Excerpt from Can You See Me

An Excerpt from Can You See Me?

(Chapter 5: Stories You Wouldn’t Believe But You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up!)

Marco: “It Might Be in Something Wet”

It was early in the school year, probably the 2nd week, when my cell phone was stolen from atop my desk. I noticed it was gone immediately upon returning to my desk after dismissing my students at the door for the day. Panic swept through me! I didn’t have it password protected, and the thought of my students reading my personal text messages with my husband, or making obscene phone calls to my mother or my sisters sent shivers of horror up my spine.

I quickly replayed the last few moments of class, and determined that three students had been in proximity of my desk prior to dismissal.  I immediately called the parents and explained that my cell phone may have accidentally been taken by their child. Two parents agreed to speak with their child when they got off the bus and would let me know if they located the phone. However, on the third call, the student answered the phone instead of the parent. I sensed that the student seemed to have some reservation in speaking with me about the phone, insisting much too loudly that she knew nothing about it. When asked if her mother was home, she mumbled something about not knowing and hung up.

I went to the office to speak with an administrator about the problem. The principal and I drove to the student’s house and were met at the door by the confused parent who had been home the whole time and didn’t know I had called. We questioned the girl I spoke with on the phone, and eventually, she said, “I’m not sure if it was your phone … yours is green, right? … well, I’m not saying it was yours, but Marco had a green phone he was showing kids on the bus on the way home today.”

The chase was on! The principal and I drove to Marco’s house, and much to our dismay, he said he knew nothing about a green phone. While we waited, Mom searched his backpack and reported that there was no phone inside. There was nothing left to do; the principal and I went back to school. I spent a sleepless night, wondering and fearing which of my students might be writing down my entire contact list!

The next day, the principal took Marco to her office to talk more about the cell phone. Well, there’s something to be said about trying to “interview” a special education student with lower cognitive abilities. One has to be cognizant of the fact that you cannot make the questions too complicated or ask questions that require only a “yes” or “no”. As the principal later reported, she learned both the hard way as she relayed the conversation verbatim.

“Marco, have you seen Mrs. Adams’ green cell phone?” “Yes.” “Do you remember seeing it yesterday on her desk?” “Yes.” “Did you take Mrs. Adams’ cell phone off her desk?” “No.” “Do you know who might have taken her cell phone?” “No.” “Marco, do you think you might know where Mrs. Adams’ cell phone is?” “Yes … maybe.” “Is the cell phone at your house?” “No.”

Seeing this conversation was going nowhere fast, she said she changed tactics to sentence starters. “So, Marco, if Mrs. Adams’ phone was somewhere, where might it be?” “Well, it might be in some…water.” Knowing that this conversation could go on forever as there are endless places of water between the school and his home, she grabbed his coat, called his mother and put him in her car to take him home. As they got out of the car, she said, “Show me where Mrs. Adams’ phone might be in water.” With hesitation, he walked a few steps and pointed into the storm drain.

Fast forward to her knock on my classroom door. Looking elated, she held up her hand with my phone resting on her palm and said, “I’ve got your phone! That’s the good news! There’s some bad news, however …,” she trailed off. By this time, I noticed that my phone was sitting in her hand on a paper towel and that water was dripping through her fingers.

“Where did you find it?” I asked. She explained that after Marco had pointed into the storm drain, she’d looked inside and saw the shine of my bright, neon green phone resting on a ledge about 4 feet down into the storm drain. Not to be outdone by any future administrator in years to come, she’d called the public works department to retrieve my phone with a net!

While I’d like to say I was saddened by the loss of the phone, I was happier to learn it wasn’t in the custody of any of my students, and my sister and aunt were safe from prank phone calls, at least for the time being.

Interestingly, when the principal phoned the parent the next day to advise her that my phone would need to be replaced and the sum I would have to pay, the parent showed up an hour later to pay me with cash for the replacement of the phone. Not wanting little Marco to get off without consequence, his mother agreed that he should clean lockers before school for the next month.

And I’d learned a valuable lesson, put a pass code on my phone so that even if it’s stolen, it can’t be opened and the contents remain safe. Furthermore, upon reflection, when a student strolls by your desk 3 times in one day to say, “That’s sure a nice phone, Mrs. Adams’,” be sure to put your phone in a safe place!

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