I know grades don’t really matter. Grades are simply a reflection of how someone sees your work, your learning or your performance. They are not you and do not define you as a human. They cannot capture the complexities that comprise a human being. But they still hurt.
I opened up my son’s kindergarten report card and burst into tears. This is how they see my son? I hid in the kitchen and sobbed quietly into a dishtowel while my son watched a movie in the living room.
I am not disappointed in him. I am disappointed in the school. The entire report card was filled with grades that show he’s below level in every single area – including some I thought it was impossible to fail, like Visual Art and Phys. Ed. Apparently not at this school.
As a Visual Art teacher, with ten years of experience of teaching ‘at risk students’ I loved teaching Art, and watching my student’s confidence grow as I showed them parts of themselves they never imagined. One memorable student was assigned to my class after being kicked out of the shop programs for fighting and dropping a car off a lift. He created Monet-esque pastel drawings of landscapes and sunrises. His work was proudly displayed throughout the school. He was successful for the first time ever.
I love the different styles in Art, the wild abstractions and hyper-realism and everything in between. I love that anyone can be successful if their work is seen in the right light. Is that part of your drawing not working? Cut it off. Is your strength patterning? Abstract painting may be your thing. Is your strength neat printing and an orderly manner? Try graphic design. Literally, the sky’s the limit and everyone can create something of value.
Most students in my classes earn at least a B. They can demonstrate an understanding of theory, they apply the theory and knowledge to their work and analyse other art works. I have never had a single student fail Art.
My son just failed Visual Art, in Kindergarten. He FAILED Art. In KINDERGARTEN.
What are they thinking?
I only see things from a parent’s perspective, but in this year I’ve seen my son from happily painting swamps, volcanoes and abstract works to refusing to do anything involving a pencil or paper. He cries when he’s asked to sign his name, wailing that he can’t make straight lines.
Well, neither can I. In my time as an artist I’ve lost such a significant amount of mobility in my hands and fingers to the point that I cannot draw or paint anything like I used to. I used to do hyper-realistic drawings and paintings. Now my fingers don’t work to hold a brush or pencil tight enough. So I embrace the full body movements of abstract expressionism and splash colour across enormous canvases.
But I never could draw a straight line. The precision of graphic design is not for me. And I never failed Art for that.
So when I think of the report card that I sobbed over, listing all of my son’s failings and shortcomings, I know deep down that he did not fail. The school did.