It’s here. The day you’ve both been dreading for the last few weeks.
Report. Card. Day.
Whether your child hands it over, you pull it from their backpack, or you log in to view it online, everyone involved experiences a moment of anticipation, anxiety, or perhaps dread. Most parents feel obliged to use the “report card moment” as the perfect time for a pep talk/inquisition – but this may not necessarily be the best thing to do.
At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.
Jane D. Hull
*Sigh* Report Cards. Whether you love ’em or hate ’em, they are an official document that teachers use to communicate how your child is performing at school. However, it should not be the only one. The way parents react to report cards, and how they prepare for the subsequent Parent/Teacher Conference, can speak volumes about how well (or not) their child will perform for the rest of the academic year.
“Students come to rely too heavily on their parents’ reaction to their scores. When what we really want is to have them reacting themselves. If parents could just use that moment to get their kids thinking for themselves about how they did, report cards would be a more effective tool for motivating kids to perform better.”
Maria Pickard, Guidance Counselor
Unfortunately, many parents focus on using their child’s report card as a piece of punitive evidence to berate and humiliate. when what they should really be doing is treating it as a final piece of correspondence between parent and teacher for that reporting period. Consequently, some parents unrealistically and unfairly rely on the report card as their only means of knowing how their child is doing at school due to work, life, and other commitments.
Use the Report Card as a Conversation Starter
Here are some tips for talking about report cards with your child:
- Ask them how they thought they did. In the proper context, this strategy will open up the lines of communication with your child, and will allow them to voice their concerns about their own learning and why their result may not have been so stellar by taking ownership of their own learning.
- Don’t set yourself up for an argument. Try and avoid situations where you pit yourself against your child by making negative comments about your child’s performances in various subjects. For example, if your child receives a comment of “behaviour is a problem” or “more effort is required”, instead of asking them why their behaviour a problem or why they haven’t been putting forth the required effort, turn it around and ask them something like, “Why do you think the teacher feels that your behavior/effort is a problem?” Getting your child to think how about their actions from their teacher’s perspective will force them to reflect upon how their actions affect others.
- Offer specific praise for a job well done. Make sure to acknowledge the positive accomplishments your child has achieved while refraining from broad, encompassing statements. Example: “You did a really great job of improving your Math mark this term,” instead of “Great job in Math.”
- Separate your child from their grades. The last thing you want to do is have your child derive their sense of self-worth strictly from the results they see on a page from a non-family member. Consider saying, “I love you, but this report card is disappointing.”
- Focus on what can be done to help your child improve. The report card is a reflection of how your child has done by the end of a specific period. It’s in the past. Sit down with your child and help them create a list of the things they can do to improve their results. Also, make sure to communicate this list to your child’s teacher(s). Refrain from using a blanket statement like “Pull up your mark in English.”
- Handle praise with care. Children can easily forget the reasons why they perform well, especially if they consistently bring home positive report cards. Be sure to remind them of the hard work, dedication, and struggles they experienced to get where they are now.Try something like: “I am not surprised you have all these great grades on your report card. I saw you working very hard this term and it looks like it’s paid off. I bet you feel very proud!”
For other strategies you can use when talking to your child about their report card, be sure to check out these 9 Tips Ffor Reacting to your Child’s Report Card by Amanda Morin.
The Parent/Teacher Interview: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Most parents feel overwhelmed by Parent/Teacher Interview night. It can be crowded, noisy, and feel like it passes by in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, some parents only realize (by the end of the evening) that they haven’t asked the right questions to their child’s teachers and walk away feeling very confused and unsatisfied by the entire experience.
Here’s a great video on what you can do (as a parent) to prepare for the conferences you’ll have with your child’s teacher(s) on Parent/Teacher Interview night. Even thought it may be geared towards parents of children in elementary school, it’s an excellent set of Cliff’s notes for high school parents as well:
Here are 10 tips to help prepare you (the parent) for Parent/Teacher Interviews:
- Attend. You owe it to your child & yourself to be involved.
- Come on time, and don’t stay longer than 5-8 minutes with each teacher. At the high school level, teachers have to meet with the parents of upwards of 100 students within a scheduled period of time. If you’re late, your allotted amount of time is significantly shortened. Also, please try to be mindful of the fact that other parents also believe that their child’s progress is just as important as yours, so respect the time limit in place. Imagine the conference as a starting point to an ongoing conversation you can continue throughout the year.
- Make and prioritize a list of questions to make sure that you get the answer to your child’s most pressing issues first. If you rely solely on memory, you may forget the questions you wanted to ask. Make a list on your smartphone or bring your child’s report card with you so you can write things down next to specific subjects.
- Introduce yourself. Begin with a smile and a genuine compliment – do not assume that the teacher knows who you are. Starting with a smile will put everyone at ease – remember, teachers are often just as nervous as you! Find something nice /positive to say about your child’s experience/class.
- Look the teacher in the eye and be ready to listen. At the start, let the teacher direct the conversation, as they may provide information/answers to some of the questions you have. Ask for clarification to those points you do not understand (teachers may sometimes use educational/curricular jargon foreign to the general public) and make sure to ask whatever questions you may have prepared before the meeting. Jot down answers to questions or important points/strategies mentioned during the conversation in point for so that you can easily refer to them later.
- Be positive and ask objective questions. Beginning with a complaint will probably close the doors to helpful communication between you and the teacher. But it can be tricky to ask questions without seeming to pick a fight. Here are some questions to consider:
- How much should I be helping my child with her homework?
- How much homework will my child receive each week?
- How does my child get along with the other children?
- What are my child’s work habits?
- Does my child behave in school?
- How would you describe my child’s academic progress?
- Be ready to plan with the teacher some ways for your child to be more successful in school. Don’t assume the teacher has all the answers. You might suggest, “We can turn the TV off for 45 minutes every night if that’s how long you think Jason’s homework will take.”
- Make yourself accessible.Whether it be by phone or by email, make it a point to let your child’s teacher know how best to reach you (some teacher may use other avenues to communicate with parents like Remind or Edmodo). In addition, it’s also a good idea to send a quick note to teachers regularly asking for periodic updates on your child’s progress. Not only does it show that you care about your child’s education, it also demonstrates that you are willing to be an active partner in your child’s success. Teachers appreciate the effort.
- Volunteer to share your skills in the classroom. Even if you work or have a busy schedule, don’t assume that you have nothing to bring to the classroom. There are many ways for parents to be involved:
- Be a guest speaker or find one. You can easily talk about your own job or a hobby, or you may know someone interesting who can speak to the class about a relevant topic.
- Invite the class to visit your place of work. If you work in a store, let them come see how the business is run. If you work in a hospital, give them a tour of the pediatrics ward.
- Offer to chaperone the class on a field trip. If you work, take a day or half-day of vacation. You’ll enjoy it — and you’ll get a chance to see your child in a whole new light.
- Help with the class newsletter. If you are a working parent, share the job with a committee so that you have to do it only once or twice a year. (And let your child help, too!)
- Be an at-home tutor. If your child needs tutoring in reading and your friend’s child needs math help, swap kids for one or two hours a week. A child often learns better with someone other than a parent, and parents have different strengths to share.
- End with a thank-you. Instead of rehashing your concerns or your child’s problems, thank the teacher for her time and conclude with a genuine pledge of support. You may want to say something like, “Now that I understand the things you’re doing in the classroom, I’ll be able to help more at home. I know we both have my child’s best interests at heart, and I want to work with you to help him succeed.” Ending the conference on a positive note leaves you both feeling that you are partners in helping your child learn and succeed in school.
Report cards are harrowing enough for children and parents without the possibility of a huge confrontation looming. Take the lead and use the opportunity to have a real conversation with your child to see where they think they can improve. Then, armed with that knowledge and the list of questions for their teacher, make plans to attend Parent/Teacher Interviews so that you can walk away knowing that your questions are answered and feel confident that everyone involved is just looking out for the continued improvement and success of your child.