Photo credit and thanks to Sigmund, via Unsplash
It's that time of year again. That time when teachers pore over stringent government guidelines and translate them into a report in order to give parents a considered summary of their child's progress and attainment. And it is the time of year that I dust off my trusty shredder in anticipation of our report.
This is by no means a criticism of my children's teachers. All but one of the reports that they have brought home over the years have been kindly written and I know that staff have agonised over phrasing in order to soften the blow of some of the contents. Many have taken pains to approach me in advance and tell me to take it with a pinch of salt, to understand the stifling criteria, to concentrate on their comments and reiterate how proud they are of my child's work ethic and effort. I gave up challenging reports after my hyper-lexic child who could read words brilliantly and memorise large chunks of text received a poor score for his reading ability as his inference skills were not where they should have been. 'He can read the words, Mrs. Smith, but he just doesn't care about them'. I now skim through, discuss the positives with my child and we make a collaborative plan.
But the fact remains that school reports can make dismal reading. Those of us with children who tread a different path spend a considerable amount of time reading grim medical summaries, perfunctory statements, lists and assessments that serve both as a useful tool for those that chose what support they deign to give our children and a hefty punch in the guts for us parents. They make you question whether the interventions at school and any of the back-up work you have done at home has made the faintest difference and you have to decide, then and there, to pull yourself together and carry on regardless. Best foot forward etc, on on...
So, in a positive act of self-preservation, I shred reports. They bring little comfort and if my child were to read them, I think they would find them crushing. Shame is a one hundred foot high barrier to learning and this is one of the few occasions when I can actively chose to prevent one.
The message I have sent to this year's teacher was this - do not labour over it. Stick any good news in the first three lines as that might tempt me to go further but honestly, I do not want it to cause you a sleepless night. You've got enough on your plate and so have I. We will continue to work little and often throughout the summer holidays and we will regroup in September. In the meantime, I will still fantasise about receiving a report that says the magic words - 'catching up'.