Sylvia Martignani writes: Family corner, Understanding Report Cards
It’s that time of year again when you will be receiving your child’s or teen’s report card in their bag or hand or crumpled up somewhere in their binder. You may be asked to sign off that you received it or may be presented with all the possible dates to meet with the teacher to discuss.
Truth is, as children, we hated report card time because it was so tumultuous, unpredictable and sometimes disappointing. Unless you are above average in everything and consistently achieve the grades you aim for, then there was always a nagging fear when they were sent home to your parents.
Well, as parents, we dread report card time too. Anytime someone gives you a critique of your child, no matter how honest or necessary, it hurts a little. Nobody likes to know that their child is lazy, clingy, disorganized, demotivated, impulsive, below average or distracted. There isn’t a parent alive who enjoys reading some of the comments about their child’s behaviour, study skills or intelligence or lack thereof. We all fear that our child falls behind or struggles academically.
With the drop-out rate reaching all-time heights, we also fear that our child will suffer the same fate due to re-occurring failure in the education system.
I am here to tell you that teachers, more than anyone in the world, loathe report cards even more than you. True educators believe that children should not be defined by a simple letter grade.
Report cards do not often celebrate the uniqueness of a child; instead their main purpose is to incorporate this child into the bigger framework of norms and bell-curves. So if you wonder why report cards are a source of angst to everyone involved, now you know.
Here are some tips in making report cards easier to accept:
– Remember that report cards have limitations; they are a single snapshot of a child’s progress and not the complete picture.
– Unless you were completely passive all year, nothing on that report card should come as a surprise (remember that you are the parents and you know your child best- family situations at home could have contributed to those marks so think back and find correlations).
– If your child is an excellent musician, artist or athlete, expect that they will not excel in everything. Studies show that when we are extremely good at one thing, then everything else may fall into the periphery and becomes just average.
– Please understand the low grades if there has been a recent emotional fall-out for your child (moving schools, breaking up with a friend, fighting with self-esteem issues, acne, or anything of the sort)
– Remember to sit down with your child and ask them to tell you their side of the story, they may surprise you (I used to always tell my parents when I was disappointed in certain grades and lo and behold, after investigation, the teacher realized it was a mistake and changed it for me!)
– Remember that this is ten times more stressful for your child who constantly, no matter what, seeks your approval so question, consider and congratulate them on the good grades.
– In some cases, poor grades are an indication of above-average intelligence. Simply put, if your child is not being challenged, they will become bored quickly and misbehave which affects their grades.
– Celebrate the successes and create an action plan for help with the subjects that received grades of “C” or lower.
I will also request that you always go meet the teacher and discuss with them the report card, even if it is all good. Parents often make the mistake of only going to meet the teacher when the report card is unfavourable which adds much more stress on the student and does not make them feel like you are truly engaged with their learning. Be their cheerleader when they do well and their problem-solver when they are experiencing challenges at school.
Teachers do not mind being questioned about the grades your child receives but they do not like to be interrogated. Remember that they don’t enjoy giving out standardized levels to your child but they have to do it as part of their job. Educate yourself about the four levels in the Ontario Ministry of Education and how your child can achieve the highest level in each subject. Everything is right there for you if you want to research it at: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/teachers/curriculum.html.
I wish you luck this report card season and I challenge you to see it differently!
Until next time,