Friday, October 28, 2011

557. Schooled

I sit by the phone, willing it to ring. That’s a lie. It’s a cell phone. I carry the phone from room to room, checking that it is charged over and over and over and justonemoretime and wondering why it hasn’t rung yet.

Having an on-call job is exactly like dating.

The phone ultimately doesn’t ring (see above: “exactly like dating”), so I decide to make the most of my day and volunteer in Tall’s second-grade class as a “helper parent.”

Our local elementary school is quite innovative and creative, and the administration there has coined this special advanced terminology (“helper parent”) to describe a student’s mom or dad who visits the classroom for a few hours and assists the teacher as needed.

Being a “helper parent” is precisely like being a parent at home, except without the helpful part.

I am mentally prepared to find out about second-grade math and second-grade spelling and second-grade science projects. What I am not mentally prepared to find out about is:

My complete lack of parenting skills.

Now, if you have followed my blog for more than 60 seconds, you already know that my membership in the Quality Mom Club has been revoked, never to be reinstated. Was it the time I sent Tall to school without brushing his teeth (“Here! Gobble up these breath mints, the school bus is coming down our street!”)? Or the time I threw all Short’s painted macaroni “art” in the trash because it looked like vomit? Or the time(s) I served my children raw broccoli for dinner while I ate ice-cream? Who knows precisely what the turning point was, but it is clear that Hallmark did not have me in mind when they coined those annoying Mother’s Day cards touting “World’s Best Mom.”

At any rate, the teacher teaches. The students listen attentively. I pick up a few new weather words (anemometer, troposphere, cumulonimbus, rain). And then it happens.

The kids get too rowdy and loud.

I freeze. If this behavior was happening at my house, Pokémon cards would be ripped up. TV privileges would be revoked. Promises of chocolate waffles on Sunday would be reneged.

Star Teacher does none of these things. She merely does some mysterious little clap pattern, and the children copy her. Then she calls out, like a military drill sergeant (albeit one with a voice like Mariah Cary's) “Voice check!” and they all stop talking. Next, her arm shoots in the air and she is holding up some sort of symbol with her fingers, a cross between a peace sign and a hang-ten. Again, the kids mimic her. Silence descends upon the room.

How does this happen? How did I never learn these tricks in eight years of being a mom? And how soon can Star Teacher move in and can I afford to match her teaching pay to have her be our family’s new permanent nanny?

I excuse myself and walk out to the hall. I open my cell phone and press a number on speed-dial.

“Hello, Boss?” I hear myself say, “I might need to pick up a few extra hours at the high-end kitchen store over Christmas. Like maybe a thousand.”



  1. The hand thing would be misinterpreted as flashing gang symbols in Chicago. Nice approach, though. Very Captain Von Trappy-y.

  2. Dee from Tennesse

    Oh yeah, the clapping part works great but I wish you could really show the hand sign-- that's a new technique for me!! Second graders ROCK.....they are the best! Still so innocent and how I miss them, how I miss them.

  3. I remember trying the clapping at home with just two kids once, and they looked at me like I'd lost my mind. It must work better in a mob mentality setting, as I had seen them participate in their classes where I got the idea! It did quiet them a little when I started trying to sing my requests...I think the silence was just their fear that I'd completely gone insane. Volunteering is harder work than some paychecks!

  4. I used to do a behind-the-wheel silent treatment when my kids were fighting in the car. I'd simply pull off to the side of the road and sit in silence. Once they realized we weren't moving and Mommy wasn't talking, they got the message that something wasn't right....not right at all.

    For a few years I did a volunteer art program at our grade school. In one first grade class, in the middle of my presentation, a little electric chime went off and all the kids instantly dropped to the floor. I was stunned. Surely they didn't do air raid drills in 2009? I looked at the teacher and she said "oops. I forgot to turn off the floor check alarm. Every thrity minutes, the chime rings and they drop to the floor and clean up any mess around their desk." Impressive.

    I've tried using our dog's electric shock collar on our kids but people seemed to have a problem with that....

  5. marianne, I thought of the "gang" element when I wrote this post and I somehow KNEW that a certain Chicago resident would pick up on it.......

    Dee, you are right, 2nd-graders are cuties! (although not so much when there are 25 of them ganging up against you chanting, "Share those brownies! Share those brownies!")

    andrea, you understand! it is not just me! (and BTW, I adore your blog)

    HW, my mom did the driving thing to us too. My fear was always that she would pull over and then tell us to get out of the car, or worse: that she herself would get out of the car. Once this actually happened. She pulled over, turned off the car, and got out without a word. I screamed out, "MOM!!! Where are you going?!? What are you doing?!?" She said, "MOV. Stop being so melodramatic. We're home." And as a side note, I am loving the "air raid"/ floor check alarm. Might have to copy that approach....


  6. Oh-oh-oh-oh-OH! YOU GOT PROMOTED. THAT'S IT.

    -Motaki, Firmly Believing That You Are Now A High End Kitchen Store Manager

  7. Two Words-Duct Tape....

  8. I, too, have been mesmerized by the hand clapping. How is it they can control the little darlings with just hand clapping? If I were to try that at home they would just think I was bonkers. (Ok, they already think that.) If I really need to get their attention I start singing things with an opera voice. It's nutty, but sometimes works. Works for learning sight words, your address and other stuff, too!

  9. taki-- thank god, no. Remember? I work for Batman and I broke the Batmobile. Still trying to repair the damage........

    L-- I hear ya. And Target sells duct tape in all pretty patterns. Oh good, you gave me an excuse to visit Target!

    couse-- love the Opera voice. When Tall was 3, he told me he wanted to go to the Opera (?). I immediately looked into tickets because maybe he was a child prodigy in something (singing? listening to other people sing?), but then that medical condition of mine kicked in (laziness) and I promptly forgot about it. Sadly, that window of opportunity banged shut, as I asked him the other day if he wanted to go to the opera and he said, "Are you crazy?"



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