Today is report card day for my son. He isn’t worried though, he has no reason to worry. Not because he did particularly well this year, not because his teacher knows that he is a good student and he worked hard to get the marks he needed; but because no matter how badly a kid does in school (at least in grades kindergarten to grade seven), a child cannot fail. Hell, they don’t even fail kids for cheating these days.
When I was a kid, you dreaded Report Card Day. I capitalized the words because of the importance of the day. If you did well enough, the teachers considered you smart, and told you so. You passed and went on to the next grade. If you didn’t do well, the teachers actually called you dumb, and held you back. If you tried your best and still failed, and they knew you were trying (or you failed so many times that you were a teenager in grade three) they put you in a ‘special Education class’ that we called ‘special Ed’. We had several special ed classes in our school. The kids wore headphones and listened to ‘special teachers’ on a cassette recorder. We called those kids ‘headphones’. I had a few cousins who were called headphones, and they spent all day learning how to weave baskets and do string art. If you never seen string art, it consisted of a piece of wood covered by a black cloth. Nails were tacked in over a stencil and students wrapped different colors of string until they created a picture. My cousin was the best string art headphone in school. After school he went on to use way too much weed and now he sits home staring out the window and the walls, and cherishing his many works of string art. I think he still uses his headphones too.
I remember kindergarten. The teachers were concerned that since my mother was a teacher prior to bringing me into the world (back then you didn’t need a college degree to teach. All you needed was grade eleven, which almost nobody had, and you could teach. The money was terrible, probably a few dollars each day, especially if you were female.). Anyway, mom taught me math skills and how to read and spell. Don’t get me started on spelling. Kids these days don’t have to spell. Kids these days don’t know how to spell, because some genius teacher said that spelling wasn’t important….
Sorry, got off track there…
Anyway, mom taught me more in my pre-school years than the teachers did in grade kindergarten. I was doing so good in kindergarten that the school figured that I was ‘bored’ with the curriculum and decided not only to pass me onto grade one, but to move me from kindergarten to grade three. No stress there Teddy Boy, I would be spending my next school year in a different school with kids two years older than me. The school didn’t realize the damage that can cause for a child..
That year, as I arrived at the school, the smallest and youngest kid in the playground, bullies had a field day with me. I was bloodied and beat up before school even started that day, and because I was billed ‘the smart kid from the first grade’, the teachers expected more from me, even though I was still technically a grade one student. I did poorly and my marks proved it. Still the school would not fail me and move me back so that I could be with kids my own age and not be expected to do better than everyone else. In essence, this little ‘gift’ caused me to be an underachiever until I graduated high school. Thanks a lot!
Report cards from then on were a terror. I knew that I didn’t do that well, and with a fifty average, I was moved on from year to year, always lacking the confidence to do well. I got to the point that I actually tried to fail. Of course that didn’t work. When I was sixteen in grade eleven while everyone else was eighteen or even older, I was immature and confused, and very bashful around girls. I struggled socially and my confidence was zero. It would take twenty years for me to regain my confidence. Not bad for a kid who skipped two grades, huh? Damn report card day!