I recently found an
old manila envelope beneath a pile of personal papers in one of my desk drawers.
It contained my report card from kindergarten.
The year was 1957.
To me, this simple
two-page document is an excellent example of what our culture thinks is
important to consider when grading the performance of a five-year-old.
According to the check marks, I was a child who used "self
control" and "an acceptable voice."
There are other satisfactory marks for "correct posture" and
"relaxes during rest period." In
fact, I was "satisfactory" all around, although I noticed that
"outstanding" was another option.
I now know that this was the best report card I was ever going to get.
After the first of
two grading periods my teacher wrote "Barrett is a well-adjusted
child," and I guess I remained so for the rest of the year.
There are no other comments.
I hadn't gone to
preschool, so I guess that this was the first official report written about my
way of being in the world. I'm sure
my father breathed a sigh of relief, and that my mother simply nodded her
assent. She expected nothing less.
wonder about the child described here. I realize that the teacher couldn't have
guessed about my inner life, nor would she have had the time. They didn't call
is "baby boomers" for nothing. To me, this card reports that I was
adequately under control, that I didn't disrupt things.
I was quiet, attentive and sat up straight.
I feel that most of
what my patients need to do in order to relieve their pain needn't be taught.
My attitude when handling others is that the system is fully capable of
the corrective movement, but that it must the reminded of this.
We don't lose the ability to instinctively correct; we are just trained
to forget it. I'm sure that this
training is formalized with our first exposure to education. My old report card is clearly a record of its success in my
case. I know that what was so
"satisfactory" about me was my ability to suppress my normal desire
for comfort and self-expression, especially ways of expressing my body.
I was encouraged to pose and posture, how to be something I wasn't.
Like most of us, I
probably rebelled at first. I
shifted in my seat, I looked around at things other than my own work, I may have
even spoken out of turn. I remember
being seated in the corner just once, utterly ashamed. It was enough to mold me into "a well adjusted
I know that if
children aren't given some structure and order that teaching them in groups
would be more difficult. But I
wonder if the conscious suppression of our desire for comfort is entirely
necessary. Long before I was
fully-grown I had forgotten how to self-correct beyond an inadequate, furtive
shifting. I had to the reminded
that comfort sometimes requires something far more elaborate and certainly less
socially acceptable. Reminding my
patients of this while playing a role that does not include the judgment we
endure in school is what I do most of the day, and it seems to be therapeutic.
If I were to be
graded today, my teachers might find me less than satisfactory in many ways,
and, perhaps, outstanding in a few. I
doubt that "well adjusted" would come to mind.
I'm through worrying about my posture, and I don't always use an