Sorted: Educators’ Praise as Evidence of Their Ideologies

According to one theory about the Hogwarts Houses and the Sorting Hat, students are not sorted by what they are best at. Rather, they are sorted by what they value most. Most of the characters in the series contain multiple traits from each of the four houses, but the house they are sorted into indicates which traits they value most.

As I continue to work on my dissertation’s central question (what is education, according to different cultures?) I have been asking what each system of education values. It stands to reason that the traits praised by educators are the ones they see as the goal of education.

My own report cards from elementary school provide an interesting window into this question. I was usually an excellent student, with some notable exceptions. But what exactly each teacher praises is telling.

Some teachers who wrote my report card comments value academics, self-discipline, and effort. Some don’t mention academics at all, and instead focus entirely on personality. Most are a mix of the two. 

Many talk about my contribution to the class, and many mention a wish that I provide nachas to my parents – as if the purpose of my excellence is to benefit my parents and community, not primarily to help propel my own future.

My favorite of these is my eighth grade Secular Studies report card. Mrs. Mitnick was my favorite teacher in elementary/middle school, because she so obviously valued intelligence and academic success for personal benefit. And her comments reflect that. Thank you, Mrs. Malky Mitnick ❤

Below are images and transcriptions of my Jewish Studies and Secular Studies from Pre-1-A through 8th Grade (missing a few).

Pre-1-A: Esther Shaindel is doing very well scholastically and is a pleasure to have in class.
Jewish Studies Grade 1: Term 1: "Esther Shaindel is a sweet and smart girl. She enjoys learning and participates nicely in class." Term 2: "'All good things wrapped in one.' Esther Shaindel is one gem of a student. She makes every day a happy day." Term 3: "It was a pleasuring [sic] to have Esther Shaindel as a student. She was a great asset to the class. May you continue to see much nachas from her. Have a happy and healthy summer."
Secular Studies Grade 1: Term 1: "Esther Shaindel shows great interest in learning and is doing very well. Keep up the good work!" Term 2: "Esther Shaindel's enthusiastic attitude is a big asset to our class! She continues to do very well! Keep it up!" Term 3: "Esther Shaindel was a great pleasure to teach this year! Her enthusiasm and fine midos should always stay with her! Have a wonderful summer!"
Jewish Studies Grade 2: Term 1: "Esther Shaindel is doing very nicely. She adds so much to our class. Esther Shaindel is really a pleasure to teach! Thank you for all your cooperation at home." Term 2: "Esther Shaindel is a gem! Shep nachas! K"ah! [kein ayin hara, no evil eye]" Term 3: "It was a pleasure teaching Esther Shaindel this year! May she continue to be a source of Nachas! Have a nice summer!"
Secular Studies Grade 2: Term 1: "Esther Shaindel is a very sweet girl. She is well behaved at all times. She is a fine student." Term 2: "Esther Shaindel is a fine, well-behaved child. She is doing above average work. Shep Nachas!" Term 3: "It was a pleasure to have Esther Shaindel as a student this year. Good luck in 3rd grade!"
Jewish Studies Grade 3: Term 1: "Esther Shaindel is a good girl and excels in her studies!" Term 2: "Esther Shaindel continues in her excelling studies!" Term 3: "Esther Shaindel is a dear girl and an excellent student! May you continue to see much nachas from her!"
Secular Studies Grade 3: Term 1: "Esther Shaindel is doing good work in a most conscientious manner. Keep it up!" Term 2: Esther Shaindel continues to be a very good student in all areas." Term 3: Esther Shaindel is a lovely girl and has been a pleasure to have in class. Have much nachas and a nice summer."
Jewish Studies Grade 4: Term 1:  "Esther Shaindel works hard and succeeds thank god in her work. She has a good heart and is always ready to help her friends." Term 2: [blank] Term 3: "It was very pleasant to teach Esther Shaindel. May it be god's will that you see much nachas from her."
Secular Studies Grade4: Term 1: "Esther Shaindel's good work is a reflection of her fine attitude and effort." Term 2: "Esther Shaindel continues to do her work in a most conscientious manner." Term 3: "It was a pleasure having Esther Shaindel in my class. Have a nice summer."
Jewish Studies Grade 5: Term 1: "Esther Shaindel is a bright student and has added nicely to our class discussions." Term 2: "Although Esther Shaindel went through a difficult stage this term she was still able to pull through with good grades -even without the effort. I would like to see her new attitude and behavior match her intelligence." Term 3: "Have a wonderful summer!"
Jewish Studies Grade 6: Term 1: "Esther Shaindel is a bright student, who excels in her studies. She is a clear thinker and grasps new ideas readily. I hope to see improvement in completion of her homework assignments. Term 2: [blank] Term 3: "It was a pleasure having Esther Shaindel in my class. Have a wonderful summer!"
Secular Studies Grade 6: Term 1: "Esther Shaindel is doing wonderfully in all areas! A pleasure to have!" Term 2: "Esther Shaindel continues to enhance general discussions with her participation. Well done!" Term 3: "Esther Shaindel has done superbly in all areas! Have a wonderful summer!"
Jewish Studies Grade 7: Term 1: [blank] Term 2: [black] Term 3: "Esther Shaindel's quick wit, sense of humor and midos tovos really added to our class!"
Secular Studies Grade 7: Term 1: "Esther Shaindel is a tremendous asset to our class. Her effort and participation are truly a pleasure." Term 2: "Esther Shaindel continues to do nicely in her schoolwork. She is a pleasure to teach." Term 3: "Esther Shaindel has added to our class tremendously. She has been an absolute pleasure to teach. Have a nice summer!"
Secular Studies Grade 8: Term 1: "Esther Shaindel is a confident and intelligent student. She performs her best academically and is a strong participant." Term 2: "Esther Shaindel continues to succeed scholastically. She appreciates challenging work and handles her responsibilities maturely." Term 3: "Esther Shaindel was a consistently diligent and cooperative student. Her maturity and knowledge enhanced class discussions."

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