Powerful Words – part 1
First published on February 2, 2004
Parenting would be a lot easier if someone would just reassure us that our children are going to be fine, graduate from college, maybe with honors, go on to advanced education, and become “successful” and, of course, happy adults. But life doesn’t do that for us. Instead we find ourselves wringing our hands, hoping, praying, asking others for assurances, and wondering a lot how it will all turn out.
I’m lucky enough to have been teaching since 1966 and to have watched a lot of children grow from the tender ages I teach of six, seven, and eight years, to the not-so-tender ages of the 30s and 40s! A few of you Center parents were even students of mine when you were only six years old! The question becomes could I, or for that matter any teacher, have predicted the educational scorecard of the students, their successes, their eventual accomplishments, by what was observed when they were young?
As you might imagine, I think and talk about children a lot, not just at school but at home, too. I think about my own children and the children whose lives I have shared throughout my teaching career.
For years now as I have chatted with my husband he has frequently commented that he was a poor student in elementary school. He remembers that he spent a lot of his school time in the hall, that he had a lot of trouble learning to read, and that he was a wiggly, distractible child. Whenever he has said this, I have refuted it. Even though I didn’t know him as a small child, I have known him as an adult for many years, and I can see by his behavior his successful educational achievements, and by his character that he could not possibly have been a poor student and accomplished all he has. I have also heard his mother say that he didn’t cause her a bit of trouble growing up, that he was just perfect. (The common voice of parents of an only child!) Even his neighbors, whom I know, sing his praises and wish their son had been more like Peter as a child. So for several years I have been curious as to why my successful husband, who graduated from Plant High School in Tampa as a member of the National Honor Society, voted Most Dependable, and graduated from Emory University with a B.S. in chemistry and a medical degree, could be so wrong in reporting his elementary school record.
Then we moved to our new house. We finally unpacked everything we owned including some old boxes of our childhood records that our parents had been saving. There they were, Peter’s elementary school report cards. Here’s a glimpse of his second-grade report:
Growth in healthful living: needs improvement
Growth in social living: needs improvement
Growth in work habits: needs improvement
Growth in the arts: satisfactory
Reading: needs improvement all year
Writing: needs improvement
Spelling: needs improvement
Oral and written language: needs improvement
Arithmetic: needs improvement
Social studies: satisfactory
Child could do much better if he would attend strictly to his own work and never mind the neighbors. He needs much extra easy reading for fluency. Practice in written spelling also advised for him. Does he have 10 or 11 hours of sleep at night? He could do much better if he would learn to be quiet and more thoughtful. He is too eager to see what others are doing so does not do his own work justice. He needs to exercise self control. His reading is not up to his grade level. He does not do any extra library reading at school. Does he do any at home? Instead of making use of any leisure time he has at school for reading, he annoys his classmates by continual chatter.
… to be continued
Director/Elementary 1 Teacher