It’s report card season, that time when teachers churn out more euphemisms than the Department of Defense did when Bush was in power. I should know: I’m a teacher. And, like my colleagues, I can turn the phrase “should stop spitting on his notebook” into “would benefit from controlling his enthusiasm.”
Still, as useless as euphemisms may seem to be, they are preferable to dysphemisms, those cranky uncles with sharp tongues. Which student – or adult — wants to hear “Your writing sucks and you’re a lazy little shit”?
With all this doublespeak, there is a certain amount of interpretation needed when you read your child’s report card. Here are three examples submitted by friends, taken from their kids’ actual report cards.
1. “She marches to the beat of her own drum.”
Translation: She is a space-cadet and rarely follows directions. I do, however, envy her free spirit, something I – as a teacher – am not allowed to show).
2. “He is a social boy who is well liked by his peers. He is starting to develop good listening skills.”
Translation (provided by my cousin, another teacher): He doesn’t shut up and he doesn’t listen either.
3. “To improve more, she would benefit from writing clearly.”
Translation: I can’t understand a thing she says. She is functionally illiterate. She needs to start memorizing this phrase now: do you want fries with that?Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on DiscoverySchool.com
I recently finished 10,000 words of report card comments for my eighth and ninth grade students. With half my brain fried, I decided to write comments that demonstrate my kids’ personalities. To help you out, I’ve translated the euphemisms.
William is a student who has great potential [i.e. We actually worried he’d never smile]. He has occasionally shown a great effort [like when he challenged his sister to a spitting contest]. I am worried that he uses his sense of humour too liberally [like the time he peed on Minnie Mouse at home – on purpose].
Vivian is an extremely conscientious student [She needs a life, and she’s only five]. She would benefit from being more forgiving of herself; too often, she obsesses over inconsequential details [like the time she invaded her mother’s make up, spreading foundation evenly over the beige carpet].
So when you open your child’s report card, go on a Euphemism Scavenger Hunt. Feel free to post your favourite phrases below. And remember, if the report card seems too good to be true, it’s likely fake.