As a college broadcasting instructor, it’s my responsibility to give each of my students an update on his or her performance about halfway through each semester. The report is designed to praise students for their positive achievements, offer suggestions on how they might improve in other areas and, maybe most importantly, catch any trouble spots before it’s too late.
While recently rummaging through my mother’s house in preparation for selling the old place, I came across my first-grade report card from 1959. Back in the day, they apparently kept it pretty simple. Despite a number of categories, the options for performance were few. “S” stood for “satisfactory” and “N” for “not satisfactory.” You can imagine my relief when I read “S” across the board, particularly proud that I’d passed the muster in Personal Grooming Habits. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder how much my parents could draw from these generic observations.
Nowadays, we tend to love euphemisms. “Excellent,” “Very Good” and “Good” are all words worthy of praise. When the report tends to lean closer to the other side of the ledger, a “Needs Improvement” just sounds more comforting than that dreaded “N.” And if a student noticed there were numerous areas in which he or she needed improvement, that student got the message without being destroyed in Week Three.
So, as a former TV sportscaster and longtime Minnesota sports fan, here goes my attempt to give this year’s major-league pro baseball team a quick review of its first-half progress, using the kinder, gentler grading system. Of course, I’ve also afforded myself an opportunity to include “instructor comments” for each category — wordplay optional:
Student: Minnie Sota
Program: Major League Baseball
Course/Section: American League/Central Division
Mod: Summer, 2015
Current Overall Grade: Very Good
Reasons for current grade:
49 wins, 40 losses. This is nine games better than your record at this time last year; a significant improvement. After a sluggish start in Week One, you have won 48 of your last 82 games, giving us great hope for a strong finish in October. Minnie, you and Casey Royals have demonstrated fine leadership in my classroom. Keep up the good work!
Starting Pitching: Very Good
Despite that little problem with performance enhancing drugs revealed in early April, I’ve been impressed with your turnaround from last year. Tutor Neil Allen informs me that you’ve been working hard to deliver quality starts and more strikeouts than in the past. I like your depth and youthful enthusiasm!
Relief Pitching: Good/Needs Improvement
Minnie, I absolutely love how you’ve been Perkin’ up at the end of our class sessions! You seem to save your best work for the close of the day. But we still need to see improvement in those middle innings. Perhaps a more Fien-dish personality from time to time isn’t a bad thing. Take a lesson from one of my former students, Everyday Eddie Guardado, who was a model of consistency.
Hitting: Very Good
Your first half had a bit of a slide in June, but lately you’ve been like a Bull Dozier at the plate! Don’t be just an ordinary Joe these next few months! Show me you can be a Hunter and provide Plouffe Positive that you’re able to shine in the Major Leagues. If we see continued success in August, we just might be watching you join the post-season before the Sano flies.
Defense: Very Good
I’m going to be honest with you, Minnie. You’re not as quick as Casey yet. But we’ve covered a lot of ground lately and you seem to scoop up my lecture questions very well. I’m not ready to say you’re outstanding in your field, but if you do your homework and limit those short stops to the restroom, you’ll catch on fast.
Minnie, I’m so pleased to hear you’ve been spending time outside the classroom with your first-year mentor, Molly! Molly took this course long ago and passed with flying colors. I see a relaxed confidence that was missing last year. If you listen to Molly’s advice, I see no reason why you can’t walk off campus often, with your head held high.
I look forward to charting your progress these next few months. I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen but remember that there are still some major tests ahead! So far though, you’re right on Target!
Instructor’s Name: Thomas W. Coyne 7/16/15