Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Dec 31 2012

Call My Mom

It was the last day before Winter Break, and I was proctoring detention after school. As you can imagine, the kids were not thrilled to be there. They were grouchy, slow to follow directions, and trying to test my resolve to keep them without crossing the line and getting in more trouble. Needless to say, I wasn’t so thrilled to be there myself.


In the middle of the room sat a whiney boy, with his hand insistently in the air. Every time he caught my attention, he’d start demanding that I call his mom.

“You have to call my mom. She said that whoever was proctoring detention needed to call her. She doesn’t understand why I have to be here and she says you need to call her.”

We already called to say you’re here and she was fine with it. I’m happy to call her after detention and explain more of the story, but I’m supervising a room full of students right now and I cannot make any phone calls until we’re finished.

“Noooooooooooo it can’t be after! You need to call her right now! I’m not doing this work until you call my mom.”

I can’t do that. Please work on your assignment. Then I would direct my attention somewhere else, and he’d put his hand back up in the air and just start waving it again. When ignored for too long, he’d start emitting low whining noises, and it quickly got to the point where everyone was shooting him dirty looks. Unfortunately, this student delights in complaining about things and could not have cared less about the growing irritation.


After a good thirty minutes of him stubbornly sulking, I finally broke down. I am not saying this again. You cannot call your mom. But if you really need to talk to someone, you can go ahead and call my mom.


Everyone looked up at me at once, while the student quickly weighed his attachment to his cause against the ridiculousness of the new offer. Curiosity won out, and he hopped out of his seat and bounced over to me. He was suddenly delighted with the possibility of finding a new ally and completely wiped all signs of his protracted sulking.


In front of a completely incredulous room of silent middle schoolers, I dialed my mom’s number and handed him the phone. When she answered, he awkwardly tried to explain who he was (“I’m Ms. Mathina – er, your daughter’s – um, student at her school”) and then gained confidence as he told her about his plight being Stuck in Detention.


My mom didn’t miss a beat. Instead of the pity party he was looking for, she just said:

“You know how mean and bossy you think Ms. Mathinaz is? I’m her mother. Where do you think she got that from?”


The poor kid’s entire body just slumped with disappointment. Foiled again. They said their goodbyes and he handed me the phone back, while I laughed so hard I could barely breathe. Then he plopped down at his desk and got right to work. He finished his whole assignment and didn’t say another word, because those were the directions from Mama Mathinaz.



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