It was the worst report card ever, but did me a lot of good.

24 Feb

Semester grades come in for my kids, and as usual we act like they matter, like they say something meaningful and set a place from which to launch a new effort to achieve a better letter, fewer minuses, more pluses, better GPAs. A few months ago it was College Board test scores and personality test results, but we’re more or less recovered from those–they definitely failed to capture the essence of my daughter’s gifts and potential.

Yeah, with careful thought there can be some useful information in grades. Especially for those rare but real quantifiable elements of knowledge and skill. Some folks seem to be made up mainly of those kind, have you noticed? Or they lost, the rest along the way–lost, lost—and that empty space in the neural network has been restructured (what a shame? We’ll never know).

I took a similar career assessment test in my senior year, on schedule, but there was no category of jobs to account for diversity of interests. “Oyster breeder” being my best option, and I knew that was only a result of the system’s inability to fathom interests across sciences, art, and craft. I kept taking personality tests, hoping to find out something. The latest being the Gary Smalley personality test, administered by a retired FBI agent at a women’s retreat. I am a beaver, and easily moved to tears.

I remember when Mrs. Fancy wrote something that really mattered on my fourth grade report card. Not mere numbers or letters, but this: “— can be…[here the word was crossed out heavily and replaced with] unkind.” In my glib perusal of the grades, stats, columns of S’s for Satisfactory and E’s for Exceptional, computer printouts with 90th percentiles, I would come across this bombshell, and be ashamed. As I got older and realized grasped the seriousness of her comment, especially, and then let go of the possibility that Mrs. Fancy was projecting. It would all come back again, I would rehearse the mean things I had said and done, and I knew it was true. Talk about taking me down a notch or two, and setting me striving for improvement. I became a lifelong learner in philadelphia and agape.


Posted by on February 24, 2014 in Education


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2 responses to “It was the worst report card ever, but did me a lot of good.

  1. jdawgsrunningblog

    February 25, 2014 at 5:28 am

    I find that hard to believe—unkind? You? Now that is shocking–maybe it was more about how she interpreted something else–a recalcitrance, or skepticism–or reticence–sometimes people use certain categorizations, because their word bank or experience, or consciousness doesn’t provide them access to a more accurate description, or more subtle and precise understanding. .

    • toesinthedirt

      February 25, 2014 at 10:33 am

      Your skepticism is kind, but she was right. Guess that’s how I was trying to find my place–middle child, a bit lost in the middle, I suppose, with all that was going on, and who was there most of the time to keep an eye on the girlish dynamics of the playground and sleepovers? Triangles, cliques, catty put-downs, gossip. Normal low common denominator for fourth through about seventh grade girls. And the trouble with normal is it always gets worse. One of my favorite reads about that time was MAD Magazine’s Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions, which I wished I could emulate. Now I’m more sensitive to others’ unkindness to others, starting with home, sibling dynamics. I want my kids to be FOR each other, as me and mine were not until we grew up.


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