Let's all admit that we call people and sometimes wish for voicemail. It's just easier sometimes to transmit basic information if you don't have to deal with all the pleasantries.
Tonight I prayed for voicemail.
That's me calling parents, something I do as infrequently as possible. I promised my lame Geometry kids I'd call home if they didn't do their Thanksgiving homework. I let it slip a few days. I whittled The List down as much as possible. ("He had a prettttty good excuse.") There were 10 names to call. Most were without incident. I even pulled a few voicemails.
Halfway through I switched gears and called MG's foster parents to tell them that their kid blasted the most recent test straight through the roof. That's important. Gotta maintain some balance. A lot of teachers asssert a 1:1 correspondence between negative/positive phone calls. My tolerance for bad karma is a little higher than that but I do keep pretty strictly to 5:1.
Sometimes the student will pick up and that's always a good time.
Like Heather, a blonde transfer out of Sacramento who fit right into Santa Cruz' slacker ethos. She manages to be both devious and easily manipulated all at the same time.
Me: Hi this is Dan from SLV High, calling for Heather's parents. They around?
Heather: Uh, heh, no.
Me: Oh too bad. Is this Heather?
Me: Hey Heather, this is Mr. Meyer.
Heather: Oh hey.
Me: So Heather, you weren't lying to me about your parents not being around, right?
Heather: No, I swear –
Me: Because, Heather, I've got work phone numbers for both of them … e-mail addresses …
Heather: (obviously breathing fire) Fine, hold on.
And then commenced the best kind of parent phone call where you talk to the parent for a bit and then wait while the parent rephrases everything you just said as a really angry question to the kid. "You didn't turn in an assignment over Thanksgiving?!?!"
You just smile during those interludes, wait for the parent to come back on with you, and wonder if maybe you should do this more often.