I ran across my report cards from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades recently. The same week I spotted my 2nd Grade teacher’s obituary in the newspaper. “Mrs. R” died last month, at the age of 99. So I figure the statute of limitations has run out on the comments she made about me on June 12, 1964.
It starts out well:
“Debbie is a leader and has many friends in the class. She has made very good progress in all Second Grade work.”
Then we see a shift:
“At this time, I feel that success is too important to Debbie. She becomes too upset if she feels she makes a mistake and also finds it very hard to accept any criticism. She is such a fine girl – I hope she will soon learn to handle this problem in a way that will help her to profit from her mistakes.”
Below this bitter and example-free comment, I see my mother’s delicate signature, which always included her first name, my father’s middle initial (an “E” with extra curlicues) and her married name.
It is too late for rebuttal, and 2nd Grade memories are too fuzzy for me to recall the details yielding such vitriolic and damaging comments. What failure of best practices by elementary teachers in the prior months of 2nd Grade allowed me, a fairly compliant and well-behaved 2nd Grader, to fall so deeply into disfavor with Mrs. R? In the fall of 1963 I am described as “a good school citizen.” By April of 1964 the only comment on my report card is “Good work.”
If I was not meeting plan by April of 1964, you would think some intervention and coaching might have saved me from these wild, undocumented allegations that would surface in June. I do not recall either of my parents pulling me aside to discuss “the situation” on my report card. I sailed smoothly into 3rd Grade with no issues after a summer of swim lessons and Barbie doll play.
Childhood experts say we’re pretty much who we’re going to be when we’re 5 years old. When I see Mrs. R’s comments I can smile, and accept a possible ring of truth inside my “Pupil Progress Report.” This might represent a facet of me that is holding me back from “profiting from my mistakes.” I did not realize this was an option. Hmmmm.