This week we got the Captain’s first Grade One report card. It is such a mysterious document. I mean, the letter grades are there and I guess that’s fairly straightforward. But reading through the comments is like reading a foreign language.
I’m guessing that Board guidelines, formulated so as to not offend anyone ever, instruct the teachers to couch all their real comments in such convoluted sentences as to be completely misunderstood. You have to read each sentence at least ten times to understand its basic meaning; then you have to read it several times in the context of the whole paragraph to understand the nuances of each word.
For example, here’s a sentence:
“He usually prints letters legibly and leaves a space between words.”
On the surface, that sounds good, right? He’s printing things! He’s doing it! He’s making it happen!
But the key word here is, “usually.” Usually is the word that indicates the level at which he is doing these things. In reality, handwriting is the Captain’s weakest area. With this sentence, the teacher is trying to communicate the he needs more handwriting practice.
If he were doing well in this area, she might have said, “He always prints legibly.” If he were having a lot of difficulty, she might have had to go all the way to, “He sometimes prints legibly.”
Instead, the selection of the key word “usually” is meant to flag it as a problem area that needs work, but isn’t threatening his ability to pass.
Crazy, eh? It’s like every single point in the report card must have a positive sound about it, no matter what it is really trying to say. You really have to read between the lines to understand why your kid got the mark they did, and what they really need to work on.
Here’s another one:
“He applies knowledge and skills in familiar contexts with considerable effectiveness.”
This comment is about math. The key word here is “considerable” — this means he’s doing very well. If he were having trouble in math class, she might have said, “with some effectiveness” or maybe, “He usually applies knowledge.”
It took me a very long time to learn to speak this kind of language.
I guess the Board is just trying to protect its teachers from ugly confrontations, but we really just wish they’d tell it like it is — it’d feel a lot less like homework!