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When I was a little girl, I was a very good student. I didn't give too many teachers trouble, and I earned decent grades. I made sure that the nuns were happy with me because I didn't want any bad notes on my permanent record.

It wasn't until I was much older that I realized how silly my fear of the permanent record was: It wasn't like the school was going to hand over my school records to my first employer. It was also unlikely that this paper file was complete. (Side note: I wonder if these files are still paper only. I used to work in the office of my high school and would have to pull records for other students when they transferred out of the school. We were usually missing papers that had to be tracked down.)

Evidently, the myth of the permanent school record following you throughout your life continues to this day: My son came home from school one day talking about a friend who got in trouble at school and that it was going "on his permanent record." My son lamented that everyone would know about it forever.

I decided to talk it through with my son. I let him know that there are some deeds that will follow you around in life - like a criminal record. I let him know that school records do exist, but that they capture things like grades, attendance, and medical information as well as disciplinary actions, but that they aren't readily accessible to the public.

Mostly I talked to my son about the importance of school: It sets him on the path of life-long learning and he is allowed to make mistakes along the way. Getting good grades is the way we measure how well he is mastering the concepts he learns. It's not perfect. And it's not even an accurate measurement of future success - lots of self-made millionaires didn't have perfect grades. But they were all curious enough about the world to learn more and they didn't let their school success (or lack of success) define them.

I am not sure what my son will do with the information about the myth of the permanent record. Maybe he'll tell others at school and the administrators will make a note in his file about his "troublesome, truth-telling Mommy."

Were you afraid of messing up your permanent record in school? Tell me when you learned the truth in the comments.

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