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Report Card Day

Yesterday was Report Card Day.

As a kid and young adult I always loved getting my report card.

I loved seeing how I did, what my teachers had to say, what little surprises my parents might learn about me and my behavior (which was almost always good with the occasional "talks too much in class"). I cared quite a bit about my grades - not obsessively - they weren't all A's - but they were good and I wanted to do well.

I was a good student. I loved school. Always.

(Okay, except those first two years in college. You couldn't really say I was a good student then but I definitely loved the experience.)

Getting Simon's report card is a bit of a different story.

When it's Report Card Day I encounter a mixture of thoughts and feelings:

THE CHALLENGING STUFF


  • Seeing anything having to do with standardized or percentage-based numbers. Ugh. Just ugh. Usually I look at it, make a couple mental notes, and then move on to the next part of the packet. For Simon, like many students with delays/disabilities/issues, standardized testing (or any kind of testing really) is a major challenge. More often than not the test results say so very little about his actual abilities.

  • For as much as I work on my attitude and perspective and acceptance and the bigger picture, it's still just hard to read about his struggles. I love him, the whole of him, and support and encourage him to do his best every single day.


THE GOOD STUFF

  • Getting to see where he's at with this goals. Each year at his annual IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting we, along with his teacher and his program director, come up with specific goals related to reading, math, writing, speech & language, and social skills. Most of his goals this year revolve around social skills, reading, and speech & language. His report card includes updates on his progress for each of those areas.

  • Anytime the teacher(s) include something personal. His speech teacher noted how "he comes to speech with a cheery attitude."

  • It's a reminder that things change and progress and get better and get more challenging and that's just the way it goes. Whatever is the biggest issue right now will ebb and flow into another issue. I find it actually helps me keep things in perspective.

  • He's doing just fine and is making forward progress at his own pace. We find ways to be proud of him every single day.


THE GEM

In addition to the "official" report card content, this was included in his packet:

The "M" next to "I enjoy reading." is one of the best things I've seen in a long time.

I got a little choked up when I came to that one.

This is the first year a form like this has been included with his report card. What I love about it is that it gives him a chance to be self-aware - to acknowledge which things might be more challenging for him and which things he's great at right now.

This is the kind of thing we hope for Simon.

That he can develop a love of reading and learning regardless of if he's performing right at grade level. That he can learn to recognize what he needs to work on and celebrate the areas where he excels.

The more confidence we can build in his own abilities the better equipped I believe he will be in the long run.

GO SIMON GO!

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170 thoughts

  1. Jean says…
    02/08/2011

    I get choked up reading your post - so heartfelt. So beautifully told.

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. annette says…
    02/08/2011

    ALi,
    I too have a child on the spectrum. It is difficult no matter where they are. Simon always seems like a Happy, loving life kid and that is the most important thing. He will get there, my son is almost 11 and he has come a long way. Keep celebrating him and supporting him as you always have he will be a star. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply 0 Replies
  3. Michelle says…
    02/08/2011

    I smiled when I went to your blog today. I feel that joy of report cards with my own children and the tug at your heart that you expressed as well. My little Kindergartner has Speech Apraxia/Sensory issues/and learning delays. As difficult as the daily learning challenges can be for him, I love the joy that he has about school itself. It definitely makes me think about not focusing so much on the struggles, and take a step back and smile at what he is excited about learning now and what is yet to be learned at his pace.
    Thanks for sharing as always Ali!

    Reply 0 Replies
  4. Ruth says…
    02/08/2011

    Thanks for sharing such a heartfelt post. I love the photo of Simon!

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. Stacie says…
    02/08/2011

    Ali,
    Your perspective (in your head :)) on standardized testing is the perfect one to have. After teaching for 16 years I couldn't shout from the mountain tops loud enough to make parents, co-workers, administration etc understand that a standardized test is just ONE tiny snapshot of who a child is as a WHOLE person. All kids, and adults for that matter, have challenges as learners...some of us more than others. If you put any adult in a room stripped of all familiar posters, signage, warmth, etc after spending weeks telling them about the REALLY IMPORTANT TEST that was coming up and then expected them to perform to the best of their ability it would be unlikely that they would. It's simply too much pressure! Continue to focus on the greatness that is Simon and tell his teacher that she ROCKS for coming up with such a super report card for the kiddos to fill out!
    Stepping off my soapbox now! :)
    Stacie

    Reply 3 Replies
    1. Julie L. says…
      02/08/2011

      I'm another teacher who had the exact same thought! Well stated Stacie and congrats Ali for having a great perspective on something people often get overly wrapped up in.

    2. dawn says…
      02/08/2011

      Hi Stacie,

      Thank you so much for your comment. It means more since you were a teacher and understand the pressure that does to the children. My kids have learned to loath that week of school, all those tests and worrying about how they will do. My one daughter lost sleep over it one year the next year she had the flu and missed it and retook it in the teachers lounge with a parent watching her take it which made her so nervous. I agree with everything you said, it's about the overall work your child does in the year not just one test. Thank you.

    3. Heather says…
      02/08/2011

      Hear, hear! I am going to have my daughter read your reply when she comes home from school today. She is on the spectrum, although very high-functioning, and tends towards anxiety as she also has a pretty wide perfectionist streak. She is already worried about taking the annual standardized tests, and she doesn't even have to do it until next year! I am hoping that your words will take away some of her dread of 3rd grade... Thank you. :)

  6. Laura says…
    02/08/2011

    Love reading about Simon's growth. I love report card time & those extra notes & things that speak to who they are as individuals are really the best part.

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. TaraMcK says…
    02/08/2011

    Our report card day is the 18th, I too have mixed emotions. We've been going through months of testing trying to find all the pieces to what's been going on. My son (8 years - grade 3) was just diagnosed with ADD and and they also believe there maybe be executive processing issues but we won't know that for another year or so they tell us.

    I just signed back his IEP we've been working on Friday. So different from my expierence with school. Thanks for always being so open with Simon's story. Brings a little ray of light in the dark to me as I deal with the challenges we've been facing.

    thanks.

    Reply 0 Replies
  8. Megan Beverly says…
    02/08/2011

    Just read George's report card this morning and had many of the same conflicting thoughts. So glad we have such a strong community at our school to help our boys discover their strengths and help them with their challenges.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Ali says…
      02/08/2011

      Me too Megan - we are really lucky :).

  9. Laurie says…
    02/08/2011

    Speaking as an educator as well as a mom, I love the self assessment tool that Simon completed. What a great way to get a peek at his perceptions of his abilities. Plus, he can target for himself an area to work on-what a great activity this was!I'm in a state (Texas) with a huge emphasis on one particular standardized test. There is so much pressure on the kids and the teachers in terms of this test. I am glad to see that in other places in the country there is a recognition that part of the responsibility of education is to prepare students to understand themselves as learners. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. heather s says…
    02/08/2011

    I'm an elementary teacher and I just love this addition to the report card! WHAT AN AWESOME IDEA!!! kudos to Simon's teacher. I so want to do this with my class.

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. Jill says…
    02/08/2011

    I choked up reading Simon's self-report :) How sweet was that? And what a brilliant exercise to include in the report card mix. I've heard of conferences in my area including students now - not just parents, like it was when I was a kid. That's a positive change - a nice way for students to hear from teachers outside of the typical classroom routine.

    I was nodding in agreement with you about the first years of college. My first year was totally rough grade-wise (very unlike my k-12 experience). I did have a lot of fun though. And I ended up having a lot of fun the other years too and my grades improved drastically once I was in a major I enjoyed, rather than one that I thought would make my family happy. I sorta forgot that they would support me no matter what my major was, as long as I was happy. Good lessons learned!

    Hooray for Simon's progress and your love for him!

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. Shawna says…
    02/08/2011

    Touching...pure and true...you always share with us in a way that makes me feel a part of your family...part of your every day life...like we are long lost friends. Simon is such a treasure. And he is lucky to have you, Chris, and Anna as his family. Thanks for sharing. =)

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. Kym says…
    02/08/2011

    I'm the parent of a Special Needs child, and also a former teacher. The first time I sat down for a conference as a parent, I almost threw up.....it was so scary!!! It really gave me a lot of perspective as an educator and a person. I love the way you watch Simon improve and watch for progress toward his goals....let those standardized numbers be....right now it's not what's important. Go mom Go!

    Reply 0 Replies
  14. Andi Sexton says…
    02/08/2011

    So beautiful. My favorite part? 'We find ways to be proud of him every single day'.

    If all of us parents did this, our world would be such a beautiful, loving, and nurturing place.

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. Michele H. says…
    02/08/2011

    Love your reflection Ali! As a parent of a teen with special needs we are now facing new experiences to celebrate and new challenges to work on.

    I can so relate to your feelings about working on your own attitude and coming to a place of contentment but it is still quite difficult to read about the things that they are not excelling in. I for one go into my daughter's IEP meetings with so much emotion, it's really hard to sometimes put into words.

    And as for the testing, I too do the same and look at the areas (which is mostly all of them) that she needs extra help with and then put it away. This by no means tells me what I know about her as a whole person.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Go SIMON!

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. Lynn Lynn says…
    02/08/2011

    Thanks for sharing. I have a son in 3rd grade that has learning disabilities and the standard testing is just so difficult for him. I too have found his IEP meetings so helpful and a way to keep ME knowing that he is doing the best he can at the pace that is right for him. It took me a while not to stress about how far behind he was! But watching my son these last few years I realize that school may always be a struggle for my him but God has given him a personality and such a compassion for others that I know he will be ok!:)We are all unique with special gifts! Thanks for sharing honestly your stories...I appreciate how genuine you are. By the way, my son LOVES Legos too!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. Allison says…
    02/08/2011

    i really LOVE that idea of self-assessment. such a great idea. Congrats Simon on the LOVE of reading!

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. dawn says…
    02/08/2011

    Wow Ali you really touched your commenters with this post. How joyful and proud you should be of Simon and he should be of himself. He's an awesome boy and a great learner. Last year in school my son got to complete a paper like this and show it to us at conference and he admits where it was that he needed help on, I think this is something all schools/grades should be doing. I also agree about the pressure for kids and teachers on the standardized tests, my kids know that I'm proud of them already and whatever the outcome from the test is not who they are. My son Sam (9) is doing flashcards every night we go thru them and he gets a 3minute time test the next day and can't pass to the next number till he passes it. He was stuck on his times tables for the "6's for two weeks, driving him crazy he knew them he just worried he wouldn't get them done in 3 mts and he panicked. Finally he passed this week and now we are working on the 7's but he just get so sad about it no matter how great he does at home it's at school he worries. Anyhow Ali, this is so cool for you and your whole family. Way to go Simon, slow and steady is my motto!!

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Krys72599 says…
      02/08/2011

      Dawn, I agree - all kids should be taught to think about themselves in this way. What an illuminating exercise, to stop and think about what you are good at, along with what you might need to work on so that you can do better. I would think it would mean so much more and inspire the child to work harder when he/she is not "told" they're not as good at something, but when they "realize" they can try to do better...

  19. Anna Aspnes says…
    02/08/2011

    What is success anyway? I think it's something different for everyone. For me it's happiness. If my kids are happy and making progress within their own capabilities, then I think they're doing awesome. I always tell E and L that if they're trying their best, that's all that counts, no matter the outcome. I don't believe in failure. It's all a learning process.

    Do I think it fair that special needs kids are assessed in relation to their peers? Absolutely not, but that does not change the fact. There will always be someone out there who is bigger, better and more successful, whoever you are.

    Our kids can and do succeed. Simon living proof of that.

    Reply 3 Replies
    1. Ali says…
      02/08/2011

      I completely agree about your outlook on success. What we have always hoped for Simon is that he will be successful in whatever that comes to mean for him - being happy in this world is a pretty big achievement in and of itself :). And it is all a learning process...every single step.

    2. Theresa says…
      02/08/2011

      I just so love what you said.

      "What is success, anyway?" Is my new favorite phrase I think.

    3. Tiffany H. says…
      02/09/2011

      I was just going to post a reply that said almost exactly what you said. Success is defined differently for everyone and we, as parents, need to realize and remember that, especially when report cards come home.

  20. Kathryn Benfiet says…
    02/08/2011

    Oh Ali...how I understand the standardized testing challenge. Our daughter just graduated this past June but it was touch & go for awhile. She was so gifted in the areas of arts, performance, personal skills, etc. but testing just knocked her flat. A couple of her teachers realized her learning style and went out of their way to accommodate her. This small mercy was such a huge blessing. Like Simon, we learned to concentrate on the whole kid and not the academic part. Thank you for sharing the real challenges and victories in your life. I'm in your Yesterday and Today class and am loving that it encompasses all the stories of our lives.

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. Gwen says…
    02/08/2011

    How great to read your thoughts. I love hearing about Simon and your insight makes me a better parent. Your insight fits into my life and I love you for it. We may not have hardly anything in common at first glance but parent struggles can be felt across the board and the way you are able to express it helps me every time.
    I struggle with celebrating my children for who they are and not comparing and helping them to be their best. One is very smart and struggles socially. The other is more casual about school but remains a happy sweet soul. The contrast can overwhelm me. Thank you Ali.

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. Nancy says…
    02/08/2011

    Sometimes "handicaps" are actually just the opposite. There may be a "standard" to which one expected to adhere too. I wish more of education was targeted toward helping an individual be challenged at their level.

    Think of the child who easily gets all A's... it is easlily; check, check, check... and it's all good. All the while failing to actually see the child.

    I have children on both ends of the spectrum. One of my boys could read when he was 4... anything you put in front of him. Everything was easy for him on "grade" level. Children get little notice or challenge to be the best they can personally be, in a way very overlooked.

    It may seem strange to be saying this, lucky kid, How dare one "complain". However my heart aches for this boy. It was all just so easy for him. "HE" was seriously lost in it all. No, work on this, strive for this etc. It took little effort and felt so meaningless to him. Self esteem comes from being the best self YOU can be, not from some standard. He has never found this.

    I wonder what he could do if he had found that challenge, The "person" is developed in striving to be the best you can be. True self esteem. It is only when you have to apply yourself to acheive something that it strengthens you and helps you grow. Every child should have this in the education system, regardless to where they fall in the spectrum!

    How beautiful Simon is seen for who he is and has a place to develop to be the best he can be. What a blessing... He is challenged in being who he is. The self is not lost in the shuffle, he is seen.

    Reply 3 Replies
    1. Suz says…
      02/08/2011

      Nancy,
      Thank you for bringing another part of the spectrum that is often overlooked as "not needing any help" into the conversation. These kiddos, too, need to be challenged. They, too, have emotional and social needs that need to be not "just met" but fully cultivated.

    2. Melissa says…
      02/09/2011

      Thank you for letting me know I am not the only one who thinks this way. I don't have kids of my own, but have worked in preschool/childcare/parent education settings since I was a senior in college. Anyway, it has always been my opinion to completely get rid of "Grade-level". Every child should be in a subject class based on their level of understanding, not their age. I feel kids learn more from learning from each other than what they are taught by a teacher. The high level kids need to be challenged out of their comfort zones to work for higher-level thinking; while those who find a subject challenging are also noticed and get the extra attention they need to succeed and move on to the next level. Standardized tests should not be the basis by which a child's intelligence is measured. Sorry, stepping off soapbox now.

    3. Nancy says…
      02/09/2011

      I guess what I am trying to say here is that the most important thing a child must learn is to know themselves. Not some standard of achievement. It is only then they can find their place in the world and their human spirit can thrive. I love the way Ali sees this in life and nurtures it in her family and in her "outreach" to all of us through her work!

  23. Krys72599 says…
    02/08/2011

    Ali, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for this post!
    Simon is going to be the most awesome adult thanks to the support and guidance and love you are giving him now.
    And it seems that your school system is set up to help him, too.
    I hope all districts all over the country learn to appreciate what their children are good at and encourage them, rather than worry about how their testing scores might be interpreted against other systems'...

    Reply 0 Replies
  24. Robyn says…
    02/08/2011

    "That he can develop a love of reading and learning regardless of if he’s performing right at grade level." love this.

    Love it when you talk about Simon. It's soooo good for me to hear this stuff.

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. glee says…
    02/08/2011

    Simon, you have so many web friends in your corner!! Does he have any idea what a fan base he has??
    Anyway, just want to add that standardized testing is awful, just like no child left behind. There are so many ways of learning and testing rarely reveals the true picture of ANY child. I have a dyslexic child w/other issues who was SPED and had an IEP, and a non-dyslexic child (i will not say "normal", cause what is that anyway?) I just despise testing and grades even. Love that self assesment sheet. Go Simon Go is right!!!

    Reply 0 Replies

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