The most exciting thing about my kids starting school was getting The School Report Card. It has something to do with my inherent geekiness and extreme need to hear how amazing my kids are, but I could not wait for the first report card. Indeed, each one since then comes with a few days of excitement on my part. I just can't wait for that yellow legal-sized envelope to appear in their agendas. I pour a cup of tea and rip that sucker open the minute they get in the door.
And then I spend the next hour or so trying to decipher just what the teacher is trying to say to me.
I've often said, quite loudly, that my child's grade is of little importance to me - it's the teacher's comments that I go to right away. The grade is a number and if it's representative of the work they've done, I'm thrilled. The comments though, that's where the gold is. The spot where I expect to hear just how much Ms Teacher loves my child.
But have you noticed? There seems to be a short list of predetermined catch phrases embedded in each section of the comments. I'm not sure if they're specifically written that way, but we've been involved in two school boards in the last ten years and the terminology has been almost exactly the same across the board.
"With consider effectiveness..."
"With a high degree of accuracy..."
"She confidently identified..."
""With consistent accuracy..."
And the one that baffles me the most "She should continue to develop communication ability using simple language."
What does that mean? That she is well developed and on her way to becoming above average? Or does it mean that this is an area she needs to work on?
Report card language has sometimes gotten to the point where I just skim and tell myself I'll go back to it later. Not to mention one year (not in our current board and no I won't tell you the teacher) I clearly caught a teacher in a cut and paste gaffe when she used another child's name in my daughter's report card.
I remember the report cards I got as a child. The most common sentiment was "Chantal is a very bright child who does well on her work. However, if she paid more attention and stopped talking so much, her grades would be near perfect."
You can't get more to the point than that, can you? And no, my mother never took offense because, and here it is, it was true! Year after year, teacher after teacher, the same thing was said.
Over the past few years I've often wondered if there is a certain guideline that comes with the preparation of report cards? Is there strict language to follow? Are teachers given any space with which to include candid remarks? Are my kids so shockingly normal that there has never been a need for this?
I know I'm not alone in this. Howard Goodman, a Toronto School Board Trustee is tabling a motion this Wednesday to do away with this jargon. As outlined in this article (I also heard him on CBC radio on Thursday) at Parent Central.
Read the article. Let me know what you think as a parent. I would also love to hear if you're a teacher. I can only imagine what it's like to prepare report cards for so many children three to four times a year, so let me know what you think.