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An Open Letter to My Students at Report Card Time

By Heidi Ames
 | Apr 06, 2017

IOW_04-05-2017_w300It’s report card time, and I despise it.  I know I’m probably not supposed to say that, but it’s true, and I need to tell you why: I will spend hours sitting in front of the computer, choosing just the right 250 characters to type for each subject. First I will type a blurb about the general concepts we’ve focused on and then, perhaps, a comment specific to your abilities.

I will undoubtedly spend more time trying to shorten my well-chosen words because I don’t have enough space to write all I need to say. I will agonize over whether you are a 1, 2, 3, or 4 in achievement and have exhibited superior, consistent, inconsistent, or minimal effort.

But let’s get real. Never, not ever, can you be reduced in my mind to a number and a letter; not in math, ELA, social studies, science, or more importantly, MOST importantly, as a human being.

Nevertheless, it is a job requirement to evaluate your academic performance, so I do what is required. And I know you think it matters because I watch you count how many 3’s and S’s and C’s you got. I watch your face light up proudly, and I watch you cry. I listen when you tell me you are nervous to go home with a low-scored assignment because you don’t want to get in trouble.

So here’s what I’d put on your report card if it were up to me. I would tell you that you matter simply because you are a member of our class family. You are a genius at something, and the world needs to know what that is. Maybe you need to know and you don’t yet...and that’s okay. You have time to figure it out.

I care about you and your hopes, your fears, and what makes you deliriously happy and raving mad.

I care about whether you have access to books that will take you places you’ve only imagined—or never yet imagined! If you read as much as possible, maybe you’ll want to be a writer, too.

I care about what you have to say and every story you want to share, even if I sometimes can’t listen at the moment you need to tell it. It’s never because I don’t care.

I care whether you believe in yourself as much as I believe in you. Do you believe you can do anything, be anyone you want to be? You can. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Especially, don’t let this report card tell you differently. You are so much more than numbers and letters on a piece of paper.

The paper does not tell me what is in your heart. I see that every day, and it is such a privilege. I love when you come in each morning ready to learn, and I love when you ask questions or for extra help because that means you care. I love the small acts of kindness you perform, not because you’ll get something in return but because you are a caring person.

Nothing I write on your report card will let you know these things—250 characters is simply not enough.

Heidi Ames is a veteran 4th grade teacher at the Wixon Innovation School in Dennis, MA. She has been a teacher leader for several years and currently serves as co-vice president for Grades 4–7 in the Dennis-Yarmouth Educators Association. She is passionate about creating community and sharing her love of poetry writing with her students.

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