Report Card Comments

Done!  Report cards are completed, printed, and stuffed.  The grades were the easy part as they were collected throughout the marking period, inputted into the software program, and it computed them for me.  The hard part was the comments.  Given a minimum number  of characters to reflect on a child’s strengths, weaknesses, progress, and behavior is a huge challenge.  You want to be honest, but not too honest or direct in some cases.  You want to be gentle, but still get the message across. It can be such a conundrum!

Most often, the comments are what parents look at first.  And you know what?  Kids are the same way.  When I hand back a scored piece of writing or reading response using a detailed rubric, the students quickly scan the paper looking for my personal feedback. One day a student brought her rubric to me and asked me what it all meant.  This was after many lessons on how to use it and multiple opportunities to practice using it.  So, I took a deep breath, sat down with the student and went over her strengths and possible areas that she might think about making into writing goals. When I was done, she looked up at me with bright blue eyes and a furrowed brow and asked, “But did you like it?”

That’s all she wanted.  A simple recognition that I appreciated her work. When had I become too impersonal with my own student? When had I made it more about the work than the child? It should always be about the child first! In reality, I believe that is what parents are seeking.  They want to know if you like their child or not.  If they get the feeling that you appreciate Johnny or Mary, then, and only then, will they listen to your analysis of their academic progress and give it merit.  Of course, I like all of my students.  Some are easier than others, but I like them all.  I re-read all of my report card comments to make sure that message came through loud and clear.

9 thoughts on “Report Card Comments

  1. Sometimes with all the data scores we can forget the most important piece, the personal connection to others. I value the time I spend conferring with students one-to-one as it allows me to celebrate successes and also inspire growth. I just finished report cards too. I think I need to look at them once more to make sure those comments reflect personal connections. Your line “Some are easier than others, but I like them all ” is so true for all of us. It’s the ones that aren’t so easy that need us the most.


  2. “But did you like it?” Way to get to the heart of things.

    Years ago, my mentor teacher who was equally wise and sarcastic, told me that all report card comments were code for one of three things. I like your kid. I don’t like your kid. Nobody likes your kid. (We teach middle school, if that gives you any perspective!)


  3. This speaks to the heart of the best part of teaching – a personal connection. It seems the trend is moving away from that (and into data only). Thank you for keeping those connections alive and explaining why it is so important in this great slice!!


  4. It is easy to get in the zone and just crank out those comments to get them done. I enjoyed your reflection on going back and looking over your comments again for compassion and interest.


  5. Comments ARE especially hard to write sometimes, especially if there is a situation you need to document. I think it’s always important to begin with a positive though. That seems to make it easier to read and accept. Glad to hear you are done with your report cards. On to spring break??


  6. I noticed this with when I grade their writing. They don’t really care what score they get on their rubric, but they do care about the comments I write and love to confer about their writing. So great you take the time to make sure your positive message comes across.


  7. Some big truth here! And like you, I think they are true not only for report cards, but also for writing. Writers have to know that we see THEM, and that we hear their MESSAGE, before they care about our rubrics. I’ve been commenting on graduate students’ papers most of today. I feel like I am waging this same battle. Just had to respond to a really bad one, and now I am taking a quick break!


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