I remember being flabbergasted by my son’s first report card. It wasn’t the fact that a large portion of the report consisted of “unable to assess,” due to the fact that my neuroatypical son would not complete work or sit for even 5 minute tests. It was the fact that he was being assessed as a kindergartener in a dozen different subjects, each with as many as a half dozen criteria. The simple categories of Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Art were now vast and granular.
I felt as if the system itself was so utterly demanding that the stress it must be exerting on children (and their parents) was ridiculous. I was ANGRY.
But I got over it. I got over it because I came to appreciate that teachers are the ones with the greatest task. Teachers are the front line trying to make sense of and assess tasks in a six year old that sound like they were written by a college admissions committee.
It is easy to say that your kid can’t do addition or write simple words or make a sentence with a noun and verb (or for extra-credit a direct object). It is a much more difficult task to assess how he “collaborates with others,” or “demonstrates creative thinking skills.” When reading his first grade reports, I found myself wondering how in bloody hell they assess his ability to understand “health and wellness,” “engineering design and process,” or his writing “process, production, and research.”
But I decided that I don’t have to worry that much. It’s not my responsibility. I just need to respond appropriately when a teacher gives a lower mark like “not yet,” instead of “making progress,” or “proficient.” For every “not yet,” they give, they are likely going to have to answer for it: Why is my kid a not yet? Teachers are the ones taking on the weight of that burden.
So I decided that I didn’t have to know. I would continue asking simple questions: Not, “How in the world is a first grader supposed to do research to support their ideas?” But instead, “What would you considering improvement that we could work on at home?” Then none of us have to take responsibility for ridiculous expectations.