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Report Cards

Now that Maddie’s on the educational
grid, so to speak, we’re diving deep into the bureaucracy of
the public school system. Formal notes for sick days, homework
folders completed just so, weekly folders signed and returned
immediately, and so on.

And then, of course, there was Maddie’s first report

There are some things that you know in
advance you will be keeping for the rest of your child’s
life: newborn hospital bracelet, lock of hair from her first
haircut, photo of her first birthday cake. The first report card is
another in that list, though of course it feels a bit superfluous
right now to be trying to quantify the education of a child too
young to really read or even communicate exactly what’s going
on in her head. How do you measure something the subject might
understand, but not be able to articulate?

But measure they do, and so we’ve got the report card. Gone
are the “E”s and “G”s of my childhood
(“Excellent” and “Good”) and in their place
is a line of numbers, one through four. This seems innocuous at
first, until you realize that by adding up those numbers and
dividing by the number of lines, you get a GPA. And your
kindergartener probably isn’t sporting a four-point-oh.

I mean, what kindergartener has an excellent grasp of punctuation
and capitalization? I see Maddie write “i lik muzems”
and am amazed she got that far considering she had to sound it out
by herself, but apparently she should be writing “I like
museums!” (note the capital ‘I’ and the
exclamation point at the end) and so she’s docked a point or
two on the rating scale.

I have to be honest here: I was dying to get my hands on her report
card, simply so I could see how her teacher views Maddie, if she
can see what I see. And further confession: I didn’t discuss
the report card at all with Maddie. I know my kiddo, and I know
that she would stress and fret about the areas in which she’s
less than perfect, worrying that bone to a nub. Bottom line with
that report card, my kid’s doing great and is right on track.
She’s bright, works well with others, and likes to learn. And
that’s what we should take away from her report card.

My dad recently returned a couple of my old high school report
cards to me, and I was startled by some of the grades.
“93!” I exclaimed indignantly to my husband.
“Where’s my old Government teacher? Drag that man out
of retirement! I did NOT deserve that low of a grade!” And
this is me twenty years after the fact; can you imagine how Maddie,
my daughter down to her core, would react if she saw anything other
than straight fours? Anxiety, sleepless nights, worried talks with
her teacher. I can see it now. So I pack away the report card,
unbeknownst to her, and she sleeps well at night.

Dozens of years from now, Maddie will open up her keepsake box and
see her first report card and smile. She’ll see that she got
fours in many social and obedience categories, and chuckle at what
a people-pleaser she was. Then, if she’s anything like me,
she’ll cast her eyes towards the less-than-perfect scores.

“I got a TWO in grammar? What sort of grammar is a
five-year-old supposed to know? Look at how well I tried to sound
out ‘museum’! Where’s my old teacher??”

Like mother, like daughter.


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