Our theme for February is actually a challenge: write a piece without using first person pronouns (I, me, we, etc.)
Comment: Struggles to stay on task.
Translation: Your child asked his teacher for candy yesterday, and his teacher declined, because your child spent the class period cutting up pieces of chalk with scissors. His explanation, “I was making cocaine!” did not help the issue.
Comment: Needs continued encouragement.
Translation: Your child is thanked constantly. For arriving on time. For having a notebook. For entering the classroom calmly. For writing her name on a piece of paper. Scolding or reprimanding will backfire immediately. Unfortunately, your child may already see herself as a problem child, and praise is the only thing she responds to. Teachers see this all the time. It’s upsetting to consider how a child could grow to be so defensive at such a young age. Right now, the only thing that is working is giving constant praise. Also, thank you for reading your child’s report card.
Comment: Shows initiative.
Translation: Your child speaks her mind. Your child yells for the rest of the class to shut up while the teacher is talking and the teacher has to refrain from yelling, “Preach, girl.” Sometimes the teacher doesn’t refrain. Your child suggests the new seating arrangement for the classroom because she knows all the gossip and who shouldn’t sit next to each other. Your child reads the role of the Federal Prosecutor in the class play and then writes an essay about how the accused should have gone to jail, a wildly unpopular opinion. Your child can be found leaving notes on the teacher’s desk that say, “You didn’t change my grade after I turned in that extra credit.” Your child also texted her teacher on her birthday. Your child is awesome.
Comment: Encouraged to read more at home.
Translation: Your child is getting this comment because EVERYONE IS. Please tell your child to stop playing Grand Theft Auto and read a book. The teacher will literally order any book from Amazon if your child will read it. It will be here in two days. Amazon Prime, baby. Wimpy Kid? Comic books? Really, you can have anything but 50 Shades of Grey if you promise you’ll encourage your child to read it.
Comment: Furthers class discussion with elaboration.
Translation: Your child has shared virtually everything there is to know about his life, and yours. Yes, the teacher knows what time you get up for work, and what movie you watched last weekend. In fact, your child made a connection with it to the book he is currently reading in class. The teacher also knows what you had for dinner last night and how you feel about Donald Trump.
Comment: Persists in completing assigned tasks.
Translation: Your child can often be found chasing teachers down the hallway. This teacher could be in a conversation with another teacher, on the phone, or in a hurry. It doesn’t matter. Your child will make sure he gets what he needs as soon as possible. Your child often asks her teacher, “What’s my grade?” as though his teacher has memorized the GPAs of sixty-five students and can recite them at will. Your child has also been spotted dropping an assignment on a teacher’s desk and asking, “What’s my grade now?” before the assignment has even been glanced at.
Comment: Frequently unprepared for class.
Translation: Your child does not have a notebook. Your child writes her class notes on a piece of paper that she then leaves behind on her desk. Your child is unlikely to pass the next exams because her notes end up on the floor or in the garbage. Your child has borrowed a pencil from the teacher six times this week and neglected to return any of them. Your child has also received three copies of the latest essay assignment. Your child’s teacher will continue to provide school supplies to your child for as long as she needs.
Comment: Inconsistent quality of work.
Translation: Your child may turn in a beautifully written poem one day, and the next day be dealing with an emotional trauma and spent half of the period with the guidance counselor. On Wednesday, your child turned in a list of ideas for creative writing assignments instead of the assigned argument essay. On Friday, I collected a love note from your child to another student in the class. It said, “If I am the earth, you are my sun.” Your child is a human being, and therefore amazing.
Caroline Higgins (’11) lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she spends the vast majority of her time teaching English Language Arts. You may also find her at barre exercise classes or playing (and losing) at bar trivia. She continues to be inspired by the energy and diversity of New York City and the beauty of that certain slant of light.