Saturday, January 8, 2011

I hate Report Card Day

Open admission:  I was a straight-A student, at least most of the time.  Yeah, I had a few Bs here and there.  I think I even had a C at one point (which was devastating to me) but for the most part, I did well in school.  Some things came easy (English).  Some things I had to work at (math).  But I worked hard, got homework done right away, started studying well in advance of tests, and got good grades. 

In third grade, I don't recall a lot of homework or a lot tests.  I have only two really vivid academic memories from that year.  The first involves my handwriting.  On every report card, all of my grades would be S (satisfactory) except for handwriting, which was always U (unsatisfactory).  We didn't have letter grades or even an O for outstanding.  Just S and U.  In the space provided, the teacher's comment was always along the lines of: 

Deirdre is doing well in all subjects except handwriting.  She needs to work harder to improve her script. 

By third quarter, my mom was pretty tired of seeing that U and even more tired of seeing that comment.  She wasn't mad at me, though. 

In those days, we kids brought our own report cards home.  There was a place on it for the parents to sign, as well as lines for them to make comments, and the kids would return them the next day.

That third quarter, in her frustration over the repeated comment about my handwriting, my mother wrote the following in her own perfect Catholic school script: 
Obviously you can read her handwriting since she is doing well in all of her subjects.  
My second vivid academic memory of third grade is "helping" Billy with his schoolwork.  And by "helping," I mean letting him copy my work.  At the end of the school year, Billy was placed in "major works," which was what they called the gifted program at that time.  I was not invited to attend.

Was it my mother's response to Mrs. Gaudet, the fact that my writing wasn't up to snuff, or maybe my teacher just didn't like me? Whatever the cause, it's obvious that I was at least as academically deserving as Billy to go into major works, and very possibly more deserving.  Fortunately, in fourth grade, I had a wonderful teacher.  I don't thing she ever commented on my handwriting, and she saw that I bored in class (I would finish my work and go read in a corner) so she up recommend that I go into major works for the fifth grade. 

So third grade was pretty much the worst of my report card experiences...until I had Dylan.

I don't know if some schools still just send the report cards home with the kids, but at my son's school, the parents have to attend report card conferences if they want to see their child's report card.

It's not that any of Dylan's report cards have been really awful.  But the experience of getting them has been stressful and isolating. 

This past Thursday was report card day.  Or should I say Report Card Day, which is sort of how it's viewed at his school.  Like a bad holiday. 

I used to get there right at 3:00pm, which is when it begins.  But I always found a line of parents ahead of me.  So I got wise and started arriving around 4:00pm, by which time most parents had already come and gone.  That was not the case this past Thursday.  There were three parents in line ahead of me, and one who arrived right after I got there. 

While waiting, the parents chat.  And this is the part I hate most.  There's this constant, subtle one upsmanship.  Attempts at showing how gifted their kids are, hidden by self deprecation.  The dads don't really do this, but let's face it, it mostly moms who are there.   This is an example of the parent chatter:
"Oh, Xavier is starting soccer this week.  I just wish Mssr. Chauvin stop assigning so much homework.  It so interferes with our evening after practice is over.  And he doesn't really need the homework.  It's just busy work for him."

"Why do they want us to talk with them about grades?  I know Alysha is doing well.  It's not as if I don't see the teachers all the time when I'm volunteering."
"No, Ishmael does not participate in study group.  I already pay for aftercare.  What do they think, this is private school?  I can't afford another $50.00 for 12 weeks of tutoring....Christmas?  Oh, we got the kids a Wii, an XBox, that new Nintendo DS, and an iPad.  I wish Mssr. Chauvin would hurry.  My Lexus needs a tune up."
 It's even worse when they come out of the conference.

"Xavier got a 3.6, can you imagine?  I'm so disappointed in him.  I know he can do better than that.  He got a B in reading.  In reading!  That is even in his own language!  How does he expect to get into a good high school?  I'd rather that he were put in a lower reading group if the best he can get is a B."
Suffice it to say, I go into the report card conference from an entirely different perspective.  I would do cartwheels if Dylan had all As and Bs.  Heck, I'd do them if he had all Bs.  This quarter, he did get an A in language, which is his best subject.  And a B in math and in reading, both of which he struggles with.  But he got Cs in science and social studies.  While he vacillates over his opinion of social studies, he loves science, so it is frustrating in that even in a subject he loves, he struggles. 

So while it wasn't a bad report card, it's on the edge.  And, in discussion with the teacher, well...I have to wonder if some of those grades truly reflect his work.  Dylan gets accommodations and his teacher isn't convinced, sometimes, of what Dylan knows.  Dylan is permitted to answer verbally and...I think the teacher necessarily coaches the answers out of him.   And only grades him on the answers he completes, rather than the full test.  Even with accommodations, Dylan often does not complete the tests in ample additional time. 

Dylan needs academic help.  Our financial situation makes it difficult to pay that $50.00 a quarter for the study group, but because he needs every bit of help he can get to learn the material, we make it happen.  But it's group study with other kids, most of whom don't have significant academic issues.  Even that can only help so much.
He doesn't participate in sports because there's no way homework would get done.  And while homework often does seem like too much, he needs the review.  He does do a couple of activities but we watch it closely to make sure it doesn't impact his learning.  That said, the activities do help his self esteem and that is crucial for him.  Because he often does not feel good about himself in his academic life.

It's not that he's not smart.  He is bright and creative and interested in everything around him.  But keeping academic information in his brain in a usable way escapes him.  

It's hard for him, maybe even more so because a number of the kids in his class really are gifted.  Dylan feels bad when he doesn't do as well as those kids.  He wants to be that kid who zips through the test and gets an A.  But his brain, his distracted, frenzied brain, just won't let him.  And it's heartbreaking. 

I hate listening to those other parents go on about the wonderful things their kids are doing because it is wonderful and they - the parents - don't appreciate it.  Homework is annoyance for them, not an all-evening undertaking that often doesn't even result in completion.  They moan about the cost of after school help when they lavish fabulous electronic gadgets on their kids.  They're disappointed over excellent grades and in third grade no less!  Honestly, I want to slap them and say, "Hey, it could be worse!  Quit complaining and thank your lucky stars that your child can get through a test in the allotted amount of time.  That you have the time to volunteer, that  your child doesn't need tutoring or that you really could afford it if you wanted to, that even with soccer, your child can get his homework done."

So yes, I hate Report Card Day.  I wish a U in handwriting was all I had to worry about. 

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