I’m in the middle of writing reports and I’m stressed* . I’m writing paragraphs about each student and I’m trying to convey to parents (and anyone else who reads it) what the kid has learned this semester. I’m trying to convince people that I know their student. I’m trying to explain and/or justify their mark**. Accomplishments are noted and goals are suggested. But I wish they didn’t have to be so formal and that I could be a little more honest and upfront in them. I wish I could write directly to the student and let the parent read the conversation and join in when they feel the need to. So based on no individual student***, here is what I wish I could write in reports.
To the The All-Rounder
To be honest, you intimidate me. Your work is always excellent and somehow it’s clear to me that you are honestly interested in the topic. Your voice is clear in your writing and when I see your work I always learn something new. I enjoy having conversations with you because they are informed discussions and it’s clear with the questions you are asking that you are thinking. I hear the same thing from all your other teachers. And you manage this class, and your dozen other responsibilities with a smile. So, I’m going to up my expectations for you. I’m going to push you more than I push other students. It might not seem fair and I’m okay with that. I hope you’re okay with that too. But you MUST tell me if you start losing sleep or honestly think you can’t handle it. I don’t want to break you. One of your challenges is going to be to know when enough is enough and when to settle for “good-enough”. So I hope I’m challenging you in ways that make you a better thinker and communicator.
To The Grade Hound
If the school would let me, I wouldn’t put a grade down. You consistently score in the highest levels, but there seems to be no joy in it. I hate handing back your work, because when I do I know you don’t look over the comments I write, but only at the grade. I also know there is a good chance you’ll try to argue about your grade, even if you haven’t read my comments. No matter how hard an assignment is or how easy, you always scrape by with the top mark. You have figured out how to play the game of school and I can’t really punish you for that. If I can give you one tip, if you find a way to be genuinely interested in the topics we’re discussing or the skills we’re learning, this 7 will feel more rewarding. Let’s have a chat about how we can make this class more meaningful for you. Because I want you to love learning and I want to help you with that. And if nothing else, I hope you find that joy in an another one of your classes.
To The On-the-Border-Student
You have no idea how much I want to give you the 7. I see everyday how hard you are working and I see how much you want it. And you seem to really enjoy what we’re talking about in class and when we talk you show a real understanding of the big topics and concepts we are discussing. But I can’t “give” you that 7 because you haven’t quite earned it. You are missing something on each assignment which keeps it from being that 7. I really think what you need to get better at is reflecting on your work. There is real skill and difficulty about looking at your own work with a dispassionate eye and giving yourself honest feedback. If you can do that and combine it with your hard work and your interest in the topic, I hope you can earn that 7. Because I don’t “give” 7s. So when you EARN it, it will feel incredible. But even if you don’t earn it, know that I still think you’re incredible. Your perseverance, hard work ,and curiosity should define you, not your grade.
To The Kid in the Back
Academically you’re doing solid work. Your work is completed and all-in-all you show what you know. Your analytical, research, and all the other important skills are very well demonstrated. I have no complaints about your behavior and I appreciate your cheery nature. But while I have this chance, I would like to apologize for those moments when it takes me a nanosecond to remember your name even though you’ve been in my class three months. I would also like to apologize for the fact that you can go an entire day without me calling on you. And I’m sorry for every time I let you float, without truly challenging you. Speak up and don’t let me get away with it anymore. You don’t have to be an extrovert, but you do need to develop your voice. Also, I’m going to call on you a lot more. Be prepared.
To the Student Who is Moving On Up
I know this year has been a struggle for you. Everyday I see you tackle a new challenge. I’m amazed at your bravery each time you raise your hand, learn a new word, ask a question and try something new. It has been a joy to watch you grow. There are still gaps in your work and it’s not always clear to me that you understand what we are learning in class. So, we’ll keep working at the skills we’ve been practicing and make sure I teach you some good strategies to find websites that are good for you. Don’t get frustrated…this grade doesn’t really reflect all the amazing things you are learning in school this year.
To the Student Who is Talented But Lazy
I’m guessing your parents are sick of hearing that you are not performing up to your potential. You’re smart, so you already know what I’m going to say. You could do better if you just try. I feel disrespected when you turn in work late or incomplete. I think you are wasting a great education, because you at a school where people care about you and know what you are capable of. But you know that already. But I’m not giving up on you. Believe it or not, I don’t love nagging students, but I’ll nag you. I’ll keep asking you what I can do to help you. And just when you think I’m giving up on you, know that I’m just taking a break (nagging is kind of exhausting) and I’ll be back to checking up on you the next day. And I’m not celebrating when you finally turn in a piece of work. That’s your job. I’ll celebrate when I can finally stop nagging you. So let’s do this.
To the Class Clown.
Thanks for making me laugh. Everyday, you find a way to make our class a joyful place to be. I am pleased that your jokes are no longer about a classmate (which was a little mean), but instead about the funny things about being a teenager. Academically you struggle. To be honest, I think you just need to get through school. You have something special that will make you a success once you get past tests and projects. But you do need to keep working on skills. You have charm, intelligence and good humor and if you combine that with effort and skills there is no stopping you.
In a perfect world, I would write up reports like the ones above to give to my students, even if they are not on their formal report cards. Maybe I will make a new year’s resolution. I know that people put these types of comments on student blogs. But honestly, I don’t know if I will be able to do it. I really try not to complain about time (or lack thereof), but I don’t know how to do it all. I want the requirements of report writing to change so I don’t have to double my work and I can have a formal time and place to give my kid’s feedback. So I will keep having these conversations with my students and hopefully the purpose of reports will change. Because I think we owe them more than just grades.
*The fact that I’m writing this post is also proof that when I’m stressed, I procrastinate
**Marks/grades at my school are on a 1-7 scale. A mark 7 is more-or-less the same as an “A”.
***Honestly these are based on composites of students I have taught over the past 12 years. Any resemblance to a real-person is not intentional. And in real reports, I would reference work and projects and real things. These are very, very general.