Tuesday, December 12, 2006

TIWIT, part 8 of 174: Lying to parents

The first time I ever got a phone call from a parent was a shock.

"Hello, sir, I am calling about my son," the caller said. "I am very worried."

It was a shock mainly because it was 8 p.m. and I was at home. "Sure," I said, "how can I help?"

"Can you tell me, sir, is it true that my son is dating a girl?"

Oh boy. How was I going to deal with this?

First, some background. My phone number is listed, so I really shouldn't have been surprised that he reached me at home. The real surprise about getting calls at home was that, in my first six years as a teacher, I had only been called once by a student. Maybe I've gotten prank calls once or twice, but not what might be expected. This shows that students are either very respectful about teachers' privacy or they don't really give a damn or, I guess, that they don't know how to use telephone books. If the information doesn't pop up on google, they don't know how to find it.

Anyway, I sort of should have expected this call from this father. After all, I had just spent about an hour after school talking to this boy about his life, his religion, his girlfriend. He was supposed to be in some ACT prep class but came in my room, said he wasn't feeling well enough to sit through the class, so could he please hang out for a while? I was grading some papers, was planning to be there for a while anyway, so I said sure. Once he sat down, though, we started talking and I graded zero papers.

This kid was from Sri Lanka. As with most kids from religious backgrounds, I asked him about growing up Muslim.

"I don't really care about my religion," he said.

"Do your parents know that?"

"No way," he said. "They'd kill me."

"What would they do if they found out you were dating, especially a non-Muslim?"

"It wouldn't be pretty."

Even though I didn't ask for specifics, I knew he was dating. Every person in the building could see this kid holding hands with his very Mexican, very non-Muslim girlfriend. Still, I didn't probe, figuring he'd tell me more if he wanted to.

An hour into our chat, the counselor in charge of the ACT class came into my room and asked the boy what he was doing, why he wasn't in class. "I didn't feel well," he said. She left in a fury. "Oh boy," I told him. "That's one woman you don't want to piss off."

"Whatever," he asked. "What can she do?"

Famous last words.

What she did was this: She called the boy's house. Told dad that the boy wasn't feeling well enough to go to class, but he was still in the building. Maybe because he was waiting for his girlfriend!

And now I had dad on the line. "Is it true, sir? Does my son have a girlfriend?"

"Well ..." I stammered. "I know he has many friends."

"I am very concerned. We don't want our children to do certain things."

"I understand," I said. "And, from what I've seen of your son, I think he's a great young man. Very respectful. Very ... proper. I'm sure he wouldn't do anything ... bad."

"But what about this counselor calling and saying he has a girlfriend?"

"Oh, I'm sure she was upset that your son wasn't in class. And it was probably true, he was probably waiting for his friends."

"But does he have a girlfriend."

OK. Is it really up to me to inform this man of something like this? Am I my student's keeper? Can't he just ask his son? Doesn't he know as a father what the truth is? I thought back to all the times I had seen this boy with his girlfriend. Seemed innocent enough. Then again, had I ever actually seen anything? Or was my memory colored by what I had heard from other teachers? What is truth anyway?

"Well," I said. "I can assure you, I have never seen anything improper in my classroom." This was the truth! I assign seats, and the two lovebirds sit separate from each other in English. There's no way they had ever done anything in my presence. "What your son does outside of my classroom, I don't really know. But in my room, nothing."

The father thanked me and asked me to call if I ever suspected his son was dating, especially a non-Muslim.

to be continued ...


the mom said...

where is the rest of this story??

laughing at the old times said...

munis got busted