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August 12, 2013

CUMMINS: Show me your report card

Judge not that ye be not judged, but we do. Although God judges us using the simple pass-fail system, take some time and give yourself a grade using the more familiar A-to-F method. Grade yourself on a happiness index; A for bliss and F for everything from bankruptcy to pulling your hair out. Take heart, if you’re living at a D- level, do what you did in school by studying harder or conning the teacher as I did. Terry is slow, but he’s a good little boy so I’ll up his grade a letter or two. 

Back in the old days, parents first looked at the two grades, indicating effort and conduct at the top of a report card. Those two qualities are about the only thing students or anyone can control. Academic and other abilities are rationed, as is a bucket half full. Attending school is important, because education lightens our load as we climb steep roads. But showing up does not mean showing off, as many students and politicians do. I did, but eventually learned that copying stuff from the board and dusting the erasers would pass you. Showing up, behaving and keeping the mouth shut opens the door an inch or two.

 After spending 52 years in a schoolhouse as a student, teacher and administrator, I began my education. In schools, I learned that teachers gave grades or you earned a grade, which is it?  When grades come out, they often cause inner-outer turmoil. Some teachers also give gold stars for sitting still while she’s corralling class clowns.  

When grades go out, principals hold conferences. Parents bring their concerns and the teachers bring indecipherable grade books. If he has it, the principal brings calm. Usually, the teacher is defensive, the parent offensive, and the principal is the umpire calling the shots, safe or out. No, he doesn’t — he mediates diplomatically. The level-headed principal heads off stand-offs by encouraging the teacher to give Johnny extra attention, and the parent to lovingly spur her son to turn papers in. Working together we can overcome, I say. Oh, the torment I’ve seen grades do.

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