SCHOOL: Is it ok for your son to hold a duck egg, while wearing gloves?
I’ve lived in shared houses where the phone only received calls – a precaution by the landlord to prevent large bills being run up. Sometimes I wish my own home phone only made outgoing calls and couldn’t receive them. It would mean the end of phone spam, courtesy calls, “we’re doing a survey in your area” and… calls from the children’s school.
I’m not talking about the call every parent dreads – serious accident or injury or worse. I’m talking about the call every parent resents – the call that masquerades as serious. This phone call came just after a school trip, before the parent’s son had reached home.
TEACHER: Mrs Morrow, this is Mr E, I have some very grave news about your son.
MUM (panicking): What? What? Is he ok?
TEACHER: Oh yes, but on the school trip at the weekend I lent him 50p and he has not as yet paid me back.
MUM (trying to recover heart rate): Oh you stupid man. <hangs up>
It seems like life or death summons. The truth is teasingly delayed until you race to the rescue. Like with the mother who was told over the phone that her child was “doing as well as can be expected” after being hit in the face with a brick. A brick?! Horrible. She arrived at school to discover it was a DUPLO (junior Lego) brick. I’ll cancel the ambulance, shall I?
They’re a fairly level-headed lot locally, so these nuisance calls are rare. But it’s a growing phenomenon. (You want actual evidence? Well, just compare these days to rosy tinted vague recollection of when I was at school back in the olden days, as we call the previous century in our house. Back then you had to have gushing diahorrea for a teacher to call your home. It happened to, er.. a friend of mine.)
So an urgent call comes through to me that the school is being evacuated. It’s not safe! Quick, fetch your children at once, if not sooner. Cripes! Drop everything. Rush to the school. “Where are they? What’s the emergency?!”
“Emergency? Oh yes, some of the electrics have failed. The classrooms are a bit dim.” And? And… that’s it. Some emergency. The children are working on regardless or playing outside in the sun. But somehow, like a useful eejit, I end up “rescuing” my own kids and some belonging to other people who didn’t answer the phone. Sound familiar?
But I’m lucky. At least I haven’t had a call like this:
SCHOOL: Your son isn’t in school today and no one has let us know where he is.
MOTHER: Erm, I’m afraid I can’t answer that, I’m in Amsterdam, on holiday.
SCHOOL: Pardon, you’ve gone on holiday and left a minor at home alone?
MOTHER: Erm yes, he’s 18 and in 6th form.
SCHOOL: Oh right, I didn’t know how old he was.
MOTHER TEXTS SON: why are you not at school?
SON TEXTS BACK: i am, stop texting me, i’m in the hall doing my mock A-level maths exam
That’s from the Mumsnet website. The members can be scabrously funny, so I’ve toned down their examples a bit.
HEADMISTRESS: Mrs S, you really must tell your daughter not to swear at priests.
MRS S (very confused): Pardon?
HEAD (very snootily): Your daughter swore at the priest during mass today. It is unacceptable…
MRS S: Can I stop you there, you must have the wrong number.
HEAD: Oh? One of those are we Mrs S? Can’t believe your daughter would swear or act badly at school or in church?
MRS S: I know my daughter didn’t do that. She is only 8 months old so can’t actually speak yet, never mind talk back to priests.
HEAD: Bloody directory enquiries.
But to be fair, those messy grubby oiky little creatures called school pupils all tend to look the same after a while, don’t they? Oh – the phone is ringing again. Better answer it.
HEAD: Hello Mrs I, can you come up to school please? Your son B has been involved in a serious incident where a girl has been assaulted.
MUM: It wasn’t my son.
HEAD: I can assure you it was. We have witnesses, including a staff member.
MUM: It wasn’t my son B, so I won’t be coming up to school.
HEAD: Are you refusing to come and discuss this matter? We need you to remove your son from the premises immediately.
MUM: I have my son, he is off school and has been for a week. I think you mean big B and not little B who is my son.
HEAD: We have witnesses Mrs I. It was your son.
MUM: Can you go and ask big B who his mother is? If he says it’s me, do phone me back won’t you? Goodbye.
But sometimes you just want to go Aww – that’s cute. Still annoying, but cute with it.
SCHOOL: Can you come and pick your son up as he has fallen asleep under a bush. (aged 8)
RECEPTIONIST: Your son is poorly and has a temperature. Can you come and collect him?
MUM: Yes, I’ll be there asap.
RECEPTIONIST: Oh don’t rush, take your time, I’m having a lovely cuddle. The heating’s broken in the office and he’s boiling, he’s my only source of warmth!
Well that’s all right then. Surprised you even called. In fact, next time somebody gets, say, stuck in the toilet, please don’t call.
NURSERY WORKER: Your son locked himself in the toilet and won’t open the door or talk to us. We are worried he may have fainted.
MUM: Are you sure? I could have sworn he was on the sofa in the living room with me.
NURSERY: You ARE John’s mummy, aren’t you?
NURSERY: And he’s not in today?
MUM: Nope and he hasn’t been since Tuesday.
NURSERY: See, that’s what I thought. But the other children said he was in there. So who is that in the toilet?
Answer? Nobody. The door was just stuck. But you can’t always blame the school staff I suppose.
The school nurse called to tell me that my son (9) was playing pocket billiards. In my inability to say something constructive, I declared that he was just like his father. . I never heard from her again .
And there isn’t time to check medical notes in a crisis.
SCHOOL SECRETARY: Mrs M, we have your son here (7). His asthma is troubling him and he doesn’t have his inhaler with him. Could you come and collect him please?
MUM: He doesn’t HAVE asthma?!
SEC: Oh, hang on a minute, sorry… <goes off, then returns> …Mrs M, I’m very sorry. He’s been running around the field, got out of breath and seems to have self diagnosed!
And how are nursery staff supposed to react when they get this kind of response when phoning a parent?
Sometimes in my job I have to divert my mobile to my fab secretary and she relayed this conversation to me after my son fell and bit his lip …
NURSERY: Hello, is that Mrs Pushka?
SECRETARY: No, she is in Court this afternoon. Who is calling?
NURSERY: It is Nursery here. Is she likely to be long?
SEC: Not sure. It is for sentencing today. Can I help?
NURSERY (hand over phone to colleague): OhMyGod, Mrs Pushka could be going to prison, should I call Social Services? Or should it be the police?
SEC (yelling): HELLO… NO NEED… REALLY… HELLO…
And there are some calls made that have only one redeeming feature – that at least the messages were not put in writing. (For the school’s benefit that is.)
HEAD: Please don’t sue the school.
MUM: Why? What’s happened?
HEAD: A teacher grabbed your son from the 3rd floor banister as he was walking along it. It scared the teacher. He thought your son might fall.
MUM: Why was my son out of his classroom?
HEAD: As your son has severe ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), we can’t cope with him and we put him outside every lesson to run his energy off.
MUM: How long has this been going on for?
HEAD: Two years. But we have now decided to send him home four days a week so he doesn’t get that bored again.
You what? Gobsmacked. And this sounds naughty:
SCHOOL: Hello Mrs S. I’m just phoning because we have Ofsted (school inspectors) in today and tomorrow, and were wondering if you would like to keep your son at home?
Just remembered that there may be some teachers reading this. So before you give me double detention or worse – call my parents – I think teachers are great – including…
- my Mum
- my sister
- my Granny
- and the exemplary paragons in my village.
- There is one seriously dodgy teacher I know – but I’ll be revealing that person’s identity on the Lessons from Teachers & Twits blog sometime soon.
And also in my defence, here are two tales from from the teachers and admin side – just below this punchy video about teachers starring Taylor Mali.
You see? I think teachers and school admin staff are great – honest. They made me the creeping sycophant I am today. And they have good stories like this one:
I once had to make an awkward call to a parent: “It seems that your son has brought handcuffs into school. He has chained a classmate’s hands together. Could you possibly get here with the key?”
Worse still, the headteacher had just finished escorting prospective parents around the school and was just finishing his spiel about how unacceptable behaviour was dealt with promptly and seriously – only to be confronted by a tearful seven year old girl sitting outside the school office in cuffs.
And the poor teaching and admin staff have to put up with parents like this:
The day my son started school, he came out crying with his new friend. I asked what was wrong. He told me his friend had bought balloons into school and they had been blowing them up at lunchtime. His friend was crying because he had taken them from his Mum’s drawer and would be in trouble. “Okay, where are they”, I asked. “I’ll say they are mine and get them back.” I went to the headteacher and asked for them back. She handed me a large box of condoms and said: “I don’t think these are yours.” I was 8 months pregnant at the time.
Happy as always to get your comments, but just leave them here – no point in calling me, the phone will be off the hook. I’m not answering – just in case.