I still recall the sheer terror of report day when I was at school. I would try to cook up any number of reasons why that dreaded sheet of A4 paper wouldn't make it home. Could I claim to be the only pupil the teachers deemed so outstanding as to not need a report? On past form I felt this claim probably wouldn't fly.
I could lose it, destroy it, shred it or find some other way to blast it out of existence, but even before the days of computerisation there was probably a carbon copy of it it somewhere. Either that or my disgruntled teachers would remember word for word each criticism they had to level against me and would relish the chance to relay the report verbatim to my parents.
When I started at school I was mystified by the rules and regulations that surrounded education. My home life was a ramshackle affair that ran on mess and chaos, so I really didn't understand why it was wrong to simply get up and go to the toilet when you needed a wee, why you needed to put your hand up and wait to be asked to speak or why you shouldn't rest your feet on the desk in front if that made you more comfortable? Of course when asked 'Would you be behave like this at home?', my innocent reply of 'Yes', was interpreted as insubordination leading to a trip to the headmaster's office.
The strongest memory I have of my primary school is picking away at the khaki hessian board that was hung outside his office. Endlessly pinning and unpinning the spare drawing pins used to stick up school notices. I can feel it's hairy roughness under my fingers and make out the uniform pattern of the fabric, bumpy and scratchy to the touch.
It is perhaps no wonder that my school career was blighted by poor reports that complained of my insufficient regard for authority, my failure to fulfil potential, my disruptive nature in class, my stubborn refusal to ever apologise to anyone.... As one form teacher from my secondary school sighed 'Ursula has an answer for everything'. You would think this would be a positive trait in an educational establishment, but I am pretty sure it was not meant as a compliment.
I just thank my lucky stars that so far my boys have not trodden in my footsteps when it comes to reports. I suspect this is in part due to their altogether more pleasant natures, but also because schools are much kinder, more friendly places than they were in the late 70s. In this brave new multicultural world differences are to be celebrated rather than quashed, which means an odd bod like me would probably have been singled out for extra care and attention rather than relegated to endless hessian gazing.
So far report day has been an occasion of celebration, last year the eldest managed to net a full brace of A grades and a report so flattering that it brought a tear to my eye. So different from the school reports of his dear old mum.
I do have an inkling that the plain sailing might not last forever as I see far too much of myself in my youngest boy. He shares my utter rejection of the concept of compromise and insatiable desire to get my own way, a combination that is, I fear, destined to challenge future teachers. As yet he is still at the Playdough and Phonics end of his education, so for now I imagine his educators think these are things he will grow out of. I can hear my husband's hollow laugher in my head as I type these words and he knows better.
Despite my own mortifying experiences, I can't help feeling a fizz of anticipation on report day for my boys. I can't wait to rip open those envelopes and read all about how much they are liked and appreciated by their teachers. How well they are doing and how much they have achieved. Perhaps if I had ever managed to deliver such a welcome package to my parents report day would not have such a bittersweet flavour.