Report cards are an excellent opportunity to applaud your child's learning and to identify specific areas that you child may be experiencing difficulty in. However, we want to be careful of how we react to our child's report cards. Here are five things to avoid, when reading your child's report card.
1. Don't Compare Your Child
Just because your best friend's kid or their older brother had an A in math, does not mean that your child is unintelligent. Children learn at different rates and that is okay. It is especially important to avoid comparing your child's progress in front of your child. Avoid phrases like:
"By grade 2, your brother was reading chapter books"
"Wow, Billy got an A in math... How come you got a C?"
While this may seem like common sense, your child may already be comparing themselves to the neighbor kid because they told them they got straight As and your child might be thinking, "I didn't get a single B+ let alone an A". There is more to life then a report card and on the day that report cards go home, remind your child that they are loved and valued regardless of how they achieve at school. While the report card may seem like 'no big deal' to an adult, it may be a big deal for your child.
2. Don't Assume a Low Grade Means Your Child is Not Learning
When a teacher is writing a report card, they are writing it based on a set of criteria set out by the Ministry of Education. If your child is starting below provincial standards, they could have experienced tremendous success in their reading or mathematical thinking. However, even with that success, that does not necessarily equate to meeting grade level expectations. On a personal note, I do wish there was a better way of displaying individual progress on report cards.
Furthermore, each subsequent report card that your child receives is based on more and more challenging standards. This is one of the reasons why Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) are developed to help monitor a child's progress that has fallen below provincial standards. However, from my own experience and from talking with other educators across Ontario, these aren't typically developed until grade 3 or later.
3. Don't Assume Your Child is Lazy because they got a Low Grade
If your child receives a low grade, that does not mean that they are lazy, bored or uninterested in learning. In my own class, oftentimes the hardest working students are the ones receiving the lowest grades. On the flip side, a high grade also does not necessarily equate to a hard working dedicated student.
It is important to look at the first page of a Report Card where the teacher assesses learning skills, to see how responsible your child is in the classroom, how much initiative your child takes and how they work independently and with classmates. Oftentimes, teachers say that this first page, is the most important page.
4. Don't "Wait and See"
This is a common phrase, used by many teachers, parents, and administration. You may hear something like, "They are only in grade x, let's wait to implement remediation. They might catch up". With limited funding and a variety of student needs at the school, many people saying this line are in a tight spot. Often there is not enough funding for all the students at the school to receive remediation so difficult decisions need to be made. Who gets the support? I don't envy those decisions.
However, studies have actually shown that the gap between struggling readers and proficient readers only increases with time! This is known as the Matthew Effect and is a BIG reason why I'm a huge advocate for early intervention. I'm so thankful to be teaching at a school that has delivered 3 different forms of remediation for my struggling readers. If your school isn't providing remediation for your child don't wait, invest in high quality tutoring.
Also, why do you want to let your child continue to struggle when we can help get them closer to grade level? Yes, I realize the answer isn't that simple. However, experiencing minimal success at school can have a big toll on your child's emotional wellbeing, self-esteem and can create a negative relationship with school and learning.
5. Don't Focus on the "Negatives"
Even adults don't like to be criticized and have all their short comings brought up. I guess it's not that surprising that your child may feel the same way?
Instead, focus on your child's strengths, the things they CAN do. If you are struggling to find your child's strengths on the report card, email the teacher and ask to set up a meeting so you can understand what your child can do and what they are good at. Make sure your child knows that you are proud of them and make sure your child knows you and their teacher are on the same team. Do not demean or speak ill of your child's teacher in front of your child.
You can still have a conversation with your child about areas of difficulty or learning skills concerns. However, it shouldn't be an ambush or take up the majority of the time. Rather, for learning skills the focus should be on what strategies and accountability can be put in place to see success in the term ahead. You can even set up a meeting with the teacher, to see how you can collaborate to help your child succeed in meeting a learning skills goal.
In terms of academics, not knowing something (yet or ever) is not a reflection on your child's character or worth. As an adult, I'm still learning and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. Remind your child that their worth is not attached to a grade - even your high achieving kids need to hear that! They are at school to learn what they do not know yet.
If your child is having a difficult time with grade level materials, seeking out professional tutoring is a great way to help build up your child's academic skills and confidence. So in the weeks ahead, when your child brings home their report card, remember to celebrate your unique and wonderful child regardless of the letter grade on their report.