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A Note from Principal Tony Byers: February 2018

Dear Families,

We sent progress reports home at the end of January, and then I received my daughter’s progress report a couple days later. It was waiting for me on our kitchen counter when I got home after school. There’s no reason why I should have been nervous to read it. My daughter is 4 and still in nursery school. Her academic career has hardly begun. Moreover, as a developmental psychologist, former preschool and kindergarten teacher, and now as an elementary school principal, I have a good sense of how her academic and social development compares to her peers and where she could use support. For example, despite years of stressing the importance of a proper pencil grip prior to kindergarten, my daughter holds her pencil as if to strangle it. She loves to draw, and draws well with her odd grip, so I can’t bring myself to break her of the habit. With sincere regret, I’m planning to leave that to her frustrated kindergarten teacher.

Even though I was confident that I knew the content of her progress report, I was still nervous to read it. As an educator, I can step back and coolly assess my daughter’s progress, but as her father, I just want somebody else to tell me that she’s going to be okay… in writing. And I’ll admit that I feel a sense of relief whenever she gets a checkmark in the leftmost column. But I know, as an educator, that the purpose of my daughter’s progress report is not to provoke relief or panic. Instead, it’s one piece of information, albeit an important one, that informs how I can support my child. Sometimes this means initiating a conversation with her teachers about how I can help build her academic and social skills at home, and sometimes it points to the importance of seeking other outside support and advice. I even intend to share my daughter’s progress report with her pediatrician at her next check up, just so everybody is on the same page.

If, like me, you’re looking for some magical cut off in your child’s progress report which indicates the need to worry, or not, you’re not going to find it. You’re a parent or caregiver, so your job is worry a little bit. I won’t try to tell you otherwise. But with your child’s progress report in hand, maybe you can worry a little more productively and take some small concrete action. Maybe your child’s progress report helps you ask the right questions of the right people, or empowers you to seek and/or provide specific support at home. Or maybe it provides an opportunity to have a reflective conversation with your child about how they think they’re doing and to set some academic and social goals. One of the most powerful ways to support students is simply to let them know that all adults in their lives share information, have common expectations, and are working together towards the same end: to help them become hardworking, intellectually curious, and above all kind and caring members of our community. The challenge, of course, is to worry about our children, while ensuring that our worries don’t become their own. It’s no easy task.

Best,

Tony