Yesterday was report-card day for the NYC Public School crowd - the kids had a half-day and there were parent-teacher conferences in the afternoon. We don't really care one way or the other about grades; we know our daughter is happy and smart and hard-working and that's all that matters to us. We'd just as soon have her in one of those hippie schools that don't give grades at all, if it weren't for the astronomical tuition that most of them charge. (I can't understand how there are so many filthy-rich hippies out there, but what other explanation is there?)
In spite of my professed nonchalance about grades, something about going in to talk to M's teachers brings out a crazed, competitive streak in me. I'm fine while we're there, listening to the teachers say she's bright, funny, well-behaved (whatever) and a delight to have in the classroom. I'm nodding my head as they tell me she is right on target for her grade level, that she always contributes to discussions, shows empathy for her classmates, and is verbally precocious. Great, fine, good to hear, but we already knew all of that. No big deal.
At M's school, they give "grades" of 1-4. A 3 means "meets expectations for grade level," a 4 means "exceeds expectations." A 2 means "almost there" and a 1 means - well, anyway, M didn't get a single 1 or 2. M's report card sports rows of 3's, 3+'s, and a few 4's. So, great, but as I said, I don't care anyway, right? Late afternoon yesterday though, a little voice in the back of my head started to nag me. I tried to ignore it, but it just kept getting more insistent. "She should have been given all 4's," whispers the voice. "Maybe her teachers are too busy to notice that she's clearly exceeding grade level in every subject," says the voice. "They should really have given her 5's in everything - surely she's the most brilliant student they've ever encountered!" screams the voice.
So during Lost last night (isn't this the highlight of everyone's week?) I finally blurted it out. "Tom, why do you think she didn't have all 4's? Do you think she's trying to tone down her brilliance at school so she can fit in? Do you think her teachers are purposely trying not to go overboard with praise, even though she's clearly the most gifted child they've ever encountered? She is, right? You can see how smart she is too, can't you? She should have had all 4's, right? Right?" Poor Tom. All he had to do was give me one of his signature long-suffering looks, equal parts pity and patience, and I dropped it. I took a deep breath, a swig of beer, and the little voice slunk off into a quiet corner of my brain, preparing to resurface at the next likely opportunity.
And to think, I worried that I'd find it hard to adjust to the ultra-competitive New York lifestyle. Apparently, I'm ready to go in that regard. But this is only kindergarten - if I can't shut that little voice up, we're all in for a long ride.