Making progress

Admiring the ship

Admiring the ship

At our house, we specialize in “S,” for Satisfactory on report cards and “progress” reports. (We don’t tend to progress in these things.) Organization: S. Responsibility for personal belongings: S. Initiative (this is for asking questions about your homework when it’s recess time): S or N (Needs improvement). Etc. etc. etc. I want to tear up the paper. Go up to the roof and let tiny pieces cascade down in onto the lawn, preferably in the rain.

At home, I find the kids bursting over with a life and possibility not even remotely reflected in their report cards. I was a teacher once. I get that some parents want to ignore the failings of their children. This isn’t that. It’s a philosophical position about what report cards have to offer. Report cards say a little about language and math literacy and a lot about whether or not a child fits in the picture of a model elementary school student.


I found the following in the front of boy two’s notebook. It  was an assignment from the beginning of the year. With boy two’s permission . . . his assignment:

Why I am Unique

Being outside is very important

I love to be outside

I love to read and read and read

Stuff I like to eat is homemade yogurt, muffins, eggs, melon

I own a chicken named Tailless

I like to fiddle and make stuff

I like to draw and make comics

I love to collect bugs, frogs, salamanders, snakes

I like to ride my bike

I make stuff with Lego

I like to climb

I like to be gross

I like to be with Misty the pony

I like to play with my sisters

I like to sing

I am flexible

I have a good spatial sense my mom says, so I am planning on being an architect

I am short and proud of it!

My ancestor was Sir Francis Drake. He was the second person ever to sail around the world.

The End

I have a friend who swears by the theory that we shouldn’t spend our emphasis trying to fix the weaknesses we see in kids. Instead, we should figure out how to support their greatnesses. (He read this somewhere but I don’t remember where. I’m sourcing, “Conversations with Barclay.”)

I care a lot about the joys to be found in math and language literacy. But even above that, I’m going with creativity, a willingness to try new things, and deep respect for the gifts and proclivities every child finds growing inside themselves. This is what kids need nurtured.

I thanked the teachers for the progress reports. This is what my heart said.

Dear Teachers,

Apologies for the barely satisfactory social development. Boy two is related to Sir Francis Drake and cannot keep his desk tidy, as he is getting ready to sail around the world.

Sincere thanks for your efforts,

The people financing the voyage


11 Comments to Making progress

  1. Esther J Cann says:

    Oh, Michelle,
    I love your note to the teacher – the one from your heart. But even more I love the poem from boy #2. It is beautiful so please give him a hug from me! My class at school is writing poetry right now but I think his is the BEST! I miss you all too, by the way.

  2. Leslie Lynch says:

    :-) Hooray for childhood and people who celebrate it!

  3. Erma Joy Cann says:

    I sure love that boy and his mother.I’m so glad we are related :)

  4. Missy Friedl-Shipley says:

    I love that you as a teacher are not pushing for perfect report cards! That you as a mother are raising good humans who love to learn is even better! I remember being constantly pushed for As and to be “good” that it stressed me out. I think it was about 8th grade when I starting to rebel; that wasn’t the only reason, but it was part of it.
    Right or wrong my theory of what is essential for elementary & high school is teaching the little monsters how to learn. Instilling good morals, compassion and ambition is what is important at the early ages than actual facts & figures. I also think that kids shouldn’t be sheltered from life. They need to play in the mud. They need to get beat up at least once. They must know the pets die. To always know that no matter what they’ve done they can come to parents who love them.
    The worst thing for a student’s learning process is boredom. Keep them challenged and they’ll be fine.

    p.s. they’re already ahead of us as kids! 

    • Michelle says:

      I agree. Sheltered bored kids are not able to develop properly. I’m glad I’m not teaching anymore. I miss the kids tremendously but I’ve got too many ideas about education at present to be able to hold down a job in that world anyway. :)

  5. Michelle says:


    Brilliant! If Boy #2 decides to sail around the world, tell him to stop by Dublin. I would love to see him.

    Marjorie :-)

  6. Christine says:

    It is sad that you are no longer sharing your gift of teaching with so many young people. I have heard often from my daughter that you were the “perfect” middle school teacher. She loved not only your classes and methods of teaching but she loved you. She was truly blessed to have you as her teacher and friend.

  7. Sandy p says:

    Love your note to teacher. You however do know what true learning is as does your son. Love his uniqueness.