Saturday, March 26, 2011

Appreciations

This week the computer I usually use is in the shop. I’m not exactly sure when we’re getting it back. Part two of my last post, “Smellophobia” is on the hard drive of that computer so I’ll post that next week.

In the meantime, I have just finished our student-led conferences with my class and their parents at school. These were just delightful. The students reflected on how they are doing in the subject areas, wrote brilliant notes about that, selected writing samples, reading samples, practiced up on some math and science demonstrations so they could really strut their stuff. And they did. They were at once, cute and charming, and brilliant and precocious. I was so proud. Parents were pleased too. Most important, I think the students were proud of themselves.

Progress reports come out the week after spring break. I finished mine a few days ago. This round of progress reports is a narrative report. Each report is about 3 pages of comments and observations about the children and how they are doing as readers, writers, mathematicians, scientists and social scientists. There is a section for me to fill out about how each child is doing as a community member. Do they take their work seriously, turn their assignments in on time, are they excited about reading, how have they grown as writers, etc. It is all important. These narrative reports reveal so much more than a traditional report card. When I was a kid I got the usual A,B,C,D or F in the subjects. There was a tiny little space for the teacher to write comments and most teachers didn’t bother. The letter grade said it all.

Really? Most schools still use almost the same system for reporting to parents about their child’s progress in school. After all these years the A-F scale just will not go away. I have always been a little confused by it. As objective as the old scale seems to be, I never found it very fair or revealing. How much does a B- in reading tell you, for example, about how much a child likes to read, how well they use their reading time, what author’s they like, what strategies they use, how they have grown? The answer, quite simply is – not much.

So, the narrative progress reports take far more time to prepare, but they are worth it. You can say things in sentences and paragraphs that you just can’t in a single letter, even a letter with a + or – after it.

Our faculty is usually a little exhausted after writing narratives; our backs are a little sore from sitting in front of the computer for so many hours. But it is so worth it. I know because Heidi and I were on the receiving end of these reports when Devin and Colin went through our school. It was always so gratifying to know that our kids’ teachers really knew them as students and as human beings. From a teacher’s point of view, it is satisfying to pull together all of the information and notes involved in writing these reports and to get it all down on paper. I know my students so much more now, than before setting down to the task of writing about them in this detailed way.

I added a little bonus section to the progress reports this time. It might be the most important part of all. In February, I asked the kids to all write a little about everyone else in the class, some appreciations. Then I compiled them into lengthy paragraphs written especially about each child by their peers. I copied it onto pink paper and called it a Valentine. OK, it wasn’t candy or a jump rope or even a book. But every child wrote something personal, something meaningful about every other child. Our student teacher, Madona, and I added our two cents worth as well to these letters, but the really good stuff came from the kids. They know how to say things without pretense. They appreciate what’s real. They write from their hearts. Some of it is about academic stuff; some of it is about how they play our classroom game on the playground. Some of it is surface level – but the kind of thing that makes a kid feel good. If you gave one of these lengthy paragraphs to anyone in our class and asked them who it was about – they would know.

So, this is a list I’ve compiled from the many appreciations. It is a moment in their second grade lives, a time capsule. This is a little bit from a lot of children, but you can get a taste of their voice. If only adults could be this honest, this appreciative, this kind and direct.

Thank you for telling us all about the weather every day. I like how you always have a sweet smile. I like how you always play with me. You are one of the best guys I have ever seen. You are great at counting money. You remember stuff, you have an awesome mind. I appreciate you because you always sit by me at lunch and we talk together. You are a nice boy. I like you smile every day. When you laugh it makes me giggle. I like how you teach me a lot about animals. I love your smile and your sense of humor. It is fun playing ball with you. I like how you play that spy game with me. I like how funny you are and how you chase me on the playground. I like your stories. They make me laugh. I like your jokes. They are really fun. You are so intelligent. I like your cool clothes. I enjoy you because you are funny. You are my BFF. You rock at running. You always do funny stuff and you have been a good boy to me. You always make me laugh every time I look at you. You always have a smile on your face. You really love to teach us nature and other stuff when you write in the journals. When we went to the park with you I had a great time. You’re cool. Everyone knows it. I like when you show me fossils. I like you because when I want to know a reptile’s name you are there to tell me. You really care about others. You help me spell words. You are quiet and kind and helpful and patient. I like how you played that game at aftercare with us. You are the best friend I ever had. I love you as a friend. You are pretty and you are nice and we laugh together. You are even funnier than me. I like you laugh at my jokes even when they are not funny. You are really talented at reading. Thank you for always working so hard. I can tell that you try your best in everything. I like your puppy. It is sad when you are not in school. I like your comments about what we read. One of my favorite things was when you invited me to your sleepover. I had the best time there. You show a lot of good manners to me. I like it that you always play chess with me. You are kind and sensitive and insightful. I like it that you always play chess with me. You are the best friend a boy could have. You really try your best. You are a rocking kid. You are like a playful puppy. Can we be friends? You are a great kid. I like all of your talents. I like your smartness. You have a scientific personality. I love your hair. It stays up. You are so beautiful! You’re my BFF. You are fashionable. You can do a lot of things I can’t do. We always play sisters and it is fun. You always make me laugh in a good way. You are a fantastic reader. You make some really funny faces. You are so good at knowing when to work and when to play!

2 comments:

Chris Hass said...

Never too proud to steal a great idea, we created appreciations this year for Valentine's Day as well. I also used them as a portion of my narratives. You're right, when you read each of them everyone can tell exactly which of the kids is being appreciated. That's really cool.

Bummer about your computer. I can only assume whatever they're doing isn't going to be cheap. It seems nothing with the computer ever is. Hopefully you'll get lucky.

Mamafamilias said...

Which is why I love children.

The end.