Thursday, October 2, 2008

Doing His Best Work

Grades in kindergarten are kind of silly. Even the school sort of acknowledges this, what with their star-smiley face-check mark grading system:

☆ = I did my best work.
☺ = I made some mistakes.
✓ = I did not do my best work.

Back when Sam was in kindergarten, lo these many months ago, grades really mattered to him. Even though we tried not to make a big deal out of them, Sam would get really upset if he didn't get stars.

No matter how silly stars versus smiley faces for coloring are, grades for Jack in kindergarten are not just silly, but entirely irrelevant as far as I'm concerned. At this point in time, Jack has the academic knowledge he needs. That will change, but for now I'm just concerned with his adapting to school and learning to do his work. I really couldn't care less if he colors in the lines.

But the school does, and up to this week, probably 95% of Jack's work has come home with a check mark on it. I didn't know if Jack cared and I was not sure if I should even bring it up to him because I didn't want to make him feel bad about it. That kid doesn't need any more pressure.

But we were in the car the other day and he started talking about stars and smiley faces. I asked him if he wanted smiley faces and stars and he said yes. I asked if anyone told him what he has to do to get stars and smiley faces and he said no.

So since then, we've been working with him a little harder on strategies for staying in the lines, and for focusing on his work, and giving his best effort. This week he's brought home papers featuring not only check marks and the occasional smiley face, but a fair number of stars as well.

I can't tell the difference between his check mark work and his star work. But I'm sure it has something to do with whether he's using his whole or half-ass while he's working on it. I appreciate that his teachers notice that.

Today he came home with a half-finished paper from school with a note to complete it. I spent some time pinning him to the couch with a lap desk. Then before he started coloring, he said, "I'll make a few mistakes and then I'll get a smiley face."

He colored part of it and said, "I made a few mistakes." And he gave himself a smiley face. Then he colored the rest of it. And gave himself a star.

I'm curious to see what the teacher will give him. But for now, there's not a check mark to be seen.


  1. Grades are one of my biggest pet peeves...especially when they are more about compliance than learning. Bubba is either getting scolded for not completing something or not transitioning (compliantly) to the next thing (hello!! he doesn't want to tansition because he's trying to finish what he is doing). Poor kid just can't win!

    Jack gets 5 stars in my book. :)

  2. So no one told Jack what he has to do to get stars and smiley faces? So not only are they silly but the kids don't know what the expectations are for the ridiculous grading system? I'm all for him self grading then and if he comes over to my house, I'd happily give him a stamp or a sticker on his paper just because!

  3. Yeah for Jack for giving himself his own smiley face and star.


  4. I'm giving him a star while wearing a smiley face.

  5. That's great! Good for him!

    I'm not sure what I think about the grading thing. Someone should have thought to talk to him about what he needed to do, but I can see why that might have fallen through the cracks, I suppose. I'm glad that he's getting stars now, and I think I'm also glad he wasn't before, since that might have meant they were giving him a star just because they thought he wasn't capable of more, of because they were patronizing him. He's doing a good job, and being recognized for it. Good! :)

  6. Your posts about Jack are really so great. I relate, I cheer you on, I comiserate, I read all your love for Jack in every word you write. This fellow kindergarten mom is right with you as we all (re)learn the rules of being 5. And I don't know about you, but I am already totally overwhelmed by the amount of homework - shoot, REAL school work - a 5 year old gets. Its overwhelming.

  7. Y'know that would piss me off. He should have some idea what he's shooting for. Sheesh!

    Mom gets all stars for doing better than the school!

  8. Grades for coloring? I would have failed kindergarden.

    Our grades are S (Satisfactory), P (Progressing with Effort) and N (Needs Improvement). However, the reports I get make absolutely no sense to me. For example, I just spoke with Joey's teacher on Wednesday and was told how he is beyond the work she gives him and is bored. But the report card? Everything graded by that teacher says "P."


  9. Ahh, here in Georgia, you get a number grade, ie 98 A, 88 B. No sugar coating around here. You'd better start Kindy reading on a second grade level or 'lo be to you'!

    Site words are given in Pre-K.

    They've got to jump in swimming...

    So glad to see a reasonable kindergarten somewhere in America...

  10. LOL, so he's just decided to save the teacher the trouble and grade his own work!!! Good idea! I don't think Little Bear gets grades in kindergarten yet... so far I've just seen stickers on her papers!


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