Report Card Time


Brit - Guenette photo

I’ve been thinking a lot about report cards and the whole assessment dimension of sending our kids and grandkids off to school. I came across these great quotes.

Friendship … it’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you haven’t learning anything. (Muhammad Ali)

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one learned in school. (Albert Einstein)

What makes a child gifted and talented may not always be good grades in school, but a different way of looking at the world and learning. (Chuck Grassley)

00773HSAS458 Britney Keeley005

Our beautiful granddaughter, Britney – just look at that Mona Lisa smile! – got her first kindergarten report card yesterday. Five-years-old and already in the assessment mill of school. Heavy sigh! All her kindergarten academics are strong but on the scale of C = consistent, O = occasionally and S = seldom, she is C for talking out in circle time and rushing through her fine motor skill work so she can get busy with the next activity.

As someone who has never taken educational assessment all that seriously, I was tempted to laugh. I remember my son’s surprised face when one year he came home from school and told me, in dramatic teen fashion, how his dad was going to kill him because of a failing grade in math. I shrugged and said, “Hardly. Your dad and I know how smart you are. It’s just a grade.”

To know Britney, is to know she is a force to contend with. Even as a baby, she was a hard child to move and I mean that literally as well as figuratively. She has a low centre of gravity. She would make a great protester. When the police drag her to the paddy wagon, she won’t make it easy. It’s who she is. She has all those second child characteristics – one of which is the constant feeling that she is missing out on something and must hurry along. No wonder she rushes through fine motor skill activities!

Brit doing math - Guenette photo

But I didn’t laugh. A child’s first kindergarten report card is a big deal – to the parents and the child. I listened to my daughter’s concern and the disappointment in her voice tugged at my heart. We all want our kids to be top of the class with all their C’s, O’s and S’s in the right spots.

The best thing a parent can do is put things in perspective and this continues between grown children and their parents. I listened, then said, “Reminds me of someone else’s report cards.” My daughter paused and then laughed. Yes, I meant her. We looked at her kindergarten report card a few years ago and one comment stood out. “Less chatter and more paying attention would certainly help her progress.”

Brit and Kristen

This parenting thing – never easy, for sure.

The Value of Education


As a student and an educator, I have spent many years in tune with the cycles of the school year. The sunny spring days of late April and May always make me think about the current school year winding down. Elementary schools look forward to outdoor sporting events and field trips. Teachers accept that concepts not hammered in by this time probably won’t take hold.

The university session is already completed, and intercession and summer courses are anticipated. There will be a different tone to those courses – good weather does something to the higher reaches of academia. (A reflection that obviously pertains more to areas where foul weather is a distinct possibility – as in most of Canada – maybe it doesn’t play out in California!)

This time of the year will always have me thinking freedom while September inevitably brings thoughts of new beginnings.

I came across a couple of quotes related to education that I want to share.

Nelson Mandela wrote, “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” I think Mandela would know what of what he speaks.

Here is a gem from the pen of Mary Jo Leddy – a Canadian writer, speaker, theologian and social activist. Leddy is widely recognized for her work with refugees at Toronto’s Romero House. “Education is about learning to hope. I invite you to anticipate this; that your education is for the sake of hope. It is meant to give hope to someone, somewhere, at some point in the future. Sometimes, somewhere, someone will ask you for a reason to hope. And then everything you have learned, every talent and skill you possess, all that you have become will be questioned and summoned forth. I know this will happen, at least once in your life.”

Marshall McLuhan, writes, “Is not the essence of education civil defense against media fallout.” McLuhan was a Canadian philosopher of communication theory; his work is viewed as one of the cornerstones of the study of media theory, as well as having practical applications in the advertising and television industries.

Paulo Freire, Brazilian educator, philosopher, and influential theorist of critical pedagogy, tells us that education can become, “. . . the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

The final word goes to Jean Vanier, a Canadian, Catholic, philosopher turned theologian, humanitarian, and founder of L’Arche, an international federation of group homes for people with developmental disabilities, who wrote that the purpose of education was to make people of peace.

Education as a means of change, education for the sake of hope, education as a means of defense against the almighty media voice that hums away below our conscious level of thinking, education for freedom and the transformation of the world, education to make people of peace.

I encourage all students and educators to reflect on the powerful role education has in our world; realize that each one of you is part of a strong wave of change that sweeps further and wider than you can ever imagine. By the very fact that you seek to know, to understand, to teach, and to learn, you are hope, defense, freedom, transformation, and peace. You are the change in the world that we all hope to see.


(The top photo was taken on a 2009 trip across the country to attend my son’s wedding in Ottawa. We were in south western Minnesota and had to stop and take photos of this old, abandoned school house. The whole building was full of pigeons. The bottom photo was taken at the Fort William historical site in Thunder Bay, Ontario.)