Report cards and scores: the real picture

I stumbled upon an old box the other day. I was in the attic looking for something I hadn’t seen since our last move, when I discovered a box of treasures. This box held school memorabilia, forgotten keepsakes my mom had sent me when she cleaned out her house. It showcased trophies, award certificates, photos and… drum roll, please… report cards. While each of the items in the box revealed something about me, I found the report cards most interesting because they weren’t what I remembered about myself. Sure, I had A’s in English, which is par for the course for a future English teacher and writer. But that A in chemistry didn’t hold much water the next year in college, when I had to beg for a Mercy D. And the C in Physics, which made me wince all these years later, never affected my life one bit. It was interesting, to say the least, to view those report cards in retrospect, to compare them to the person I’ve become since.

Of course, hindsight’s 20-20, which is why I’m sharing this with today’s parents. I want you to realize that you really, truly have to question whether the final report cards that are sent home in the next few weeks are an accurate depiction of your children’s intellect. Yes, I know I’m a teacher and I’m not supposed to say things like this. But stay with me a minute. We teachers commonly refer to your kids’ individual scores on assignments as “snapshots,” and with good reason. They are single camera clicks of your children’s understanding of one concept or unit of study. A series of photos comprises a year’s worth of pictures. The final report card, then, is like a photo album, a collection of snapshots that shows a comprehensive picture of what your kids have accomplished during their 10 months in our classroom. That’s why I tell parents all the time to stop obsessing about single grades (single snapshots or moments in time) and instead focus on the overall album (the collection of those moments, which provides a much more accurate depiction of what your kids know and can do.)

And while we’re on the topic of snapshots, let’s talk about standardized test results, which are pouring in during this time and which require much more discernment. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: We teachers often land somewhere on the spectrum between patiently tolerating and outright hating standardized tests. Talk about the Mother of all snapshots. Sit in a room with a pencil, color in dots for a few hours, and answer a bunch of questions based on, well, just about anything you may have learned during your lifetime, and imagine the picture that develops. Would that one picture capture your strengths, your resolve, your abilities, your drive, or your character? Or would it be just like a single photo – deceptive for its utter inability to demonstrate the complexity of a multi-dimensional person. Shoot, how many of us would be on the streets, peddling for change right now, if our entire futures were predicted by our SAT scores? It’s a snapshot, parents, and a highly blurry one at that.

End of year report cards provide a much fuller picture, one with depth and a few more nuances, and one that speaks to strengths, resolve, abilities, and the rest. But report cards aren’t perfect either. My husband took AP English in high school and earned a B on his final report card, yet he couldn’t name a book he’s read in the last 20 years, and he still shortens Congratulations to read “Congrads.” His  grade did exactly what it was supposed to do – reveal how he did that year in English, and I have no doubt it was accurate. But it did little else in the way of predicting his future success in a completely different field of study or foreshadowing the spectacular person he would become. It was valuable for what it offered at that time, but now it is forgotten, unimportant, just one of thousands of stepping stones in a very long path to success.

So parents, when the report card comes home from school, try to take it for what it is – a photo album of your children’s learning, effort, and ability to demonstrate understanding. It is valuable information because it shows you weaknesses, strengths, and room for growth. But it’s not future-stifling or world-ending. Likewise, when the standardized test score is posted, remember that it’s just a snapshot representing one test, taken on one day, under who knows what conditions, mood, or attitude.

When dealing with single grades, standardized tests, and snapshots of your kids’ understanding, keep this in mind:

Sometimes, a picture isn’t worth a thousand words. Sometimes, it’s nothing more than a picture.

For more on understanding your children’s grades, check out my book Teenagers 101.

There’s no one like a mom

Happy Mother’s Day! This is a re-post from 2014, when I discovered these eloquent words about what it means to be a mom. 

This week, I’m going to let others say it better than I ever could. Below are quotes to match every kind of mom, followed by one of my favorite poems. I hope you see yourself in at least one of these quotes, and I hope they inspire you, make you smile, and let you know that you’re not alone in the great state of Motherhood.

“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.”
― Debra Ginsberg

“I felt my mother about the place. I don’t think she haunts me, but I wouldn’t put it past her.”
– Julie Walters
“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”
– Oscar Wilde

‘A mighty power and stronger Man from his throne has hurled, For the hand that rocks the cradle Is the hand that rules the world.’ – William Ross Wallace

“When you were small and just a touch away, I covered you with blankets against the cold night air. But now that you are tall and out of reach, I fold my hands and cover you with prayer.” Dona Maddux Cooper

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.”
― Donna Ball

“Anyone who ever wondered how much they could love a child who did not spring from their own loins, know this: it is the same. The feeling of love is so profound, it’s incredible and surprising.”
― Nia Vardalos

“A mother understands what a child does not say.”
— Jewish proverb

“Any decent parent always fears that they cannot do enough for their children.  Any decent parent of a disabled child knows that they cannot do enough for their child, yet tries all the harder to keep that child from figuring it out.”
— unknown

“She has to have four arms, four legs, four eyes, two hearts, and double the love. There is nothing “single” about a single mom.”
― Mandy Hale

 

Mother to Son

By Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

A love letter to moms everywhere

From my 2014 post, I thought I’d share a Mother’s Day blog that is timeless. Enjoy!

This week, I’m going to let others say it better than I ever could. Below are quotes to match every kind of mom, followed by one of my favorite poems. I hope you see yourself in at least one of these quotes, and I hope they inspire you, make you smile, and let you know that you’re not alone in the great state of Motherhood.

“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.”
― Debra Ginsberg

“I felt my mother about the place. I don’t think she haunts me, but I wouldn’t put it past her.”
– Julie Walters
“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”
– Oscar Wilde

‘A mighty power and stronger Man from his throne has hurled, For the hand that rocks the cradle Is the hand that rules the world.’ – William Ross Wallace

“When you were small and just a touch away, I covered you with blankets against the cold night air. But now that you are tall and out of reach, I fold my hands and cover you with prayer.” Dona Maddux Cooper

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.”
― Donna Ball

“Anyone who ever wondered how much they could love a child who did not spring from their own loins, know this: it is the same. The feeling of love is so profound, it’s incredible and surprising.”
― Nia Vardalos

“A mother understands what a child does not say.”
— Jewish proverb

“Any decent parent always fears that they cannot do enough for their children.  Any decent parent of a disabled child knows that they cannot do enough for their child, yet tries all the harder to keep that child from figuring it out.”
— unknown

“She has to have four arms, four legs, four eyes, two hearts, and double the love. There is nothing “single” about a single mom.”
― Mandy Hale

 

Mother to Son

By Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.