Report card week is never forgettable


“Check out this old report card of mine!” I announced to my son, eating his nightly snack and keeping me company as I organized. With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, I decided to declutter two upstairs bedrooms rarely used, now that the Klope girls have flown from the nest. Very soon I will be one happy mama as my children come home for the holiday. Not only am I excited about cooking their favorite Thanksgiving dishes, but I want them to walk into welcoming bedrooms, not store rooms. It was during my box moving that I ran across a collection of elementary report cards my mom had carefully saved for me.

It seemed like the perfect time to take a look through some of them. Goodness knows, report cards are on the minds of thousands of school-aged children around the state. The first quarter of the 2008–09 school year concluded last week and there is great anticipation being felt by students and their parents as they await their arrival. But they are not the only ones feeling anxious. My eldest daughter, who is student-teaching a third-grade class of her own, recounted to me the details of an extended staff meeting at her elementary school that focused on ways their report cards could be restructured to be more understandable to parents and reasonable in length for teachers to fill out.

Today’s report cards are a far cry from the one I held in my hand. Filled out long before the birth of the computer age, I could tell that Mrs. Young, my treasured second-grade teacher, had carefully printed the grades and comments utilizing her best elementary school teacher penmanship. Merely seeing it produced a flood of memories I had not thought about in a very long time.

My best second-grade memory involved watching my blind classmate, Dolores, stroke a chick’s downy little head. Hatched from a portable incubator set up in the classroom, it was sheer joy for all of us to witness her moment of tactile discovery.

My saddest memory was watching Mrs. Young cry when she learned that her smart, athletic son had been temporarily suspended from high school for punching a classmate in the face. She hugged me tight when I expressed concern over her tears. My dad, the vice principal in charge of student discipline, had ordered the suspension. I may have been a tender 8-year-old, but I understood her concern and disappointment.

It occurs to me that report cards remain fundamentally the same. They record the progress children are making in their reading, written communications, mathematics, social studies, science, music, art and physical education, just as I was evaluated four decades ago.

But that is not all report cards contain. Work habits and social developments are assessed as well.

Seems to me report card time is a perfect time to evaluate our own living habits and social behaviors. Wise adults will model the process. They will apply the same expectations, self-evaluate with honesty and take a step toward self-improvement in those areas needing growth.

Are you game?

Do you solve your own problems constructively? Do you use your time wisely? How well do you follow directions? Do you listen attentively? Do you complete work assignments on time? Do you go about your tasks neatly? Can you work without disturbing others? Do you take care of materials and supplies? Do you work and play cooperatively? Do you accept and respect authority? Do you obey rules and participate well in group activities?

Pretty intimating, if you ask me. Yet, these questions can be useful and productive as we manage our private and public lives. It’s time for a whole lot of us to raise our own levels of behavior. If we have a problem with listening, for instance, or know ourselves to be constantly critical and nagging, how can we improve? Do we allow our own stresses to spill out on those around us? Do we understand that the focus should always be on ourselves? We can’t make people change, but we can always contribute to needed change by producing it in our selves.

As always, I am encouraged by faith and the practical ways we can apply it to our everyday lives.

We have the God-given ability to reason and persevere even when it is difficult and does not feel good. We can value self control, integrity, character, morality and ethics. We can live with purpose and above instinct.

We can be faithful to the idea that love be the foundation of all our choices because God loves us profoundly and individually. But we must ask God to be our source of inspiration and hope. Our source of strength when being a remarkable human seems too difficult. And when we fail, our source of forgiveness and new determination to press on.

There are still a few weeks before semester grades will be issued. Let’s aim high, shall we?

Joan Bay Klope is a freelance writer and speaker who makes her home on Whidbey Island. Her award-winning column has run for 12 years in Western Washington newspapers. E-mail comments and speaking requests to faithfulliving@hotmail.com.

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