We had our report card/teacher's conferences last week. For the first time, we had a conference that involved a lot of superlatives, a lot of "E" grades for "Excellent," a lot of that beaming with pride thing that happens to you no matter how hard you try to keep it tucked away, no matter how hard you try to seem like you're going to love your child and be proud of him, no matter what. Which is true. But pride is a lot easier to pick out of a lineup when it's sporting the usual attire of success.
That was Dubya's conference. We knew Dubya would be a whole 'nother experience in kindergarten. He brings home papers that are complete. That he completed himself. That make sense. That are colored in the lines. That have words written on them, spaced from each other the way one expects words to be. That he understands having done and can describe having completed. We knew it would be different.
But I sort of expected TH's conference to be different this year, too. We've been getting great feedback about how well his reading is going. He's enjoying science. He does well on spelling when we study it in the way I now know will work for him. He may not remember how to spell these things two weeks later, but he's at least got it down for the test.
So when I went to that conference and opened up that report card, I expected to, finally, after 2. 3 years, see some E grades.
A lot of the big letter S. Some of the big letter N, as in "Needs improvement." Where were all those E grades?
And I have to admit, again, that I'm disappointed. Not in TH--although I do believe he could work harder, that he does give into laziness--but just in life, the universe and everything. And then, I become disappointed in myself. I truly, deeply, inherently, intuitively do not believe that these letters are a true measure of anything much. I don't believe that people can be measured by the result of some impenetrable calculus involving their test scores, grades, class rankings, and percentile placements. I just don't. Yet I'm conventional enough, boxed in enough, downright shallow enough, to become almost visibly upset when I opened that report card.
One reason I have, however, is valid. TH gets dinged on writing evaluations because they're not quite "creative" or "inventive" enough. He can be creative as all get-out when he's not writing, when he's just talking. Just tonight, I was explaining to the boys the origin of the word "lunatic," and TH announced that if he were crazy, he wouldn't be controlled by the moon, he'd be controlled by Pluto, he'd be a "plutatic." That's pretty damned inventive, yes? Well, he wouldn't have been able to come up with that had he been sitting, pencil in hand, confronting a piece of paper, challenged to spell right, write right, space right, hold his pencil right, sit upright, and complete it in the right amount of time. With all of those "rights" to consider, he simply got a lot of things wrong.
This issue comes down to executive function, and that leads me to the question of this blog post: What is the right balance? When do we stop worrying about developing those executive functioning skills--that to him are the ultimate in multitasking but that to other students come naturally--and give him some facilitated methods so that he can truly communicate what's in that supercharged brain of his? When should we emphasize that his grades should be a true reflection of his ability, rather than a reflection of his disability?
I got over the report card. I really did. I'm proud of my son, who has struggled through some things that many children never even have to think about. But I still have that question of balance on my mind. The writing test wasn't about assessing executive function. The grade on that report card wasn't about that, either. It was about storytelling. About expression. About creativity and invention. And TH, while still the little guy who puts his baby brother's shirts on by accident and always forgets whether underpants or pants go on first, is just about the most creative, inventive person I know. As any good Plutatic would be.