The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

School Report Intimidation

We were sent a text by Rogan’s high school today to let us know he was bringing home his School Report. Presumably this is to counteract the common practice when I was a lad of forging parental signatures to make it appear they had been read and approved, without the parents ever knowing such reports existed. Occasionally one parent or the other might casually comment that when they were young, schools gave out annual reports, but we would shrug and mutter something about the world being different in the Olden Days.

There was no need to remind Rogan we were expecting his school report, however. He’s an honest lad and I can’t remember the last time he got a bad one. Occasionally I fear he might not be underhanded or devious enough to achieve global domination, but the fact that he can bake mouth-watering scones like his mother makes up for it.

But this report… well, this one was scary.

Page after page of glowing comments, top marks and high achievement.

After a while I found myself rebelling against it all. Couldn’t he have set fire to the school or something? Anyone this smart is bound to be the geek of the class – but no, apparently he’s friendly, sociable and well liked too.

Have you any idea just how intimidating it is?

Actually, if you’re a parent, of course you do. It doesn’t matter how academic or otherwise your children are, they are perfect.

You are handed this beautiful, perfect little being, a true miracle of life. How can you possibly get them to adulthood without screwing them up? The responsibility is huge and the task feels impossible. The best you can hope for is a certain amount of damage limitation. With luck I won’t pass on too many of my own neuroses, although in the process I will probably set them up with other personality disorders instead.

Sometimes I’ve felt his intelligence is wasted on us. There are some parents out there who push their kids hard to do well at school. These parents would sell their souls if they thought it would help their kids achieve the grades Rogan appears to gain almost effortlessly.

Personally, I’ve never held much respect for school and academic achievement. At the age of 11 I knew how to read, write and use a pocket calculator; if I’d left school then I would probably have achieved a great deal more with my life.

Once we have the basics, far more important than a few bits of paper saying you sat an exam are drive, passion and empathy. With these characteristics you can achieve anything without having to hurt people on the way. It’s a shame the education system doesn’t value these as highly as memorising a few bits of general knowledge you could have looked up anyway.

Still, this isn’t to say I’m not proud of Rogan. In the end I think the only thing that could have impressed me more was if he faked his report.


Anna van Schurman said...

My mother used to tell her friends she had no idea what I was talking about when she was driving me to high school. I think she can relate.

Reading your entry, however, I do wonder just how different the Scottish edumicational system is. Or are your own biases against "organized education" showing? It's not a bad thing to let your son know there are many ways of achieving success outside the system, but don't make him think he hasn't. I guess as one of those "intimidating" people (I'm slowly getting used to this label at 41) I don't want him undersold.

Sam, Problemchildbride said...

Well done, Rogan. He might well be getting these top marks, Kim, precisely because you're not pushing him as hard as many parents do.

He sounds like a fine fella with sensible parents.

Carole said...

It's nice that Rogan, and not the adjectives that describe him, is the most important thing to you. It's hard to not get sucked into the school pressured *ideal student* game. You seem to be doing it quite well though.

TheAmpuT said...

Maybe he figured out not to try to forge your signature but to forge teacher comments instead :-)

Fat Lazy Guy said...

Very cool, man. :)

Kim Ayres said...

Anna - don't worry, this is entirely my own biases against organised education showing

Sam - He's also starting to beat me at Chess, Draughts and Othello, unless I've had a coffee first.

Carole - I just love being a dad

TheAmpuT - I'd give him double marks for that

FLG - thanks :)

Restaurant Gal said...

Having been one who got the great comments, too, until I entered middle school at age 11, you are wise to applaud them and see them for what they are. Eventually, the work got harder for me, my peers took over my social life, and some not-so-great comments and grades landed on my report. I finally got it together by junior year in high school, only to flounder again my first two years in college. Ride the high marks with him, and let him know--as I know you will--that the challenging times are inevitable, and okay, too.

Mary Witzl said...

If I hadn't met Rogan, I might have assumed that you were just one of those parents skilled at bragging about their kids in a clever, self- effacing way. But having met Rogan, I know that if anything, you're playing down his achievements: he is one smart, nice kid. And good for you, resisting the temptation to make a huge thing of it!

I never learned how to keep my parents from seeing my report card, by the way. Some of us are just crap at stealth.

Nepharia said...

It's nice that there is someone else out there that thinks their children are the best things about their life. Personally, I could lose everything I've got, but if I have my entire family in tact, then I know I can always start again.

Congratulations that you have a son that is so bright and sociable. Good luck to both him and you in molding his success. :D

Kim Ayres said...

Restaurant Gal - To be honest, one of my biggest fears of his schooling is that he's not actually challenged enough. If he finds things too easy, he's less likely to learn to overcome things when the going gets tough.

Mary - Forging parental signatures just seemed natural. My mother once said to me, I don't care what you get up to so long as I don't get the police or angry parents knocking at the door. So if you are going to do anything dodgy, for goodness sake take precautions and don't get caught.

Nepharia - welcome to my ramblings and thank you for taking the time to comment :)

You're right, people are always more important than things

Conan Drumm said...

Well done the boy! A well-adjusted prefect or head boy in the making, by the sounds of it.

Kim Ayres said...

Conan - that's what worries me. I've never met a person who was truly successful in life who was a head boy. They ony ever learned how to please teachers rather than gain truly independent thought (though i'm happy for someone to disagree with me and prove me wrong)

Kanani said...

There are just so many routes one can take, aren't there? And yet, here in the US, there's only one that's acknowledged as "proper." That's the typical High School to College to Work route. They've done away with vocational education for the most part. Way too many kids out there --18 - 21 with no idea what they can do.

Good thing this year.... my son was and has been miserable in school. So the high school came up with an alternative --academics in the mornings, job training program in the afternoon, physical education on Fridays at the community college. He loved job training --well, who wouldn't? He's working at Disneyland! One of the perks is that they get in free on their off hours, so he's been overdosing with the girls going almost every weekend day and having a blast!

Yes, so many routes. We just have to make sure they know of them.

PI said...

'Actually, if you’re a parent, of course you do. It doesn’t matter how academic or otherwise your children are, they are perfect.'

Say again! Am I the only parent who used to dread Parent's Evenings.
'Does he intend to come back next year and take his O levels?' I was asked about the naughty elder one. 'Yes he bloody well does!' I almost said.

MikeP said...

As someone obligated to write those comments about students, I recognize that it is often more of a "system" than I would want it to be.

It is refreshing to be able to occasionally get to write nice things about nice students. It is frustrating when I spend time composing diplomatic and encouraging words about the poorer ones, and realizing no one will see the message and get the hint.

The people who least need to see a student report are often the only ones who take an interest in reviewing them.

Anonymous said...


Completely agree with the not being challenged comment. I was an AirForce Brat in the US. 6 schools in 5 different states by the time I was in the 7th grade (12 years old). In 2nd grade I was in an "experimental" class of 1st and 2nd graders. It was not a traditional class at all. Beginning of the year we were given a stack of books and told we had to get so much done in each "class" by the end of the year. Beyond that we could do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. We had students drag their desks into the hall to work there. I loved to sit on the large window sill and do my work there. Another student liked to lay on the floor in the back of the room. Every student working on different things. The teacher roamed and gave whatever assistance was needed. We moved about 3/4 of the way through the year. I was tested for placement at my next school and it was determined I was on average at the 6th or 7th grade level. Oh wait, you havent learned to write yet? You're still printing? Oh then into 2nd grade you go. I don't think I learned anything new for about 5 years. I didn't really learn how to study. I never had to. Once the work became "new" again, became difficult I was thrown for a loop. I got average grades most of the time from that point on. I often wonder, and sometimes wish that we hadn't moved, that I had gotten to continue that "experimental" education. I might have taken over the world and solved all of the planets problems by now...


Sarah said...

i can't believe he's already started high school.. time goes too fast sometimes.

Freakazojd said...

Well! Well done, Rogan. And I agree with what sam said - you are obviously allowing Rogan to stretch into whatever he wants to be and he is flourishing. What a wonderful thing, that. To me, at the start of my parenting journey, that's what I hope for with regard to my son: that he has the room to grow, that he does his personal best and that he enjoys what he is doing and who he is spending his time with. Beautiful.

Freakazojd said...

Also. GREAT new photo. I love it.

Kim Ayres said...

Kanani - I remember hearing a great talk by, I think it was the guy who founded Apple. He said that while nearly every Vice President of most American businesses had a business degree, none of the CEOs did. The system teaches you how to stay in the system, not think beyond it.

Pat - Parent's Evening is tomorrow night, but I can't see much point in going. We have a friend who's a high school teacher, and she said they never know what to say to parents of 1st years as it's all in the reports anyway

MikeP - I did think there were a few phrases in there written in teacher code. It reminds me a bit of estate agent's descriptions of buildings - "ideal for the DIY enthusiast" being a particularly dodgy one :)

Mia - sounds like a great system - I'd love to have been able to send my kids to something like that.

Still, don't let the formal education system prevent you from taking over the world. Global domination is in fashion at the moment

Sarah - he was trying to make out whether the shadow under his nose was the beginings of a 'tache or just a dirty mark the other day

Freakazojd - my mantra for Rogan, what I used to continually say to him as a baby was, "Grow up strong and healthy, be wise in the way of people and have a kind heart."

Woohoo! You're the 1st one to comment on the new photo!

MaLady said...

How is he going to rebel? By being the worst possible goody-two-shoes? ;-) Seriously, I'm sure he appreciates the freedom to learn through mistakes if it comes to that.

Kim Ayres said...

MaLady - he'll probably join the army...

MaLady said...

ouch. I don't even want to think of that.

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