TWO vs FOUR HUNDRED AND NINE

Reports! Sigh and sigh again. That word signifies every  teachers’ stressful nightmare.  I have just completed a weekend marathon of report writing for all my students. Reporting has come a long way since I was young. My elementary school report card was half the size of an A4 card. It listed your subjects and whether you were scored an A, B, C, D or E for that subject. The teacher then had space to write TWO WORDS! “Well Done? Pleasing Progress? Work Harder?”

I have just done a word count on one of the numerous reports I wrote this weekend. It came to FOUR HUNDRED AND NINE WORDS – and that is just MY comments. They still need to be added to the classroom teacher’s overall comments plus the comments for each subject.

Now, I envy those olden day teachers. If I just gave simple, straight forward grades and two word comments, I would have finished all thirty of my report cards in one afternoon and would not have had to work until late at night clacking away on my computer trying to think of the appropriate things to say.

So, this got me thinking. I think for us as teachers, reports are a great opportunity to document progress, victories, concerns and goals. It’s an official way of tracking exactly what we have taught and how far we have come. However, I know that every teacher at our school is pretty darn stressed at the moment writing these enormously detailed, long, verbose reports. (We all know that as hard as you try not to let it happen, that stress does follow you into the classroom.)

For parents, reports are a good opportunity to see where their child stands in relation to the rest of the cohort. It is important that they read the comments and take into account the teacher’s insight into their child and possibly follow up with any recommendations that are made. I like that our report cards have got grades as well as effort ratings (although will somebody please explain to me how my own son achieved an A in English and got a B for effort?)

But I ask this question: With all the comments, 407 AND more – does anyone ever really take note of them? Do we even remember WHAT was said, or do we only remember that very important symbolic letter of the alphabet at the end of it all?  Is it worth spending stressful hours and hours writing long reports, which require detailed assessment, thought, cross-referncing, editing, printing and reprinting or should we also stick to TWO WORDS (Okay – maybe not as simple as two words, but you know what I mean.)

I know when I read my own boys’ report, I read the comments once, but always remember the grade.  Sometimes, I don’t even agree with the comments. Sometimes the comments hurt because they clash with my own perceptions I have of my children.

My own kids? They only care about the grade and are not interested in the comments at all.

I would love to know your thoughts on this one – as parents and teachers. What works for you?

Would you prefer a simple report card that tells you very briefly what you need to know or do your prefer a long, detailed document with approximately 400 plus words from each teacher?

And more importantly – do your even remember the comments (which should actually be more significant than the mark,) or do you only remember the grade?

Tell me – I would love to know.

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15 Responses to TWO vs FOUR HUNDRED AND NINE

  1. Pingback: TWO vs FOUR HUNDRED AND NINE | Teacher Mum

  2. Anonymous says:

    Give me just the grades please.

  3. Sue says:

    i like the comments but please keep them brief and to the point. i find it useful to compare comments at the end of the year to comments in the middle of the year

  4. Lub says:

    I will never forget the comments on my son’s report cards – “This child lacks imagination!” So much for the teaching of yesteryear. He only had 1 teacher who understood him, and encouraged him. And he certainly has never lacked in the imagination department.

  5. dillymum says:

    An A to one teacher is a C to another. Comments explain why that result was achieved and give the parent perspective. My child is an A student yet came home with 27% in one subject. I NEED comments because that has to be explained! and when you have a bright child getting A’s , but putting in no effort in class you need comments too as that predicts future problems in class too.

  6. Jenny says:

    We’re moving to standards based report cards that don’t have letter grades. Students will receive a number showing if they have met, are working towards, or still need time to meet each standard. There are multiple standards in each subject area. I love the new report card as a parent and a teacher. I don’t think a letter grade tells much about a child’s progress.

    Currently I try not to look at my child’s report card much, just a cursory glance and that’s it. I talk to her about what she’s learned and how hard she’s worked – not the letter grades. I hope she can focus on the learning.

  7. Brandi. says:

    My children aren’t of school age yet, but I really believe that a brief note on the report card, followed by a face-to-face talk with the teachers would be better. That’s what I would like, anyway. With three kids, all who will be going to school together {I have a 4, 3 and 1 year old}, I probably wouldn’t remember the individual comments.

  8. Jo says:

    I actually really like the comments! my daughters now just have reports with grades and no comments and I hate it. I don’t even feel I’ve got anything at all from the teacher- there is no guidance, recognition for hard work or anything. I know the comments are painful to write, but they make it personal and yoy actually feel like someone knows/or is attempting to get to know your child!

  9. Michelle says:

    I have to agree with Jo. We use to get substantive comments (at least from the Resource teacher) but now in high school there are NO comments at all from Resource and very little from anyone else. Having 2 children with special needs I feel that those report cards are pretty much meaningless to me. As are parent teacher meetings that are ONLY 10 minutes long!

  10. Terri says:

    I would want commenting, but not lengthy comments that I won’t remember in 5 minutes. I don’t remember any of my kids comments when they were in school but that was years ago.

  11. Jana says:

    The comments are FAR more useful to me than the grades. Throughout the year, my son’s teacher spent time to tell me (via his trimester report cards) where my son excelled, but more important to me, were areas he still needed to work on. From this information, I’ve built an at-home afterschool curriculum of activities that make learning fun, playfully weaving in the skills that were noted as “weaknesses.” I can’t recall what my son’s grades were, but the written assessment and advice are burned in my brain. When a teacher takes time to explain a child’s challenges – whether it be academic, social, or behavioral – it should be a call to action for parents: encourage and praise the positive and help your son/daughter with the “negative.” Good for you for including thorough comments!

    • TeacherMum says:

      Thanks for your comments Jana – glad to hear that the comments are appreciated in the end. I’ll keep on writing them then…
      Interesting that there have been mixed responses to this one.

  12. TeacherMum says:

    It looks as if there are mixed reviews…
    I’ll have to keep up the detailed comments, keep them specific, include the strategies, be honest and to the point.
    End of year reports, here we come!

  13. hmm…I have always believed the comments were worth more then the grades. Even when I sent the kids to full time public school. The reason is because it tells me the attitude my children have towards their education, their teacher and their peers. It is very hard to get an F with how school is set up and to get one means that my child has taken a bad attitude to one or more of the 3.

    • TeacherMum says:

      Thanks for your comments. It seems as if most people agree – the comments are valuable. My wish is that all parents will take to heart the comments and the grades and not just simply the grades.

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