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Displays A Good Attitude

Updated on May 9, 2011

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A Good Compliment?

I love listening to teachers discussing report cards. You can tell by the tone of their voice which student deserves to pass and which student is passing out of generosity/pity. You can also tell by what personal comments are added to the card which students are more colorful than others.

In grade school, we were given stars, for example an “A.C.E.” (attitude, conduct and effort) star, on our report card to denote if were doing well or not. If your card was covered with stars, you were a well-rounded, straight A student. If you had no stars, you were “special” and “misunderstood.” If you had only the “A.C.E” star you were dumb, but kind. Having this star alone meant you were failing at least one subject, but showed that you were trying and could take your misfortune well. If you had all of the stars, but this one, you were intelligent and talented, but calculating and rude. We were told by our teachers to strive to always get the “A.C.E.”

The comment “good attitude” comes up often in these report card discussions. “Oh I don’t know what to put!” one teacher says. “Just put ‘Good Attitude’” replies another. What does it really mean to have “good attitude”?

Throughout my life, this phrase has always sounded positive to me. Yet, after some thought, it appears to be more of a backhanded compliment. To say a student has “good attitude” and “good attitude” alone is equal to saying that they are incapable of passing a test, but it doesn’t let it bother them. In other words, as my Mom often says, “cute, but dumb.” These teachers, not wanting to offend parents or bring down their students, use this phrase so that the student’s report card won’t be free of comments. What they fail to realize is that academically inept students aren’t really all that “dumb.” They know just as well as their parents and teachers do what “good attitude” means and what it sounds like when other kids tease them about it. If there was an option to put “Tries really hard, but can’t seem to score higher due to something beyond their control” I’m sure they would prefer that. It sounds kinder and is certainly more honest.

To jump ahead some years, “good attitude” is just as condescending as an adult. When you display “good attitude” in the workplace, what does it really mean? Does it mean you are good at pretending you like your job? Does it mean you’re so beaten down that you’ll do anything for your boss? True, a compliment is still a compliment, but how loaded can a compliment get before it turns into Mr. Hyde?

As with many things, less is better than more. Perhaps these teachers and bosses should write less on these forms and leave more to the imagination. Would it really be wrong for these kids to believe they were worth more than this generic compliment? It could be possible that I just have a “bad attitude” in thinking such a thing.


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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 6 years ago

      You make a good point. Teachers should strive to write notes that are unique to a child and really contribute to his/her growth.

    • LowellWriter profile image

      L.A. Walsh 8 years ago from Lowell, MA

      Thank you for sharing. I'm really happy you're a teacher now, proving to those teachers that they were wrong. More teachers should be like you, Nikgigmatc!

    • Nikgigmatc profile image

      Nikgigmatc 8 years ago

      I enjoy the fact that I am a High School teacher and that there is no seperate marking for "attitude" but it goes with behavior and that counts towards your specific average in class. Some of my studetns who behave well similarily do well in class and those who act up constantly have lower test scores. I find it to be a very intersting similarity. I was the kid in grammer school, as you wrote Lowellwriter, that was cute but dumb. I was a talkative hyper kid and I hated how much my teachers looked down upon me for asking a lot of silly questions. Now as a teacher, I look for those same students and I try to help them out more because I understand what it's like to come home with a few stars and a comment that says "wonderful to have in class but needs to work harder."