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Once again, Simon and I are proving to have something in common I’d just assume we didn’t. Believe it or not, he’s starting to stress about his grades. Let me repeat that for a moment so it can sink in: Thirteen days into kindergarten, Simon is concerned that he gets mostly checks on his work instead of check pluses. Ay yay yay.

Simon brought home check pluses on his first two graded assignments, indicating his work was neat, error-free, and above grade-level. Then he brought home some “math” workbook pages, all of which earned him unadorned checks, meaning it contained few errors, was reasonably neat, and met grade-level expectations. I put “math” in quotes because the exercises were about number recognition, matching, and counting. Simon himself told me that they don’t do math in math class, and coming from a kid who has told me within the last week that $20 is the same as 2,000 cents and who corrected me when I said “10 to nine” by saying “you mean 8:50″, I get where he’s coming from.

Anyway, this math work is mostly about learning to do workbook work, and it emphasizes neatness, completion, and drawing. Simon occasionally misses a part of the assignment, he’s tied for being the worst artist in his class, and his handwriting is shaky. It wasn’t ever very neat (he’s mine, he’s a boy he’s a lefty, ’nuff said), and three summer months of never holding a pencil did not help matters any. So intellectually, he’s there. With a plus. But when it comes to demonstrating and formatting his work, he’s got some catching up to do.

Which I am fine with, but Simon is not. I know this because without my ever commenting upon his grades, he brought the subject up. This was Friday’s report about drawing a picture and writing three words above it:

“I got a check,” he told me. “If I had written five words, I would have gotten a check-plus.”

“A check is fine,” I explained, sounding even and vaguely disinterested. “A check means you only made a few mistakes, did your best, and are doing what you are supposed to.”

“No, mommy, a check isn’t good. A check is just okaaay. I want a check-plus.”

“Well, I think all that matters is that you try hard and do your best. And as long as you do those things, I’m happy and you should be too.”

“I don’t think so, Mommy. I want a check-plus.”


“Well, I tell you what. A lot of what you are doing in school is learning how to work on work-sheets and in books. It’s new. And the more you practice, the better you’ll get at it. You might even get a check-plus before it’s all over.”

“Mr. Sowder says that he wants me to do things like dot my “i”s smaller and write all my letters smaller. Then maybe I can get a check-plus.”

Now I’ve got some questions. Is Mr. Sowder coaching all the kids this way? Simon says no, but I’m not convinced he’d know. Is he specifically pushing Simon because his sloppy writing is masking his ability? That’s a nice thought, but I doubt a teacher can judge potential in 13 short days. Or is he coaching Simon because the first time his work wasn’t perfect, he sat at his desk and cried? I’m guessing it’s that.

I don’t know, and I don’t plan on asking unless Mr. Sowder feels the need to reach out to me. His first report card is due in a month, and Simon has already told me that he wants to get more than checks in it. I wonder if Mr. Sowder knew what he was getting into—or more precisely getting me into—when he described grading to class this week?

4 Responses to “Ambition”

  1. tlalbaugh says:

    At least Simon’s written a few words. So far Kira seems to have done a lot of coloring. Not real interesting or fun so far, unfortunately, and she’s been having a rough time.

  2. Amanda says:

    Boy, is he your kid or what? LOL. Hopefully he’ll also have inherited some of Matt’s laid-backness. That would be a good combo.

  3. Matthew says:

    Some may call it “laid-backness”. Others may call it “slack”.

  4. goldsteinrita says:

    I swear I really did not wish this on you. This sounds just like you and Steve. I always thought that if I could put all three of you in a bottle and shake you up maybe you and Steve would worry a little less and Perry a little more. For Simon’s sake I hope he’ll lighten up but I won’t hold my breath.

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