Could do better

I spent the morning browsing through some old school reports (yes, I’ve kept them all). Looking at them now, apart from the endless “could do better, must try harder, not fulfilling his potential” stuff that at least three or four teachers mentioned every year, there are some surprising (and surprisingly pleasant) comments.

Age 9:

  • Physical education – “Simon usually enjoys these lessons”. I was pleased with this comment at the time, but my parents warned that it may have been meant as a criticism, like I was having fun instead of trying hard.
  • Written Work – “He has a good imagination and is correct but does the minimum of work” (this one is repeated, with minor variations, throughout my academic career)
  • Attitude – “Simon is a talented boy who does not seem to work to anywhere near his full capacity”. Duh. Does any nine-year old? We have other things to think about, like drawing tauntauns.

Age 13

  • Religious Studies – “Simon could do better in this subject”. Hah! The following year – “Simon shows little interest in the subject”.
  • French – “Simon has continued to work well and very cheerfully – often extremely cheerfully”. I blame the teacher, who was far too much fun.
  • Music – “Simon sings well”. Nonsense.
  • Art – “Simon has an interesting sense of design and colour and his handling of paint is improving. He has worked well at drawing”.

Age 15

  • French – “Simon has continued to make progress in his usual sprightly, sometimes impulsive manner”. If there’s one word I’m pretty sure could never be used to describe me, it’s “sprightly”.
  • Music – “He has done quite well in class, though for some inexplicable reason made no effort at all in the examination, filled the paper with vulgarities and obtained by far the lowest mark in the class”.
  • Biology – “His pleasant personality is particularly refreshing in class discussion”.

I won’t go into detail about what I thought of the teachers who made these comments (although I’ve long thought that it would be a good idea for pupils to be able to write reports on their teachers, for the sake of balance), but an honourable mention goes to my favourite, my French teacher Mr. Lawrence Sail, who, apart from being the warmest, most humane, funniest and most encouraging, is also an accomplished an acclaimed poet.





8 thoughts on “Could do better

  1. Erik R. May 28, 2008 / 1:06 pm

    Great post. Keep these in mind when your daughters start bringing home report cards.

    What did your folks think about your “vulgarities exam”?


  2. Karen MEG (Pomtini) May 28, 2008 / 1:30 pm

    The comments in your report at 15 were hilarious; I actually laughed out loud at the term “sprightly” and your music teacher must have LOVED you!!!


  3. sgazzetti May 29, 2008 / 8:18 am

    I particularly liked

    Music – “Simon sings well”. Nonsense.

    Impressed that you still have these around. I don’t have any papers older than my own children.


  4. simonlitton May 29, 2008 / 8:28 am

    Erik: they were so very disappointed…
    Karen: yes, I was very popular with my music teacher that year…
    Sgazzetti: I’m a hoarder.


  5. paola May 29, 2008 / 9:30 am

    You wrote vulgarities on an exam paper? YOU?
    Must tell my mum, she thinks you are such an angel.


  6. V-Grrrl May 29, 2008 / 12:32 pm


    My son gets these sorts of comments all the time–the ones about not fulfilling his potential, not working hard enough, blah, blah, blah.

    His mum, the former straight A student, doesn’t get overly worked up about recognizing his “potential.”

    He’s already a fully actualized human being for me. I’m not waiting for him to turn into something better and more complete.

    American parents are extremely competitive and push their kids hard. My son told me his friends get punished for not getting perfect report cards. I asked him why he thought we didn’t do the same thing.

    He said, “Because I punish myself when I don’t do my best.”

    I said, “Exactly. They’re YOUR grades, not mine. They reflect on you, not on me. I’d love to see them show just how smart I know you are, but punishing you isn’t the way to change your attitude about schoolwork.”


  7. simonlitton May 29, 2008 / 12:48 pm

    V – obviously my parents had something to say about my grades, but I don’t think it ever entered their heads to punish me if they weren’t happy. Besides, they usually were happy, and on the rare occasion that they weren’t, the look in their eyes was punishment enough.


  8. jane May 29, 2008 / 7:38 pm

    “I was pleased with this comment at the time, but my parents warned that it may have been meant as a criticism, like I was having fun instead of trying hard.”

    Um, God forbid you should have fun, particularly at school.


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