“Shiver Me Timbers!” It’s Report Card Time!

Goodness gracious sakes alive!! It is the end of the grading period and that means: REPORT CARDS are coming home soon!!  Students in kindergarten, first, and second grade have been reading one-on-one with their teachers, working on reading assessments, and sight word, letter, and phonetic sound recognition.  Upper elementary kids have been taking reading tests.  All elementary children have been evaluated on how well they are able to write their own personal narratives.  In math many fundamental number concepts have been reviewed and tested, along with addition and subtraction facts and word problems.

Reading, writing, arithmetic– as it was stated long ago are the basic subjects being taught, but the elementary classroom teacher also teaches social studies, science, and health to her students.  During the week each student is instructed in media, music, art, p.e., and technology as subjects that we call Specials.  Therefore, the report card will include grades for all of these subjects that are given instruction.

The Learning Behavior section on the Report Card is the most telling part, and thus the most important part.  If a child receives a lot of 3’s or Need’s Improvement in this area, it explains why he or she is having difficulty in the academic areas.  For instance, if your child gets 3’s in Listening attentively and Responding appropriately to directionsthis may very well explain the reason why he is having trouble in his core subjects.  The teacher may note that he plays around during lessons; that he can’t stay in his seat, that he can’t stay on task, that he talks when he is supposed to be working.  If a teacher states this on a report card, then it is a problem.  Your child is missing instruction during the times he or she is not listening.  The teacher marks this grade to help you see where your child is currently developing and to show you where your child needs to make progress.

Let me shoot straight with you.  As a teacher for 27years, it has always been a very difficult job for me to do my first quarter report cards, very difficult indeed, particularly for first graders.  Being a positive person, I have wanted to write that all of them are doing fantastic and passing with flying colors. Many of the students are.  Yet, all of them are not.  Some of them are struggling in different areas.  Some of them are immature and seem to need more time to grow and develop.  Some of them seem to want to get by with doing the least possible work.  Some of them often want to give up before they have even tried, when they are capable of doing the work.  Some of them have learning problems that make it challenging for them to learn.  Some of them have ADHD, which makes it difficult for them to focus on a lesson and pay attention and follow directions.  Some of them have language issues, that make it hard for them to comprehend and understand.   Some of them are working as diligently as they can and have the perfect learning behaviors, yet they still struggle with learning.

The goal of the report card is to show the parent exactly where the student is functioning.  The parents, student, and the teacher form a partnership in aiding the student if any assistance is needed to help the student  in any area, whether that is in behavior, reading, writing, or math.  Sometimes the teacher meets with the parents and formulates a behavior plan to see if that will help curb the learning behaviors that need to be tweaked.  Other times the teacher may give the parent vocabulary cards to promote a child’s use of sight words or math strategies to use for a math concept that was difficult to grasp.  If a student is really struggling a teacher may suggest a parent look into tutoring.  Sometimes a student’s problem may not be academic, but social.  Teachers may suggest for a student to get involved with sports groups, cub scouts, brownies, or other social groups to assist a child who needs support in learning to interact with others.  Often guidance groups are suggested by teachers.  These groups are fantastic! Lunch-bunch groups for kids who need organizational aid, assistance in listening and following directions, a Friends group for how to make friends, and a changing families group for those kids whose families have gone through a death or divorce.

As parents, be pro-active; you are your child’s best advocate.  If you think that your child is falling behind, ask the teacher what you can do to help him or her catch up.  Ask what reading benchmark your child is on and what the normal benchmark is to be on at that particular time.  Go to the library and check out books that are on that particular benchmark and do extra reading with him.  Ask your teacher for a sight word list to review with your child,  or if there is anything else to specifically work on.  Maybe it is writing in complete sentences.  Get a journal and have your child write responses in the journal to the stories that he has read and draw pictures of that response.  If the class is working on personal narratives, write a personal narrative at home.  You could write one about Going Trick or Treating or My Halloween.  Have your child write a letter to his grandmother.   He could even do it on the computer!

Report cards are to be private.  They are reports written and shared between student, teacher and parents.  That’s it!  I made it a point to tell my students each year that report cards were not to be opened on the bus or at After-School Care and read by their buddies.  Report cards are private, and intended to be read only by students and their parents.  My oldest son found out how true that statement was when he was in kindergarten.  He was so excited about getting his first report card.  He got on the bus to come home and some 5th graders talked him into opening his report card up and letting them read it.  After reading it, they began taunting him and whispering to others that he had made bad grades.  My son burst into the front door crying his little eyes out that he had a horrible report card, when in fact he had a really good report card. The 5th graders had just decided to pick on and bully a little kindergartener that day. Shame on them!!  I have told everyone of my classes that story, trying to make the point that no one has any business knowing what is on their report card, but mom and dad.

I have also told everyone of my students that very few of my students will ever have a perfect report card, because everyone has something that they need to work on.  No one is perfect, and no one is supposed to be perfect.  We all have our areas where we are strong, where we do well. Maybe it is reading. Maybe it is math.  For some kids it is p.e.  For others it is art or music.  Everyone has an area where they have a strength.  Likewise, every child has an area where she or he has to put in extra effort to succeed.  It may be difficult, but try, and try again, and progress will be made.  It is o.k. to make mistakes, for that is how we learn to improve.  We look at the positive steps that we have made and see how those steps have helped us to become a stronger and better student.

You have heard me say before that school was difficult for me when I was in elementary school.  Nothing came easily to me.  I mean literally nothing.  I had to work many long hours, burning the midnight oilwith the help of my parents and teachers to get me through those years.  I cried many tears and remember saying “I just don’t get it”, “You don’t understand.” I really believed that I couldn’t do it.  Yet, I really could.  Things for whatever reason just did not click.  It is so easy for kids to get in a trap where they start believing that they can’t do it. So, they won’t even open their minds to the possibility that they can.  When I began teaching, I forbade the use of the word can’t in my room, because can’t never could.  Having certain teachers later on in my life, showed me the truth- that I could do it!   

Yet, it was the presence of Christ in my life, that actually made all the difference.  I accepted Him as my Lord and Savior at the age of 9.  Even though I continued to have struggles as we made several moves at crucial ages, I had Him encouraging me all along the way.  What a difference He has made in my life!!  Two of my favorite verses are:

“I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.” Philip. 4:13

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Cor. 12:9

With Jesus I could face the next day.  I could face the subjects that were difficult for me.  Where I was weak, He could make me strong.

Here are some resources that you may find helpful.

Helping Parents Help Their Kids

Why Can’t My Child Stop Reading 20 min. a Day?

Report Card Thoughts

May God keep you in the palm of His hand,

Debra Smith

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