The studied among you may have gleaned that my writing is sparse, laboured, and frighteningly irregular lately. Alas I have faltered in my daily writing goals, those regulated flows of verbiage that I feel help to calm the raging flatulence and oh-look-a-pretty-sparkly-thing distractions of my weary being. I often feel like these words are my steam valve, the coal exhaust of keeping the engine of my heart working each day.
But sometimes even the exhaust gets exhausted, most particularly when real life intervenes. Some of you may recall that I am now a gainfully employed person. Thought my demeanour and usual writing topics may imply that I am shiftless bon-vivant surviving on nothing but smiles and summer wine, I do actually work for a living, and we are rapidly approaching the end of the year.
The end of year: a time of tumult and assessment and grading. A time when the students get used to the phrase “please be independent” as I call over this or that child to add or count or read or tell me their thoughts on inventions. A time of murky, sticky hot summer days that stretch out into forever. A time for dreaming of an ice cream truck. A time of goodbye, a time of preparation, a time of reflection. A time when the children shake like unbound electrons, barely contained within four walls, so prepared are they for Grade 2, for summer, for all the sunshine and freedom they can possibly imagine.
It’s also a time for report cards.
There are necessary components to a successful report-writing session. Writing implements, certainly. A laptop to record your information. Soft music to drone you into the appropriate frenzy of productivity. Caffeine for now, and alcohol for after, the sweet promise you make to yourself. Enormous, hulking mountains of student work. Pages and pages of my own script, harried and fraught and running in absent-minded italics, encapsulating a year in the life of 20 children, a still-frame of youth made from my hands.
There is a special kind of meditative haze you sink into as you write and fine-tune and carefully, delicately create report card comments. You must be exceptionally deliberate as you have to balance word count and character count and mitigate parental reaction and administrator expectation and include every buzzword from every day of professional development that you can think of. Not that this terrifies me: honing words from the raw ore of my raging psychological depths is practically my most beloved hobby.
But my audience in this arena is not drawn by the allure of my words, by the way my similes dance and fly. I must collate a year’s-worth of information into 700 pristine, gleaming characters of pedagogical perfection, and I should probably also try to make plentiful references to the Learner Profile.
And thus I drift into my reporting fugue. I am no longer a man but a vessel, a portal through which living and learning history flows. Pages in graphite, photographs and recordings flow through my eyes and out my fingers, transmuted by my meditative powers. I am the receptacle. I am the report card. I have never been anything but the report card.
When I shake free hours later, dozens of comments have flown from my fingers. I am soaked in sweat, my fingers ache, and I think I am partially blind. I crawl into bed and cradle a beer like a childhood soother and attempt to sleep, and in my dreams I imagine people actually reading my report card comments instead of skipping them and going right to the grades. It is a sweet dream, and I fall into it.