I was on the phone with a mom today who told me this story about her son, who thinks of himself as a lousy student who can’t do math and isn’t much better at other things. She told me:
“I was filling out the form [for school] and I asked him what he thought his new teacher should know about him. If there were one thing he’d want her to know, what would it be? He sat there for a minute, looking out the window, and then as he went back to what he was doing he said ‘Tell them I’m kind.'”
This child knows that kindness is not the currency of schooling. He knows that it isn’t what anyone will be measuring when he gets there. And maybe he thinks that kindness is all he has to offer, in spite of its relatively low value in the eyes of the institution (as indicated by the fact that it doesn’t appear on any report card he’s ever seen or heard of).
Or maybe he thinks it’s important, and thinks that while his past performance on timed math tests and the like suggests he doesn’t have what school is looking for, he does have something that matters, or something that should.