By REBECCA SPARROW
“Rebecca’s stories are very imaginative and well presented. There is certainly a need to practice the recorder.”
That’s a direct quote from my grade five report card. Reading between the lines, I can see that my teacher Mr Wessling was trying to tell me something … like maybe, “You are shit at the recorder”.
He had a point.
Regardless, I still have every single one of my school reports – from Mrs Robinson in grade one all the way to Mr Rudd (yes, Kevin’s brother) in grade 12.
The marks I worked so hard for back then, mean little now. The high achievements in English and Drama. The low achievement I got in year 8 for Phys Ed. (“Although she experiences difficulties in performing the basic skills necessary for this unit, she always performs to the best of her ability …” What am I? Forrest Gump?).
That’s the thing. I don’t know about you but when I dig out my reports it’s not the grades I care about so much. It’s the personal comments by the teachers I want to read. Partly because they provide a snapshot in time and a decidedly less biased view of me as a (clearly unco-ordinated) child and teen. And partly because many of them are hilarious to read. (“On occasion Rebecca can be exuberant and she needs to contain herself a little more …” Mrs Gifford, Year 9.)
Which is why I was surprised to read that Victorian State School teachers are holding report cards to ransom as part of their industrial relations dispute.
PARENTS are calling for the ban on written comments in end-of-year report cards to be lifted, saying it will impact on children’s education and lead to a loss of support for teachers.
Report cards sent home in December will contain a grade and attendance information only as state school teachers escalate their industrial campaign for improved pay and conditions.
But the work ban has alienated many parents, who say it will hurt children, especially those who have learning difficulties or are applying to attend another school next year.
Initally, I thought perhaps it wasn’t such a big deal. After all, aren’t “personal comments’ what the parent/teacher nights are for?
Um no, not according to my friends with school-aged kids. They were all in agreement about two things.
First: that personal comments were important.
Second: that report cards had become far too generic over the past 20 years.
For those not aware, in the majority of schools teachers access a bank of hundreds of comments (approved by the principal and related to the curriculum) and simply – for want of a better word – cut and paste a report together. How ‘personal’ the report ends up, is really up to the teacher and whether they choose to add more in.
My friend Lisa who has kids in grades 1, 2 and 7 complained to me that the comments were so generic on her kids’ last report cards that the three of them were nearly identical and had proven to be a waste of time.
“The only unique bit was when they said Tom seemed to enjoy the Christmas pageant. Except Tom didn’t participate in the Christmas pageant ..”
But others – like my friend T – said it was the comments that helped boost her son’s self-esteem.
“My son’s not a strong student so a C or a D with a comment like ‘Has worked hard and made great progress this term’ makes us both feel positive about school, even though the actual mark may not be great,” she wrote to me on Facebook.
And that’s what those truly personalised comments did. They gave you the bigger picture. Told you that Tom or Sally was empathetic, a leader, helpful, positive or kind. Not to mention their prowess at playing the recorder.
Do you remember what was written about you on your school report cards? If you have (or when you have) kids, would you want their school reports to include personal comments from the teachers?