Midterms Memories

Midterms have come and gone, and while I don’t have any traditional exams as a grad student, I’m still incredibly busy at this halfway point. My two children are in school and we just had our first ever virtual parent-teacher conference to discuss how they are doing. That got me to thinking about what kind of report cards and school reports we have in our collections, and I found a few items I want to share with you today.

I found this report especially interesting because my oldest son is in fourth grade this year. I remember fourth grade as being an especially fun year, even though it’s also when math got exponentially harder. My son’s fourth grade experience so far has been radically different from anything I ever experienced; we moved into a new elementary school, but then started the year with distance learning. He has regular Zoom meetings with his teachers and uses a variety of websites to submit assignments and projects. Our experiences are both different from Arthur Redenbo’s fourth grade year, 89 years ago. Color photograph of a report card for Arthur Redenbo's 4th grade year

He attended school in Hennessey, Oklahoma, which is a small town about an hour northwest of Oklahoma City.

Color photograph of a report card showing As and Bs

It seems as though he was a really good student. I’d be super interested to know what kind of work his subjects covered. My son’s school work has basically the same subjects with slightly different names (social studies instead of geography, math instead of arithmetic, etc.,). It would be fascinating to transport my son back to 1931 and bring Arthur Redenbo to 2020 and see how they adapt to all the differences.

Color photograph of a small card awarding perfect attendance to Arthur Redembo at the end of 4th grade

Arthur even had perfect attendance! I remember being extremely upset when I lost perfect attendance once or twice, but now I have an entirely different perspective. My son’s attendance in distance learning is measured by the number of assignments he completes each week, since he cannot attend in person. There are advantages and problems with both methods and I don’t think perfect attendance will be seen the same way in the future as it once was.

A year later and across the state, Vaughan Story attended 8th grade in McCurtain county.

Color photograph of the front of the report card for Vaughan Story from McCurtain County, OK

His grades aren’t quite as high as Arthur’s, but he was still a proficient student.

Color photograph of a report card with percentage grades instead of letter grades

I imagine that Vaughan’s year was plenty difficult at the outset of the Great Depression, but education is vital for children even (maybe especially) in such difficult times.


This last photo is something of a tangent, but I was struck when I saw it. This building was once a school until the Great War happened. I cannot fathom how difficult life was for the families of children who attended this school and thousands others like them across Europe and what their education looked like in the wake of all the destruction they experienced. The photo came from a collection of photographs documenting the war’s devastation around France.

Black and white photograph of a school building in ruins during WWI

Talk about redefining distance learning

I have been struggling with being in charge of school at home for my two kids while being in school full-time myself, but no matter how hard school is right now, it’s not because the building has been blown to smithereens in the middle of a catastrophic war. It may be cliche, but perspective really does change everything.


If you would like to see these materials or any of the many other collections we hold, please contact us at speccoll@utulsa.edu for arrangements. We are currently open only to TU students, faculty, and staff by appointments made at least 24 hours in advance. You are also welcome to browse our Catalog and Digital Collections and request photocopies or digital scans of materials through the same email. Kelsey and I fulfill requests as quickly as possible, but especially large requests or a high volume of requests may take up to 4-6 weeks. We are happy to help you as best we can and we hope that you stay safe and healthy!


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