Why Don't You Call Your Teacher?

Virtual School Student on the Phone

This was the simple question I posed to my daughter. Little did I know the reasons she started rattling off would totally stump me.  Imagine that, me speechless. All of her reasons for not calling her teacher for help sounded...well...reasonable.

Time to call in the reinforcements!  One of my best supports this year has been my dear daughter's English teacher.  So I sent out a distress email:

Dear Mr. Plummer,

Help!  You said, "CALL ME, CALL ME, CALL ME!!", if I ever needed your help. Well, I really need it now!  My daughter needs help with her school work, but she refuses to pick up the phone.  Even worse, she's come up with some great excuses as to why she shouldn't and she has me stumped!  What am I supposed to say to these? How can I get her to call? I've attached her list of reasons and can't wait to see what you suggest.

Baffled Learning Coach

These are the reasons I sent and Mr. Plummer's responses:

Reason #1: "If I knew what the problem was, then I could probably figure out the answer."

  • Mr. Plummer says: "Albert Einstein said that If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it? I think we could all agree that, besides forgetting to comb his hair, he was a pretty smart dude, and even he didn’t have all the answers. Don’t think of them as problems; think of them as questions you just haven’t answered yet. And when you call us, we can help you get your questions answered much faster. The word problem implies something bad, but the word question implies something cool that you’re about to know! See how easy that is? It’s why they pay me the big bucks.

Reason #2: "I think it will be easier if I try to figure it out myself then have to explain the problem to the teacher."

  • Mr. Plummer says: "Nope. It’s not. We have the answer book. And while it’s really cool that you want to try to figure out the hard stuff, if you think you might be stuck, give us a quick call. Then you can get your school work done much faster, hang out with your peeps, and try to become the new single-month text message champion by breaking the 10,000 mark. And no, you can not list that as a goal on your PLP."

Reason #3: "My teachers only said to call if I need help.  I’m not ready to admit that yet."

  • Mr. Plummer says, "Believe it or not, we really like getting calls. It gives us warm fuzzies. Let’s not call it needing help, let’s call it trying to stump the teacher. Bet you can’t call me and ask me something I don’t know. And, oh, by the way, if you do stump me, please don’t tell my boss. I hate that look."

Reason #4: "Why can’t my English teacher help with math?"

  • Mr. Plummer says, "Well, your English teacher probably could help with math, by making sure that the answers to your word problems have the correct subject-verb agreement and all the punctuation is in the right place, but I doubt that will be uber-impressive to your math teacher. The results might be a little like taking your car to the Vet; good conversation, and you'll probably learn something, but it won’t really help you get to your destination. Plus, English teachers think that all numbers should be spelled out, which would make your algebra answers look really weird."

Reason #5: "I don't have a problem; they just don't like my answers."

  • Mr. Plummer says, 'Hmmmm….yeah, well, you see….us not liking your answers kind of IS a problem. Since they send us to teacher school to know the right answers, we know what we’re looking for. But, contrary to popular belief in the chat rooms and MySpace world, we really take no pleasure when you struggle or get wrong answers. Plus, our bosses give us that quizzical, raised eyebrow, how-come-all-your-students-totally-tanked-that-test look. We hate that look."

Thank you so much for your help Mr. Plummer!

It put a smile on my face and my daughters. Although my daughter might have been joking around when she gave me all those great reasons, you reminded her (and me) that there is no valid reason to avoid picking up the phone (or sending you a note) asking for help.  Thanks for being approachable.  Just knowing you are there to offer your support makes a huge difference in our learning journey.  When you hear the phone ring next time, you know who it will be!

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