Making the Grade

I tried my hand at Haiku this week as my way of playfully counting down the days ’til the end of the school year, but I knew my fling with poetry wouldn’t last long. In fact, it didn’t even last a full week before I bid Haiku adieu.

Parting is such sweet sorrow. ~ William Shakespeare

This time of year always brings with it a mixed bag of feelings: joy, sadness, anxiety, expectancy, curiosity, surprise, and exhaustion. Most of us start this journey strong, but we need lots of fuel and rest to make it across the finish line with dignity. This year seemed to zip by as the busyness of this business kept me mired in paperwork, parent meetings, counseling sessions with the little people, courageous conversations with the big people — all the while trying to carve out time to do those things I love most — mentoring, visiting classrooms, coaching, celebrating successes, and building relationships. As I reflect on my performance each day, I realize that I’m a hard grader. I extend more grace to others than I do to myself sometimes. I’m getting better at cutting myself some slack. In fact, I missed a deadline this week, and I was fine with it. Missing a deadline or two doesn’t define me; it just means that I’m human, and I like being human.

A few weeks ago, my co-leaders and I met to plan our end-of-year meeting with our respective teams. We always draft an agenda with three or four bullet points to share with our folks. We include data, what we can do to support them, and any news from on high. This time one of my co-leaders suggested that we add something new to the agenda — our report card. I was comfortable with everything on the agenda except that. Why is that (you might ask)? Surely I’m used to being assessed on my effectiveness by now. We’ve been graded on one thing or another for most of our lives. We work so hard to achieve success, and ultimately, someone else’s perception of our work is what defines us for that year.

I remember getting my report card as a kid, and I was so cocky. My neighbors would always ask me Did you pass, Michelle? I would always respond, Of course! What a cocky little kid! If anyone had asked to see my conduct grade, I wouldn’t have been too willing to share that info. A grade of B or C in conduct was cause for celebration in my house.


Reluctantly, I added the words “My Report Card” to the agenda — knowing this wasn’t about how much I knew. This was more like getting a grade for conduct. The best part about this assessment of my effectiveness is that I’ve been with this same group for nearly three years. If anyone in the building knows me, they do. I also know that they will be honest. As they completed my informal evaluation, they filed out silently — one by one. A couple stayed behind to chat as I gathered the pieces of paper that would define me for that year.

I left the room — unsorted report card comments in hand — being careful not to drop any as I walked the short distance to my office. I didn’t have time to sort them since the dismissal bell was about to ring, and I had to stop by the office to sign a few letters before heading outside.  I came back in after bus duty twenty minutes later and began to sort my fate into piles of pluses and deltas.

As I read each one, I realized that I wasted time fretting about My Report Card, knowing that my team would be fair and honest. I wasted time beating myself up about things I couldn’t make time for, knowing that my team would understand. I wasted time worrying that others would perceive me as lazy if they didn’t see me accumulating 10 – 15 thousand steps each day. The best use of my time that Monday was spent reading every assessment filled with memories I had long forgotten, successes I hadn’t taken time to savor, moments I mentored without realizing it, and thank you messages I was almost too full to read.

People may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. 

~Carl W. Buehner

May everyone you encounter feel valued after leaving you. May your time with others bless you immensely. The last three years of my professional life have been filled with more than my fair share of joy, success, and friendship. For the first time in my life, I feel like I finally received a good conduct grade, and that’s still cause for celebration in my house.

Laissez le bontemps rouler, cher!

(Loose translation — Let the good times roll, baby!)

8 Thoughts

  1. Great post Michelle! We often don’t get to hear or see the impact we make on others so I am thankful that the Lord allowed you to savor those moments. I was just saying to a few friends that recently, when I have been at a few events with people who didn’t know me, I always left feeling that I wasn’t one of the ones who would be remembered. Yet, it is true that people don’t forget how you make them feel and the older I get, the more I desire for the impact I have on others to be a positive one, whether I spend 5 hours with them or 5 mins. More importantly, I desire for them to see the joy, love and peace emanating from One person who goes with me wherever I go. Keep make the grade for good conduct. I sure have been a beneficiary of it!

    1. It’s surprising when we do find out, perhaps third hand down the road, what an impact we have made with even a few minutes of an encounter, a small kindness or smile. It doesn’t take much. God can stretch what seems like a little thing to us into a mile of good fruit for someone else!

  2. What a grand idea – I think I’ll incorporate it at my Sunday School class! And one of my favorite quotes I’ve also heard attributed to Maya Angelou. Regardless of who said it first, truth is truth. A lovely post, Michelle!

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