It’s that time of year where mid-semester school holidays are upon us and those report cards teachers have been slaving over will be making their way home in nervous little hands.
As a kid I used to get extremely anxious about report cards. In junior primary not so much, which was lucky because as a student I was a bit of a dud. I hit my stride in about grade 7 though, when I started getting good marks. In hindsight, I probably should have left my run later so expectations remained low.
These days, report cards are a little different to the hand marked cardboard type we received that teachers scrawled comments on like, “Renee shows potential but is talkative and easily distracted.” Which, incidentally, was remarkably on point and remains true to this day.
However, the report cards our children receive are an essay of impersonal, generic, standardised comments that are no real reflection of how our children are going at school. In some cases, they are just the expected level of achievement your child measured against, according to the Australian Curriculum.
Yes, there are grades and a brief teacher’s comment section at the end but overall, it’s hard to determine what it all really means for your child.
The grading is different, as well. We are encouraged now to be pleased if our child gets awarded a “C” or a “sound” as that means they are achieving the level that is expected for their grade. Back in my day a “C” was classified as scrapping a pass.
Subject areas are also weighted to give an overall score. For example, while my son has excellent vocabulary, reading and comprehension, his handwriting and spelling bring his English marks right down. As this wasn’t indicated in the generic comments it was only made clear when I asked the teacher. This really highlighted to me the importance of parent teacher interviews so you can get the full picture of what areas your child may need extra help with.
My favourite part of report cards these days is the “Effort” rating. This tells me whether or not my child is putting his best foot forward when it comes to learning.
With children in grade 3 and 5 bringing home report cards this term, I have made it clear to them I’m not looking for A’s or Very High Achievements in their subjects. I’m looking at their effort.
Anything below a “Good” effort and questions will be asked. However, if they get a Sound (C) or a Developing (D) as an overall grade, I won’t be too worried, as long as I know they are giving it their best shot.
After all, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. One of my kids is good at maths, but has trouble reading. The other is good at most things but often bombs out on tests because he gets anxious.
It’s important to remember that a report card is just a snap shot of our child’s performance at school and an even smaller snap shot of their overall abilities.
If we genuinely want our children to succeed at school, the best thing parents can do is encourage them to do their best and talk to their teachers directly to see how they can further be supported in their learning.