Today you will receive your child’s progress report, which includes important information about “how things are going” so far in the school year. You will see letter grades, codes of progress, and comments on social-emotional development, along with accolades and admonishments. An effective and useful report card will describe the learning to date with suggestions for improvement. While these perennial school documents can seem ominous, the feedback they contain is actually meant to help our children and students move forward with confidence and clarity in their learning.
Effective schools provide timely and relevant feedback to students and parents about the learning that is happening within their walls. At Matthews Hall, our shared vision, clear mission, and focus on individual goals are communicated openly with our students and reinforce the priorities we have for the classroom. When combined with our high standards for effort and behaviour, we believe that all of our students have the potential to grow in impressive ways in the learning environment we offer. This does not always mean that every child achieves “straight As”, but it does mean that “straight As” are the goal toward which we strive!
How can we ensure that each of our students is working toward developmentally-appropriate and worthy goals? By setting high expectations and standards for all students and all teachers. The example of our teachers is critical. It is universally true that students learn as much about the world by seeing who we are as teachers in addition to what we teach. We promise to keep doing our best!
So, this year when we review our children’s report cards, let’s remain philosophical about the purpose of the contents and focused on the end game. We will see praise and problems, as teachers strive to describe the child they work with each day. One thing that talented and conscientious teachers understand is that children are more than the sum of their parts.
They are all unique and on their own journeys. When we make space for this reality and truly embrace the process of learning, we will be able to accompany them by maintaining high expectations for them when it really matters, and remaining “seated on the bench” when the real responsibility for effort and accountability is theirs (…which it almost always is!).
Report cards, progress, effort, and mastery are all important things in elementary school. No doubt about it. However, I have yet to see an elementary school report card proffered as part of a job interview or application to graduate school. There will be As and Ds, 90s and 50s, praise and constructive feedback in all reports over these formative years.
Let’s take it in stride, keep the bar high, react appropriately, and encourage our kids to give an honest effort each day.
If we do, they will see that learning is important; non-catastrophic failure is part of life; and the sun will come up tomorrow – even in those classes that are not their favourites!
In the words of our school’s founder, Kate Matthews: Debeo, Possum, Volo!
Ric Anderson, Head of School