This week I was gifted with an opportunity to connect with a total stranger. Yet he came into my life just when I needed him. Wednesday was a stressful day for me. One of Isabella's teachers accidentally marked her absent on Monday. The efficient school system that is District 11 provided an automated call to inform me that my daughter had missed a class and that I needed to call back. I knew that my child was in school all day, but I checked with her in case she had been tardy. Perhaps there had been a substitute teacher who might have missed her during attendance. Isabella assured me that she had been on time and in every class.
I went to the school in person on Tuesday before noon. The attendance secretary checked and informed me that Isabella had been marked absent from her Social Studies class by her teacher. No substitute was in on Monday, but there was a substitute on Tuesday morning. The attendance secretary reassured me that she would leave another email and a voice message for the teacher. When I called back that afternoon, there was still no word from the teacher. I left a voice message too.
By Wednesday morning I still had not heard from the teacher, so I called the attendance secretary again. I let her know I had not yet heard from the teacher and was concerned because I did not want an unexcused absence to remain on Isabella's record. She recommended that I leave another voice mail for the teacher. I said I would, but that if I didn't hear back from the teacher by the end of the day I would like to schedule time to meet with the principal. Here's my concern: The district expects parents to inform the school of a child's absence in a timely manner or risk being reported to social services. If I take the time out of my schedule to determine the cause of a marked absence, then I expect the same courtesy in return.
I understand how busy a teacher can get. I have been in a teaching position too. What I know is that if there were an error on my part or as the result of an oversight from my team, the last thing a parent wants to hear are excuses! Well, that is exactly what I got when the teacher finally called me back Wednesday afternoon. I heard that she was busy with the track team on Monday and Tuesday and was in meetings all day on Tuesday and Wednesday morning. She said Isabella's name was next to another child who was absent on Monday. She never apologized or empathized with me or my child. I expressed that I simply wanted my daughter's attendance record corrected.
I wrote a letter as a follow up but never sent it. I didn't want Isabella to experience any repercussions if the teacher decided to become offended. So I'll wait and see if future issues arise. Perhaps she was just having a busy and stressful week. At any rate, parent/teacher conferences are due next week, so hopefully I can communicate with the teacher so that she actually remembers who my child is next time we talk. (She called me Isabella on the phone.)
My conversation with the teacher left me in a little bit of a funk. I know...get over it. But I do expect teachers to at least accept accountability for their oversights. Lord knows I've had many conversations with parents over the past 25+ years of working with children. Even if the issue was a missing pacifier or a bottle cap, I took that parent's concerns seriously and made sure they knew I would do whatever I could to make sure it didn't happen again. It means a lot to know a teacher cares about your child!
An Unexpected Meeting
So funky me went to grab a bite to eat at KFC (which I hadn't done in probably over a year) and went to find a table. As I walked past two gentlemen, one of them flashed me a huge smile and said, "Hi. How are you doing today? Isn't it a beautiful day outside?" I had to respond. I noticed that the young man had either physical and/or cognitive challenges and no apparent internal editor. But on that particular day, I was grateful that he was so open and friendly. I said, "Yes. It is a beautiful day." He stood up, walked over to my table, extended his hand, and said, "Hi. My name is Joshua." I responded with a handshake and said, "Hi Joshua. My name is Mary." Joshua continued to grin at me and responded, "I bet I know your middle name." I said back, "O.K What's my middle name?" He said, "Louise!" "No, not Louise", I answered. He thought for a moment. I told him, "I'll give you a hint. It begins with a B."
Joshua said, "Beth. Is it Beth?" "No, not Beth." He took a sip from his fountain drink. At this point I noticed two older ladies watching our exchange. They smiled. Joshua said to me, "Is it Bernice?" I responded, "No. Not Bernice. But you're getting closer." Another gentleman who was perhaps a guardian or relative said, "Josh. It's time to get going." Joshua turned to me one last time and said, "Bernadette!" I laughed and smiled and told him, "O my gosh. Yes! You guessed right!" He had a hugh smile on his face. The two older ladies laughed out loud. We all got such tremendous joy out of this conversation. It was so simple and pure and spontaneous. It pulled me right out of my funk. On his way out the door, Joshua said good bye and I let him know that I appreciated how he came up to me to talk. I smiled and encouraged him to have a nice day too.
What an unexpected blessing. I'm always amazed how God knows just when to send a little sunshine into your life. I hope you too experience a joyful interaction with someone in an unexpected way. When someone has an obvious developmental or medical challenge, don't discount the value of what they have to offer. We can learn something from individuals who have faced adversity and continue to smile.
Have a wonderful Monday and a week filled with mini-memorable moments. They are priceless!