It’s that time of year again. Report cards! As I go through my teacher planner book and look at all the check marks, plus signs, and percentages that I have gathered and written down throughout the course of the past term, I can’t help but feel that I am doing a huge injustice to the students I interact with on a daily basis. Injustice, you might say? But why? Please allow me to explain.
As many of my regular readers already know, my husband and I have been blessed with 3 wonderful children – each with their own quirks and personality traits that make them the wonderful people that they are. My eldest is now 21 and happily employed as a flight attendant for Air Canada and travels around the world. She was the type of student who did whatever she needed to do in order to do well and get by… nothing more, nothing less. She knew from the moment she entered her third year of high school that post secondary studies were not for her. Her father and I forced her into a college program (CEGEP here in Quebec) and the moment she had the opportunity to follow her dream to work in aviation, she left CEGEP with only 1 month of classes remaining and went for it. My middle child is a teacher’s dream! She is a high achiever, super inquisitive, and loves school! She is the type of kid who gets upset when school is cancelled because of snow storms. Her father and I know that she will continue to be a life long learner no matter what. The last little one in our family is our only son, and for him, school is like a punishment. He HATES school and is the complete opposite of his sisters – and he is the reason why my philosophy about report cards has changed so drastically in the past few years.
School, report cards, and evaluations are perfect for children like my daughters – but for two very different reasons. For my eldest, she understood the system and knew exactly what she needed to do to do well and move on. She also realized in her mid-teens that there were other options out there in the “real world” other than post secondary studies (something that I was unable to accept until she proved me wrong — all when she was at the young age of 18!!). My middle child possesses the intrinsic desire to excel at school and is a hard worker in all aspects of her life. The school system is a perfect fit for her. She will do well and have excellent report cards because SHE wants it that way – and she will do whatever she needs to do to be at the top of her class. But for my son, who is incredibly intelligent, is completely bilingual (French/English), he does not perform well on his evaluations and report cards because the current school format just does not work for him. I know that the percentages assigned to him for his different subjects really do not give an accurate perspective of just how well he is doing with the curriculum. I don’t blame his teachers (who are amazing, patient, caring, and wonderful with him). My husband and I have had to change our attitudes towards his learning journey. It was then that I realized report cards should no longer reflect what a student has achieved during the course of a term – but rather the progression of improvement that each individual student has made.
I know that there is nothing I can do to change the report card at a provincial/ state level. But what I have started to do is open a dialogue between my students, their parents, and myself when it comes to changing the mindset that parents have about the current report card system. Parents and students associate percentages with performance and level of mastery but my goal is to change that mentality. We should be celebrating the improvements of every child regardless of how small they may seem. Every child is different and are on their own road to greatness. Just look at my own children – three different kids on three incredibly different journeys – but all evaluated within the same system. Is it just?
I want parents to know that the academics is just one aspect of their child that I value. I want them to know the social progression that their child has made. I want them to know about the silly inside jokes that we share together in the classroom. I want them to know that their child has improved their focus and concentration from 2 minutes to 15 minutes at a time. I want them to know that their shy child was able to talk in front of the class about his family trip to the science centre. I want them to know that their child helped a kindergarten student off the bus in the morning. I want them to know that their child comes in each day with a smile on his/ her face. For some children and their parents, these observations are worth their weight in gold!
So as I have completed and passed in my marks for the second term of this school year, please know that I have done so with a heavy heart. Please parents, when looking at those percentages, don’t look for reasons why the numbers look low to you. Look and see the improvement your child has made since September – but keep in mind that sometimes the improvement isn’t shown academically – and unfortunately, our report cards only provide a 360 character box to talk about all the wonderful social, psychological, and behavioural progress your child has made. Come and chat with me! It would be my pleasure to let you know just how well your child is doing.
Have a great day!