Thursday, August 11, 2011

Little minds: Two years at Ralph Talbot Elementary School.

My beloved brother who is a good man and needs a job if anyone needs a highly trained mechanic, knowledgeable i.e. having worked on: HVAC, commercial electrics, and high speed food production machinery maintenance and repair,as well as clean room experience; an excellent ‘we’ll cobble something up’ (but never a dubber) guy, has sent two of my report cards from Ralph Talbot elementary school. He found them while rooting through papers.

O baby; if they had short buses then, I would have been a passenger, judging from the comments made by Mrs. Bresnahan, and the grades earned by young master RR. The first marking period in November is the worst. RR has been torn from Vermont and plunked down in S Weymouth, MA. People drink ‘tonic’ there. I did not know how to write cursive. Social progress was cool: no check marks in ‘needs to improve in’ boxes. Down in flames in arithmetic the first three grade periods. This grade 2 report in music was grim: ‘fair, fair, fair, does not show too much interest’, consecutively. Mrs. Bresnahan is silent on art activities in the June marking period. On the bright side, RR’s reading grades went from D to C, then another C; B was earned the last period. Give a little whistle.

Thus the tone was set for an undistinguished academic career.The other report card is from grade 4: should be hitting stride now, work habits formed. Teacher M.E. Gauld is not remembered. Marks are poor to middlin’: many c, enough ‘b’s to keep parental units hopeful. Arithmetic is still abysmal. F. Must have really liked history and geography: 5 boxes out of 8 are ‘b’. Never tardy, RR is absent 7 days over the year. Music and Art are ‘Satisfactory’ across the board. A foolish consistency is recognized as The Way: head down, be the faceless rabble in the halls. No outbursts.


Barrett Bonden said...

The problem with teachers is that they must always judge their charges through the prism of limited experience: the school. There's no elbow room on a report card for them to suggest (even if they knew) that other forms of development may be occurring. And in any case how would they score progress in "A growing sense of wonder about things made from metal".

My report cards were far more ruthless. No pussyfooting about with As, Bs and Cs, intended to let the pupil down lightly. Instead for each individual subject: Students in class, Position in class, Comment. The most memorable of these occurred on my brother's card but it could just as easily have been mine: Subject: Divinity (Which would now be called religious studies). Students in class: 21. Position in class: 19. Comment: Inert.

We all appreciated the wit and the terseness. As it was I was never able to recognise myself from my report cards. This is what a perceptive teacher should have written: "BB is unaware of the purposes of coming to school and the methods therein. His concept of the future is that of a mayfly. He has never prepared for any exam and only does the absolute minimum of homework because he is afraid of being caned. Very occasionally he shows curiosity but never about any of the subjects taught here. He has an inflated idea of his ability to express himself which leads to carelessness and ostentation. He sees subjects such as physics and chemistry as hard and simply averts his eyes. There is evidence that he reads books but none of the titles he mentions are likely to advance his intellect. He is poorly co-ordinated for games, believes himself incapable of running more than 100 yards without becoming breathless. When asked what he wants to do with his life he replies "Become a reporter". This is plainly absurd since he is ignorant of cause and effect: perhaps he imagines his articles will simply materialise. At the moment supermarkets have not been invented in Britain: when they are his highest aspiration should be be to stack shelves in one. Or, if there is a less demanding job, opt for that.

Your scores on the other hand show typical progress of a typical child. But then none of us wants to be typical. The way report cards are set up is to reflect Renaissance Man; anyone else thus becomes a failure. Why should we be expected to be good at everything? I left school with a sore bottom (From the cane, not "the usual thing" Evelyn Waugh refers to) and a burning desire never to find myself sitting in a chair while an adult wagged his finger at me. A good schooling? I think not.

Relucent Reader said...

Thank you for the comments, BB. We've been on our annual family vacation,so am catching up here.
Interested to see your schoool included "Divinity". Now if that subject was taught at Ralph Talbot, I would have paid closer attention. Maybe not.

The Crow said...

RR, I hope you and Missus aren't visited by Irene, or is so, that she leaves without damaging your area.