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A discouraging word from my teacher: Grade one,1964

A report card from 1964

This weekend, when I was cleaning out the basement, I found an envelope with my report cards from grade one  through grade six. The Saskatoon Public Schools sent home a Pupil Progress Report three times a year, November 15, January 15th and April 15th.

The teacher gave letter grades and wrote a few sentences in the section under Teacher Comments. The Parent was supposed to sign on the dotted line where it said, (Parent’s signature), and then the report card was supposed to be returned to the teacher.

I remember dreading the report card. The last comment written on my report card from 1964,  for grade one was:

Pam does good work, but I feel she could be more careful, that the work could be neater.
Mrs. Sukut, Grade one Teacher, 1964

I don’t remember how I felt when my mother read me the comment. I don’t remember what my mother said after she read it to me. I do know what I thought when I read the comment yesterday. “What a stupid comment.” 

The teacher had an opportunity to encourage me. She choose to have her parting words to me be critical.

“The work could be neater.”

And what is, “good work?”

Report Card 1964

Are straight lines a sign of value? If all my printing was neat and sitting on a line a sign of intelligence? When you print the letter A twenty times on one line to practice printing, why can’t some of the letters be bent over or floating off into space. It is still the letter A.

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”
Thumper – Bambi, 1942

My family is still asleep. When they wake up I want to encourage them with my words. I will think about what I value, neatness or creativity. I will carefully consider the words that come out of my mouth today.

I want my words to build up and not destroy.

The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 18:21

What words will you use today? Will you build up or destroy?

Please let me know in the comments. I would love to chat.

Teachers comment on my report card, 1964

About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • That reminds me of an award my band director invented for me. It was basically for being the quietest kid in the class. I knew he meant well but it was embarrassing that he had to invent an award for the shy kid.

  • I usually try to build people up because I am aware of how much it hurts to always be criticized. But I slip up sometimes. I accidentally called Joe a dummy the other day and then I apologized. He knows he isn’t dumb, but it was a mean thing to say.

  • lee

    I will play devil’s advocate, and say that I consider the comment to be constructive criticism. Both of my children do good work–if they like the topic. When they dislike the topic, they need to be reminded to be more careful and neater. Maybe your mother could provide insight on whether you behaved the same in your early years. I remember getting similar comments on my report cards. I usually heeded the advice for about a week… I’m a little better about doing my best no matter how I feel about the task, if only to be an example. But only a little bit. 😉

  • margaret simon

    I cringe because I’ve probably been guilty of this kind of comment at least once in 26 years of teaching. Yikes! My daughter’s second grade teacher when showing me her standardized test scores told me she was working beyond her potential. Really? How does one do that? She still is working hard, in graduate school.

  • As a former assistant principal, I cringed when I read that. I always had little “chats” with teachers whose feedback was more cruel than constructive. I apologize for her, and I’m sorry that unpleasant memory still rankles. What happens to us during our formative years stays with us longer than most teachers think, which is why educators have to be very careful to encourage and support. Just laugh it off–you’re a writer now. Success is the best revenge!

    • Yes. And I still hate to be neat. My motto is, “Make your own lines and then color outside of them.”
      Thank you for your encouragement.:)

  • I am laughing … isn’t that so silly! I remember something a teacher said on one of my report cards too. It said “She uses time well.” Turns out those were good words (although I always wondered if I did something else well too) .. because whenever I think I am not using time well, I think of those good words, and relax a bit. Thanks for this wonderful reminder.

    • You are very welcome Beca. I need to use my time well.

  • “Words have power,” is something I have quoted many times to remind myself and those around me that what we say Matters. Words are like fire : they can warm a cold heart or burn the entire house down.

    And words can heal.

    Like writing this post — your words from your grown-up self written in response to what happened to your six-year old self — these words can resolve a bit of unfinished business from 1964.

    I love words!!

    • I love words too. My favorite word right now is friend. And Hong Kong, wedding, and reconnecting.

  • Jay Warner

    That teacher probably does not remember what she wrote on your card. You will probably not forget. This is a great example of how careless or thoughtless words can have a lasting effect far beyond their intent. It reminds us all to be careful what we say, especially to children.

    • Yes, Jay especially to children. I cringe at some of the words I hear spoken to children in the grocery store.

  • Those discouraging remarks from teachers can destroy a child’s self esteem. I think many of the teachers of that time period thought it was their duty to point out the worst – never the best. I have a few I can remember that held me back from accomplishing my dream. It took me a long to get past them.

    • Words can wound. Thankfully I didn’t remember what she had said. The teachers in high school took up where she left off. It took a long time for me to get past them too. We can still dream.

  • Great quote from Thumper. So true. So true…

    • I didn’t realize my mother had been quoting Thumper all these years.