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report card

It was the second time in two days that my son had asked this question. And each time it made us smile. He honestly had no idea. We had simply asked him where it was because we knew they were coming home soon. We weren’t concerned or worried.

He doesn’t know.

He really doesn’t know.

And I think that that is freakin’ awesome!

Because no matter how hard we try, I am certain that it won’t be long before he stops asking this question.

I wish I didn’t know now, what I didn’t know then.

Bob Seger, Runnin’ Against the Wind

My son is in PreK and I imagine by the time he reaches kindergarten, word will have traveled his way. And unfortunately, he will probably know what a report card is. My daughter certainly does. She is in the fourth grade and to her credit, she does very well in school. She works hard and it shows.

She has gotten straight A’s on her last two report cards. She is very proud of them. And she should be. Both times when she showed me her report card I told her how proud I was. But she was expecting more. She said, “Daddy, most parents scream or get excited when they hear that their kids got straight A’s.”

And maybe I should have. I am torn. I want to validate her hard work. But I don’t want her to think that I put too much emphasis on the letter grade she receives. She works hard and she is an amazing kid. Each time I have told her that I am proud of her, but that I am most proud of her for the kind and loving manner in which she treats everyone around her. That is what means the most to me.

She gets it!

There are times when she comes home from school more excited about a friend’s success than her own. As she continues to make her way through school I want to do the right thing. Obviously I want her to do well, but I don’t ever want her to think that I worry about her grades. Because I don’t.

Maybe I don’t because she has always done so well. Maybe if she were struggling and didn’t get good grades I would worry more about them. I hope not. But I am aware that I am lucky.

Each day when I meet with students I do everything that I can to relay this same message to them. Because usually when I am meeting with them, it is to help them work through some type of social or emotional issue that they are experiencing. Rarely is it to discuss their grades or their report cards.

Mind you, I don’t discourage working hard and trying to get good grades. But when the door is closed and I am with a student or small groups of students, it is character that we are discussing. Not benchmarks or assessments. I have taken many tests in my days. The PSAT, SAT, Praxis, GRE, MCAT and the NBCT. Just to name a few. Yet they pale in comparison to the challenges that I face every day. I am of the belief that life’s toughest tests don’t require a pencil and that it is my job to prepare students for them.

Back to my son.

He loves school and that is what matters most to me. He doesn’t come home worrying about a test or a grade or his report card. I am not quite sure how long this will last, but I am doing my best to extend his innocence. Because I know that once he knows the answer to the question he keeps asking, there is no going back. I am not looking forward to that day.

Grown-ups love figures… When you tell them you’ve made a new friend they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?  Instead they demand “How old is he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make? ” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince


2 comments on “What’s a Report Card?

  1. Jon,
    Thank you for sharing this. I try to do the same things with my daughters. We focus on the effort put in more than the grade itself, but more importantly the “life skills” like kindness and empathy. Report card grades are one measurement out of so many that we can use when we look at the whole child. It becomes dangerous when it is the only one looked at. Thanks for the perspective and the reminder!

    1. jonharper70 says:

      Thank you so much Jon. I agree 100%.

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