Charlie (as he hands over his report card to me): I did a quick scan of all the grades. Nothing much has changed from the last report card…for better or worse. I checked to see if the pants business with H — showed up anywhere on there. It didn’t. Lucky, huh?
Cassie: (quickly reading the assessment) Hmmmm…. Looks pretty good. I see you still got an “N” for “Needs Improvement” in Self Control/Talking When Appropriate.
Charlie: Yea. Sorry. I can’t change who I am.
Cassie: But you were unhappy when a lot of your fellow class mates commented about how much you talked in class…on your Valentine’s Day Heart of Compliments. Remember?
Charlie: I know, but that was because they weren’t giving me real compliments! Talking is how I understand stuff. I like to talk about what I’m learning. It’s my style.
Cassie: I think this “N” grade here indicates that you may need to introduce some silence and listening into your style. Like maybe before the next marking period.
Charlie: I’ll try, but by nine years old, a kid’s style is pretty much already set. Besides, the teacher wrote that even though I talk a lot, I’m still doing well in the different subjects. And there were a lot of “E” grades for “excellent.”
Cassie: Actually “E” stands for “Exceeds,” as in exceeds expectations for your grade level. (Pause. I read some more of the written assessment by the teacher.) You’re correct. The teacher did write that your skill sets are on grade level or higher. That’s great, Charlie.
Charlie: Actually if I talk so much I should probably get an “E” for language arts because the teacher also said I have an excellent vocabulary.
Cassie: Yes, she did. The “N” was really about your self-control, though, learning how to talk at the right time.
Charlie: When I talk, it’s always the right time… for me… because I’m learning and talking at the same time. That’s how I do it.
Cassie: Yes, well, it likely interferes with the other kids in your class. They’re trying to learn in a quieter kind of way. (Pause.) She says here that your unit of friends is probably the best part of third grade for you. She comments that you are a friend to many. That’s nice. A compliment if ever there was one.
Charlie: She knows about the posse, I think. Friends are the most important thing about school anyway.
Cassie: Well, yes, and learning: math, reading, writing….
Charlie: No…it’s really just the friends for me, Mom.
Cassie: That’s your style, huh?
Charlie: Yes. And I’m not ever going to change that.
He leaves the kitchen in a bit of a huff after his last statement and I go back to analyzing the report card and the teacher’s comments.
Another Report Card Day in the life of one Charles Denton Bollinger and another learning experience for the “talking boy’s” mother, who remembers that she herself always got plenty of Es on her report card, but she also remembers (all too well, in fact) that she had very few friends during that time long ago. Alone, quiet, reading, writing, that young girl never really knew the value of a grade school posse. She never knew. It just wasn’t her style.