Little Johnny's Real Report Card

Teachers have a tough job in the best of times. But now, across the country, schools are burdening them with larger classes, paying them less, and expecting them to raise test scores so the Norwegians and Koreans will stop laughing at us. On top of this, teachers have to deal with increasingly persistent helicopter parents who want to be "active partners" in their child's education (which basically means they expect teachers to drop everything and listen to them complain every time their kid gets a B).

One of a teacher's more onerous tasks is preparing detailed progress reports on every student. Schools used to send home simple letter-grade report cards that might have a quick handwritten note from the teacher on the bottom. "Julie shouldn't dot her i's with hearts. Have a good summer!" Parents today expect more. So twice a year teachers have to sit down -- likely on their own time -- and put into writing the bad news your child is not quite the genius you think he is.

No doubt they fudge things a little to make life easier for everyone involved. That handsomely-typed letter you got a couple of weeks ago telling you about the great strides your little prodigy has made this year? Well, here's the first draft being circulated in the teacher's lounge over large glasses of Chardonnay:

Kindergarten has been a "growth" year for Johnny -- and a learning experience for his teacher!

Academically, Johnny's year was not nearly as disastrous as I had predicted in September. He's made surprising advances in most subjects. I was wrong to dismiss him as hopelessly stupid. All children have different learning styles. Some are "visual" learners, some are "auditory" learners. I found that Johnny, like most lazy children from bad homes, responds best to a spray bottle filled with bleach.

He now knows all of his letters and can recognize simple words like "cat" and "jail." As his verbal skill improved, he became quite good at entertaining and enlightening his classmates with his precocious vocabulary and colorful descriptions. I've never heard a five-year-old describe with such narrative clarity the more unconventional methods by which babies can be made. You should be as proud of his rhetorical skills as I am impressed by your (and your neighbors') openness and stamina.

Johnny proved strong in math, especially with respect to practical math applications like estimating the number of $20 bills in a paper bag and weighing solids using ounces and grams. I see a bright future for this young man on the corner of 3rd and Vine. He's also a fast little runner. Where he's headed, that will be another useful vocational skill.

I am pleased to say that Johnny has made solid progress socially. He's come a long way from the filthy little degenerate who walked into Kindergarten incapable of sitting still, waiting his turn or keeping his hands and body fluids to himself. Now it's only his boogers he wipes on the other children's milk cartons. I still wouldn't turn my back on him when he's holding a pencil or any other sharp object, but I am satisfied that he no longer looks at me with quite the same wild-eyed, compassionless stare. Is that a human soul I see peeking out from behind those beady little black eyes? Why, I think it is! It's also encouraging that he now exposes himself only once or twice a week -- and only to female members of the faculty. Oh my, Johnny, how you've grown!

(On a side note, the faculty, staff and school board are all extremely grateful that you agreed to keep Johnny home "sick" the entire week the Department of Health and Education was here for its annual inspection. Lord knows we need those state funds!)

Johnny has developed into a genuine animal lover. You probably remember the unfortunate incident in October involving the first classroom hamster, Mr. Bojangles, the overhead projector, and the Elmer's glue. I believe forcing Johnny to retrieve and reassemble the missing limbs and organs so we could give the poor creature a decent burial helped instill in him a deeper respect for all living things. He was much more responsible with our second hamster, Mr. Peepers. In fact, the two of them got along very well. I suspect it's because Mr. Peepers is half-rabid with a sharp bite and wicked temper. You know what they say, birds of a feather... ha ha! Only a few times did Johnny need to be reminded that it's inappropriate to encourage a hamster to develop a taste for human blood.

I also received encouraging feedback from Coach Simmons about Johnny's progress in PE this year. He says that Johnny still throws like a ridiculous girl, but he's developed such a lightning-fast left hook that he's rarely teased anymore by the other children, or the staff. In addition, he asked that I tell you the bite marks are healing well and that he won't be pursuing the lawsuit. I know that will come as a relief to your family. Three court appearances in one year are plenty.

In closing, let me say that never have I been so happy to get the green light to promote a student to the next grade. After this year, I have an entirely new appreciation for the phrase "no child left behind"! I am sure the first-grade teachers who don't quit over the summer will find there is never a dull moment when Johnny is in the classroom.