Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Old Report Cards & other funny things

A few nights ago I was sorting through several bundles of old memorabilia, looking for some heirloom photos and an old autograph album that belonged to my grandmother. My Dad, who is still busy researching his genealogy, wanted them. When I dug them up I came across several other gems not quite so old, but far more hilarious. Some of the report cards in particular, gave me some interesting insights.

I found Summary end-of-year reports for both Logan and Emma when they finished kindy. Logan's seemed to have some fairly tough comments for a four-year-old student. Here are a few examples.

"Logan's gross motor skills are under-developed and he lacks confidence. Consequently, he chooses not to use the climbing apparatus or accept the challenge that the outdoor area offers" I remember being quite disturbed to read that because all the time I'd been thinking he was simply a boy who preferred construction and quiet activities. And I remembered once he'd told me at home, "I don't like the climbing ropes because yesterday I fell off and hurt myself here," and he tapped his thigh. Those teachers weren't to know that one day he'd simply made a decision and stuck to it.

"He runs awkwardly and has poor catching and throwing skills." Eight years later, it's obvious to us all that his physical skills, particularly with a ball, are quite good. I think this is a definite result of being left alone to develop in his own time frame. For those few years when we had him at kindy and school, those skills continued to be "awkward and un-developed" for as long as they tried to teach him. It only made him nervous. Following sport in his passionate way and asking his dad to kick the "footy" with him is what made the difference.

"Logan can communicate well when he needs to but tends to use short sentences and a very soft voice." It was obvious to us that this was merely his "kindy-mask". He spoke in very long sentences around people he was comfortable with. I remember having him at a hairdresser before he turned three, and one of the girls was amusing him by reading a "Cat in the Hat" style book. "This is a cat! This is a ball. Here comes the dog." Logan was his usual quiet and shy self until he got used to her, then surprised everyone by pointing at a picture and remarking, "That apartment building has a fire-extinguisher next to it." So I knew that he wasn't showing the kindy teachers his true self and ignored that comment.

"Similarly, Logan's fine motor skills are immature. He is predominantly left-handed and holds his pencil or paint-brush in a fist-like grip. When encouraged to hold it correctly, Logan is unable to put any tension into his hand and he holds his pencil very loosely. His use of scissors is also poor. He is unable to hold the scissors correctly and tends to 'snip' rather than cut." Once again, these problems seemed to be ironed out at home with surprisingly less attention than I thought he'd need, after all that build-up.

Now, Emma's kindy report four years later, written by the same lady, was glowing compared to Logan's. "Emma is articulate and speaks in clear sentences... she uses a mature RH tripod grip and is able to use scissors competently... She is a confident climber and is able to balance and swing herself. She is able to throw and catch a ball... Emma participates in turn taking games and in discussions in large and small groups."

I still can't help shaking my head over the difference in these reports. The fact is, Logan has several strengths that Emma never had but these weren't mentioned. At that age, his vocabularly was far larger than hers. He still has the more attentive memory and quickest recall. His head knowledge has always been very extensive, but none of this was mentioned or even noticed on the report. And even back then, he had a great sense of humour but this remained concealed too. Without wanting to sound too severe on educational institutions, it makes me think that young students are basically judged on superficial things such as personality, especially when they are like Logan and hide their feelings and thoughts. It's not the fault of the institution, yet it definitely shows up the limitations of this sort of education. Far better to learn at home where your parents are well aware of your quirkiest characteristics and you're not too bashful to be your natural self.

I couldn't help laughing over more old report cards of Andrew's and mine, from way back in the '70s and '80s. There were comments such as "Andrew is coming out of his shell," or "Paula is gaining more confidence" every single year! Makes me think that it must've been a very hard shell if he was still cracking out of it after ten years at school! You know what I mean? With thirty or students to write about, and far more in High School, I think some teachers were probably searching for comments to write.

Now for the funniest thing of all. This little excerpt is a sample of my writing when I was twenty, although I hate to admit it. I already had dreams of being an author and thought I was pretty good. Here it is. "The moon was as heavy as a swollen, silver raindrop about to burst. It made the outlines of my furniture soft and grey." The most embarrassing thing was that it wasn't even part of an essay but just a letter to a family member. Now I hope I've improved since then. But it makes me cringe to think that was the result of somebody who'd been the star English pupil at her High School. I understand why I never got higher grades at Uni than I'd hoped for.

Perhaps I'll finish off with a comment on my report card from Mrs Roberts, my Modern Eupopean History teacher in Year 12. "Paula will have to take care not to apply her own idiosyncratic interpretations too much in the final Exam." Now, how's that for a nice little insight about crushing individuality and producing a range of students who churn out the same facts.

(By the way, I've had that cardiologist appointment and been told everything is fine, not without a few funny things happening, which I'll write about in my next blog, maybe. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers, my friends.)


  1. UGH. Reading what we write when young is so painful. I've found a few things like that and it makes me a little sick.

    As far as the kiddos go, good for you for not listening to those weirdos at school. My kids would be the same way. I'm glad they can be their gremliny selves here at home.

  2. OK, I'm insulted by the comment about your son's left-handed grip. We tend to be on our own in learning to hold a pencil because our right handed teachers don't really know how we should hold it.

    One problem with these early criticisms (and praises) is that they tend to follow you. Teachers read your file from the previous year and develop preconceived notions about your behavior. I know this from working with teachers. It's not an intentional thing, you just want to have a sense of the personalities coming into your class, but it does make it harder for a student to start fresh and make a better impression as he matures.

    Peace and Laughter from the one who was labeled shy and smart and felt pressure to always get high marks.

  3. What terible comments! It reminds me of my son's kindy teacher who told me to my face that my son was not all that. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Then when the results came back on his IQ test and they were very high she said,"Wasn't that a nice SURPRISE?" Uhm, "No." She obviously hadn't tried to know my son. My step-daughter's 2nd grade teacher wrote 'She's EXTREMELY LAZY!!' and underscored it three times!

    Wish I would have homeschooled from the start. Live and learn.

    I'm glad the cardiologist news went well.
    Take care.

  4. I found myself laughing out loud at the absurdity of the comments. It's true, institutional life runs better if all those inmates act, think and talk exactly alike. Anyone who deviates from the norm needs to be written up!

    I loved that "coming out of his shell" line. And I can imagine how creative you must have been in school - teachers didn't know what to think, I'm sure!

    Aren't you just SO happy you brought your kids home and allowed them to grow up in the way they were supposed to? Your kids are smart, talented, loved - they are who they are and that's SO wonderful! I've been overcome with absolute adoration of my kids lately when I look at them and see them for who they are. Not in the haze of dashing around the house getting things done - but stopping and really listening and searching their faces for what they are feeling. If they were gone from me all day, things would be so different, so awful. Praise the Lord that we can homeschool. No report cards here, mate!

    A fun post to read - thanks for sharing. And I'm glad to hear the heart testing went o.k. Looking forward to hearing more.

    Have a terrific weekend!