Today you will receive your child’s report card. If you are like me, you might notice how much these documents have changed since you were a kid – not to mention since our parents or grandparents were! Back then, report cards were just that, cards. Neatly folded, crisp passport-sized docs that communicated the facts, the facts, and nothing but the facts. They were easy to write and easy to read and they “cut to the chase” without any jargon or euphemisms. When I re-read my own from those days, nothing was left to the imagination. I knew where I stood and (gulp) so did my parents.
To say report cards have changed a lot over the years is putting it mildly. It’s not just the fact that more and more school report cards are created digitally or generated as PDFs. The alpha-numeric grading system is often supplemented with effort grades and there are rubrics of complex learning and social skills. In addition, the comment section elaborates on a fuller picture of a child’s learning and mastery. In a good report, however, a parent should always be able to recognize his own kid.
How should we feel about report cards? How to you tend to feel as a parent? Do comments occasionally surprise you or take you aback? This happens to all of us from time to time. I recall reading one of my own children’s report cards years ago and thinking, “Wait a minute…that does not sound like my child at all.” It’s important to explore these inconsistencies in conversation with teachers because children are sometimes different at school.
Even when students are struggling or “skiving off”, there is always something parents and teachers can do to change the trajectory; a little pressure here, a little back-filling there – with a focus on encouragement and high expectations – can be all that’s required to effect a course correction that changes the end game.
On the topic of report cards, how would you feel if you were to read the following comments on your child’s:
“A persistent muddler. Vocabulary negligible, sentences mal-constructed. He reminds me of a camel.”
“This child is an illiterate and indolent member of the class”.
“Consistently idle. Ideas limited”.
Well, I am happy to say these are not excerpts from any of my elementary school reports! Actually, they are samples of some of the things that teachers of children’s author, Roald Dahl, said about him when he was a kid! Is it any wonder that he created some of the odious adult characters he did in his stories?! Miss Trunchbull comes to mind.
Wouldn’t his teachers (and likely his parents!) have been surprised to see Dahl’s end game as a prolific and highly successful author. These same teachers might also have been surprised to know that it would be a famous English novelist, C.S. Forester, who would discover and encourage what they could not see in young Roald.
The point is: children in elementary school are “works in progress” and there is no predicting where they may land – or what they might achieve – with patience, perspective, and the right motivation (inspiration?).
There may even be some Roald Dahls among us this very year.
It will be our pleasure to discuss each of our students with you at next week’s parent-teacher interviews – where we, together, can celebrate the positive and develop a plan to ensure that every rough diamond is polished!
Ric Anderson, Head of School