” current phone number. Troublesome kids are smart enough to make them up.
  3. That the parents can speak English. (Try explaining Junior’s behavior in Slovenian.)
  4. That the “parents” will answer if they think the school is calling. They often won’t.
  5. That the “parents” care. Every child deserves a parent. Not every parent deserves a child.
  6. That the “parents” will not be drunk, high or otherwise preoccupied when they receive the call. They can be.
  7. That the “parents” will know what to do. If the people raising children knew how to get them to cooperate they would already be doing it.
  8. That the “parents” won’t do something to make the problem worse — perhaps much worse. My first grade teaching wife once asked a parent to help his child practice her addition skills. She gave him a short practice sheet to work with. Next day the child showed up with swollen, black and blue fingers. Dad had “helped” by smacking the child’s knuckles with a ruler every time she got something wrong.
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in the ArmyLet’s  look at this whole calling the parents thing more closely.