I still have my report card from kindergarten. The comments, written in Mrs. Kennedy's elegant and loopy cursive, are detailed and heartfelt. The five-year-old me sounds a lot like the 38-year-old me—shy, struggles with math concepts and loves to nap. She wanted my parents to encourage me to build on my physical education skills and suggested that I talk to people more often. I'm not sure if my parents ever followed through on the feedback provided by Mrs. Kennedy (I'm still an introvert who has trouble keeping her times tables straight), but I'm sure they read it before filing it away in my scrapbook.
I still have my son's kindergarten report card. As any parent with kids in school will know, a report card from this generation looks very different from a report card from our generation. Gone are the handwritten notes. They've been replaced with typed comments that some parents claim are hard to understand. Admittedly, I couldn't make sense of Isaac's first report card either because I didn't see my child reflected in those comments. Who was this boy who couldn't cut and paste and had problems counting—skills he would proudly perform for us at home. When I approached his teacher for clarification (thinking that I'd have to send Isaac to some sort of crafty bootcamp over the summer), she reassured me that Isaac's development was normal and that I had nothing to worry about.
"Besides, you're in here all the time volunteering," she told me. "You know how well he's doing, and you can always talk to me any time."
It was then I realized how little the report card comments actually meant, which is why I'm not worried that this year my kids' report cards are coming home with just letter grades. Here's why you shouldn't be worried either:
Kids in Ontario have been in school approximately 188 days. I've sat down with my kids for 188 nights to have dinner and talk about what goes on in their classroom and what they are learning. At least once a week I'm in the school volunteering, attending meetings or supervising a field trip. I talk to teachers at least once a month about how my kids are doing and immediately let them know if they're struggling at home with anything. Gillian's rocky transition to full-day kindergarten was one of the things I talked to her teacher and ECE about, and asking Isaac's French teacher for resources to help him catch up with his classmates was another.
Simply put, I made the effort to be involved in my children's school careers because I learned their report cards offer only a tiny peek into their academics and development.
It's now the end of June, and if you have no idea how your kid is doing in school, then that is a liability that falls back on you, the parent. Most teachers these days have email addresses, blogs or Twitter accounts that share what and how well students are doing in school. Besides, this type of communication goes beyond a pre-programmed comment on a report card and fits in better with the lifestyles of busy parents.