Ask A Teacher: Phone Dilemmas

Sticky situations at school? Check out the first segment in a 3-part series where a veteran teacher answers parent questions.


Dear Teacher … my 11-year-old daughter just returned from a birthday party where the 10-year-old received a cell phone. Now all I hear is, “everyone has one but me!”

Dear Parent,
Cell phones shouldn’t be presents or viewed as status symbols, though unfortunately, they often are. With working parents, many after-school activities, countless bus routes and car pools, cell phones are an invaluable tool. You have to ask yourself why you are giving the phone and how will it be used?

If it is a present and comes in a glittery case with lots of apps, 10 is probably too young. But, if you work, are a single parent, have a spouse who travels a lot, you travel a lot, or have to rely on others for car pools, giving your 10-year-old a cell phone means security for both of you.  Then it’s a tool like a watch or a calculator—so don’t present it as a gift. Start with the most basic model. As your child matures, you can upgrade. Be sure to discuss who will pay for the inevitable lost or broken phone. And check out the company’s insurance plan. For kids, it’s often worth it.

Dear Teacher,
When is it appropriate for a parent to call a teacher at home?

Dear Parent,
When a parent wants to speak to a teacher, the first line of protocol is to leave a voice mail or email for the teacher at school. Most teachers will respond within 24 hours. If it’s more urgent, call the school office and leave word that you must speak with that teacher ASAP. The office will deliver the message. Only if the teacher gives you permission and a home phone number may you call the teacher at home. Sometimes, conversations can only be conducted in the evening and the teacher may request that you call him or her at home. And, of course, there are extreme exceptions and emergencies, but in today’s world of emails, texts, and voice mails, those emergencies are few and far between.

For instance, a field trip was planned for the next day and a parent chaperone became ill and could not attend. I was glad to get a call before school so I could find another chaperone. Almost everything else, including a student’s sudden out-of-town trip for a funeral can wait until the next day or be left on voice mail or email.

If you leave a message for a teacher and don’t hear back within an appropriate amount of time, contact the department chair or principal, but do not call the teacher’s home.

What are your questions?
Use the comment button below and ask Lynda your toughest educational dilemmas.

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