Today students will receive a progress report card that provides an update on their work to-date. It is not meant to be a comprehensive description of their skills and talents as a person, nor is it intended to be a prophecy on their future success in school or in life. Its real purpose is to mark the beginning of a conversation about how to ensure the school year will meet a student’s needs as an individual learner on an individual path. In a sense, it is meant to represent a “mirror” of sorts. Hopefully, when the mirror is held up next to your child, you will recognize the “him or her” of today and, like us, envision the places they will go during the course of the year.
Report cards are funny things. We could probably write a book about all the humorous, confusing or seemingly contradictory things found in them. When I re-read some of my own report cards, they make me smile. Especially Grade 3. I remember that was the year that my school board introduced “Cs” as part of the grading code. I was concerned to scan my report card and see it filled with “Cs”. On the bus ride home, I remember thinking, “What went wrong? What will my parents think?!” The anxiety did not subside until my mother pointed out that the legend indicated that “C” stood for “Commendable”. Whew! Close one!
Hopefully, when you read the accolades, observations, and admonishments in your son or daughter’s report card, you will not have the same experience of confusion or panic that I did. In the end, as teachers, we want you to see that we accept your child as an individual. The first progress report of the year – and its accompanying parent teacher conference – are opportunities for us to share early achievements, highlight any obstacles we have encountered, and jointly plan for the next steps that will guide our efforts as partners for the remainder of the term.
Hidden in a report card is also another phenomenon that influences the outcome of every school year – the elusive “effort grade”. There are some students who put forth very little effort and yet succeed. And there are some students who demonstrate the work ethic and grit of a Navy Seal and yet struggle. When parents and teachers meet next week, it will be an opportunity to probe this important domain of “effort” and the evidence (or lack of evidence!) in each student’s profile.
The year is young and we are off to a great start. It goes without saying that we want each of our students to succeed and we depend on your support to get there.
The goal of the elementary school years is more like a marathon, and rarely like a sprint (…a goal wherein pacing and wise coaching are essential, if we want to see them reach the finish line all in one piece!).
And a great math lesson we should all bear in mind when we peel back those envelopes – each of our children is always so much more than the sum of his or her parts!
Ric Anderson, Head of School