Not bad for a fat girl


The Evolution of the Report Card

Thank goodness, my report cards are done! All thirty of them, with their multitude of boxes to complete and their various test scores to enter. Then there are the STANDARDS. Math is not merely math. It’s not even number sense, geometry, and so on. It’s a long list of skills, each with it’s own value to be assigned. Oh for the good old days.

report card 1

Old school, like mom’s.

I remember seeing my mother’s report card as a child and thinking it was so small. There was hardly anything written on it. The subjects were listed along with the appropriate quarters. In the tiny boxes were numbers – 86, 94, 92, and so on. Those were mother’s grades. If she had a 78% average in math, so be it, that was her grade. Her parents would be upset and she would study harder (this is hypothetical- mother was an excellent student). There were also grades for items like handwriting, citizenship, and deportment. The teacher may have written a short comment in perfect script, but that was about it.

My own report cards were quite different. They still had all the subjects listed, but there were no numbers on the report, other than the attendance records. Everything was scored on an O/S/N basis. I had mostly O’s, for outstanding, and several S+ marks too (satisfactory, of course). N was a mark I never received. Horror, to receive a needs improvement in elementary school. My teachers wrote chipper paragraphs about how delightful I was, and they thanked my parents for sending me to school. What I wouldn’t give to do THOSE report cards!

When I started my career, our report cards were a mix of the two. We still assigned the O/S/N scores in each area, but we also gave out academic letter grades, plus a breakdown of skill abilities, which were assigned a slash, a plus, or an x.

Similar to those used early in my teaching career. Don't get me started about the misuse of the effect/affect on this document.

Similar to those used early in my teaching career. Don’t get me started about the misuse of the term effect/affect on this sample document.

Go figure. This was a complex document, and it took half of a parent/teacher conference to explain it.

Then, along came the new report cards, which were connected to the online gradebook. One might think this would be a great time saver, but one would be mistaken. Sure there are some nice features. The days of manually figuring grades are long past, and the scores automatically populate the report card, but now there are twice as many (at least) categories requiring not only some type of score, but explanation to parents. We have entered the era of the two sided report card. The slash, plus, x system has been replaced by a 1,2,3 system, that most people understand better, so that’s a positive, but there are simply too many categories.

As a parent I want to know how my child is doing overall, then how he or she is doing in each subject area. If she’s struggling in math, please tell me what I can do to help her. Should we be studying types of polygons or memorizing multiplication facts or working on subtraction word problems? That information isn’t clearly conveyed in this extensive document. What it does contain is a lot of jargon that I, as a parent, don’t really understand. It’s just too much.

In my experience, parents of fourth graders want to know a few basic things about their kids as they relate to school. 

1. Does he have friends? Most parents already know the answer to this one, but for those who aren’t sure it’s vitally important that they know.

2. Does she behave herself and do her work? This is of paramount importance, because it frames everything that comes after. Most parents want their kids to try hard and do well, but if they can’t have both they want them to try hard. Also, if a child is doing poorly, it may be that they aren’t applying themselves. If this is your child, I promise that if the little cherub would listen to the directions and then follow them, he or she would learn more and do better.

3. How is she doing in the main subject areas- reading, writing, and math? These are the cornerstones of later learning, and parents know it. They see the homework, but they often don’t have a benchmark for where their child falls in terms of their learning. They want to know if they’re doing ok.

4. How can I help him? This is a genuine heartfelt concern. Parents want to help their kids succeed. It is hardwired in most of us. They want concrete ideas and they want to be acknowledged for the things they are doing right. They may not hear it from anyone but us. Just showing up for the conference is worthy of praise, it shows commitment to education and making the child a priority.

5. Will my child be alright? Maybe she will and maybe she won’t. We have data and test scores and years of experience working with similar students, and we will do whatever it takes to get your child moving in the right direction if he or she is not currently making adequate progress. We are on your child’s side, always. Some children need a little extra encouragement, other children need a myriad of interventions to help them learn. Let’s work together to find  out what is going on and what will best help your child.

If we could design an instrument that addresses these five areas without all the extra hoopla, I think we would be doing everyone a favor. Well, everyone but the companies that profit from these overly complex reporting systems. In most cases, I want to just write, “Don’t worry Momma (or Daddy, Grandma, Aunt Debbie, or whomever is raising that child), your child is doing just fine.”

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L’shanah Tova! – Throwback Thursday

Today’s throwback goes back centuries. It is Rosh Hashanah, commonly called the Jewish New Year. It is a holy day, and one that calls for reflection. I’m in favor of that practice, as well as the practice of eating crisp fall apples dipped in sweet delicious honey. Enjoy one of my favorite holiday videos ever, and may you have a blessed year with your loved ones.


My Midnight Affair

Midnight and I have this on again, off again relationship. No matter how hard I try to tear myself away, I find myself coming back over and over again. I know it isn’t necessarily a healthy relationship, after all, I often regret my visits with Midnight by the light of day. Still, I can’t seem to stay away.

Midnight and I first became acquainted when I was quite young. There was a certain New Year’s Eve party hosted by my parents that went on well past, you guessed it, Midnight. Nobody was paying much attention to what I was doing, so I stayed up and enjoyed the party. Midnight was exciting!

Later on I revisited my friend Midnight, but in a much quieter way. I would lose myself in my bedtime reading, and before I would know it, Midnight would arrive on tiptoe. I never actually invited Midnight into my world, but there it was.

The more I saw of Midnight, the more I enjoyed it, until the craziness of my college years. Midnight was when things were just getting going during those years. Midnight and I were in full swing, and we had nothing to hide.big-ben-midnight_2539032 So I slept in the next morning, big deal. I was in college. Who cared? Certainly not my professors. They gave the lectures whether I was in my seat or not. It took me a very short time to realize that scheduling early morning classes wasn’t a particularly good idea for me. After all, I was up with Midnight most every night.

After college Midnight and I continued our relationship. I worked late hours and stayed up late. For a while at least. Then things changed. I got a new job. A real job. One that required me to not only be at work early, but to be on the ball. Reluctantly I said goodbye to Midnight, at least during the work week. On the weekends we picked up where we left off, but it wasn’t the same.

I got older and became a mother. Now Midnight had a whole new meaning. Midnight and I weren’t hanging out anymore, I was way too exhausted for that. We would only see each other when the baby needed something.. Midnight and I kind of nodded at each other, but we didn’t speak much during those years.

As my son grew, so did my longing for my old friend Midnight. I began to stay up late to read or sew or work on scrapbooks. Sure, I still had to get up early, but I wasn’t working at the kind of job that needed 100% brainpower from the minute I walked in the door. I could do it. I could work all day, be a mom and wife in the evening, and hang out with Midnight after everyone else went to bed. No problem. Until I went back to teaching.

Teaching is unlike other jobs. There is a ton of homework for the teacher, and it never seems to all get done. It also requires mental sharpness from the minute you walk in the door (which is long before the students arrive) to the minute you leave (which is long after the students leave). There’s no zoning out. Ever.

Midnight doesn’t care about all that. Midnight still wants to hang out with me. It doesn’t care if we party or read quietly or mess around with crafts or work on lesson plans. Midnight just likes my company. Frankly, I like being around Midnight, but it’s getting more and more difficult as I get older. I find that my mornings after Midnight are rough, and that I’m not on my game. I have to pull away. I have to force myself to go to bed and leave Midnight alone, without my company.

Still, I don’t always succeed. I find my way back to Midnight on a regular basis, tonight included. I just can’t quite seem to leave it alone. I know I’ll pay for it tomorrow, but for now I’m enjoying my time with Midnight.