My eldest wasn’t pleased with his most recent school report. His effort grades had slipped a bit from As and Bs to Bs and Cs, and his performance had dropped slightly in a couple of areas. But it had also gone up in many areas too. It wasn’t a bad report in any way and I wasn’t cross or unhappy with it.
He felt it was a bit unjust, but I suspected the effort grades were accurate (they would certainly reflect the effort he puts in at home, in fact they might be a bit generous for the effort he puts in at home!). The school is always clear that a C is the expected effort grade – to get an A or a B is a big thing, it shouldn’t be expected. Plus he’d had the change of teachers for the new school year and maybe the new teachers marked a bit harder than last year’s teachers.
I suspect there’s an element of ‘sailing under the radar’ as kids like my son often do, especially in big schools. He’s not brilliantly clever, he doesn’t excel in anything, but he’s pretty bright. And he’s well behaved. In short, he’s exactly the sort of kid that doesn’t get noticed. And when it comes to writing a report at October half-term, it’s just possible the teachers might not entirely know who they’re writing about when they’re teaching 200-odd kids.
At parents’ evening, his teacher told him it was a good report. Then there was a BUT. It was a good report, but it’s not quite the report she was expecting from him. It’s not a reflection of the boy she sees.
‘Well the problem is, when you’re middle ability… ‘
And she cut him off before he could get any further. She told him straight. He’s NOT middle ability.
He’s a bright boy. He’s articulate. He likes to ask and answer questions in class. He’s interested in current affairs and the world around him. He has a really good general knowledge.
But he has cast himself into a role. He’s found his place and he’s decided he’s the ‘middle ability kid’. He’s quite happy to coast along in the belief he’s middle ability. And it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So he will achieve what the middle ability kid achieves – C grades, maybe scrape some Bs if he’s lucky and works hard. Because he’s not clever. He’s just middle ability.
His problem is, he’s spent too many years living in the shadow of his incredibly intelligent brother and his determined and high achieving sister. Having siblings like that has distorted his view of what intelligence really is. He now doesn’t realise that he’s intelligent too. The truth is, his sister is probably no cleverer than him. The only thing that sets them apart is her incredible determination and work ethic.
My son is intelligent. He should be getting As and Bs at GCSEs. Any less won’t be a true reflection of his abilities. He’s in year 9 now and options are just around the corner. It’s time to start working harder and believing in himself, and proving to himself and to all of us that he is not a middle ability kid.