As an ex-teacher, I’m constantly surprised how many parents don’t read school reports with their kids! If you knew how much blood, sweat, tears and effort goes into putting those reports together… More than that, reports are prepared by teachers not just to give parents an overview, but also to highlight areas where kids can improve. So it makes sense to sit down together and go through the report with your child.
I think times have changed, and it’s so important to understand that school reports are written in a different way to when we were at school. They are written to show where your child is at academically and socially; to highlight areas they can improve on; and to celebrate their wins. Not only are they written with these things in mind, they are done with one sole purpose: to help you to help your child achieve!
So let’s look at my top tips for school report reading with your child.
Top tips for reading school reports with your child
1. Read it once by yourself first.
I do this to get an overview so I can frame appropriate questions and understand what things mean before we go over the report together. It’s kind of like studying for a test! Plus, the school report is generally addressed to the parents and I’d like to think my kids aren’t in the habit of opening my mail!
2. Set aside time to do it.
This isn’t a 5 minute cursory job and the report needs to be given the right amount of time and energy. It show that you value both your children’s efforts at school and the teachers’ efforts in creating the report. It also gives you both more time to discuss and implement what’s in the report.
3. Try the “shit sandwich” approach.
Start with a good grade, then read the not so good and follow up with the really awesome one (this is where your pre-reading comes in). So if they have done well in History, fantastically in English but not quite as well in Maths, you’ll be looking at History, Maths and ending on English.
4. Focus on effort.
Grades are great, but effort is most important. If your kid pulls a C for effort and an A for their grade, it’s a different conversation entirely for an A for effort, C for grade. Effort is something tangible that your child can focus on for both improvement improvement, and also for feeling good about how they’ve been tracking. Talk about what an “A for effort” looks like and ask your child for ideas of what they can work harder on.
5. Sparkle up the good bits.
Grab a sheet of paper and write out all the good points together in big bold words. Make them bright and colourful. These are awesome for looking back on later. They help kids to see the things they are successful at without all the noise.
Here’s how to get more good bits: 21+ tips from teachers to get organised at high school
6. Take notes and strategise on what needs work.
Write the things that need work as goals on another piece of paper – these can form the basis of the things that need a bit more effort. Work out together where the pain points are and discuss how your kid can leap the hurdles. Set a goal for achieving by the next school report.
7. Talk up how awesome your kid is.
Read the “personality” section and pick out all the positive adjectives. Ask your child for some examples of why their teacher might think of them so highly, and give your own examples to back up what the teacher is saying. This is an especially great approach for kids who struggle academically, as sometimes there’s not a lot of positives to pull out of the grades. If kids have trouble with self-esteem and self-worth, this exercise helps them see themselves how other people see them.
8. Go over the report with the teacher
At one school that I worked in, the kids brought in their reports and they read them through with their teacher. This helped the kids better understand the school report and ask questions about what they need to do to improve. Don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your child’s teacher/s if there is something in the report that is ambiguous or written in too much “reportese”, as it helps the teacher to make changes too.
9. Celebrate a good report
Great effort, grades and comments deserve a celebration. A simple posting of the report card on the fridge for all to see, or sending a copy to grandparents for some extra praise, work well. Other things you might like to do are:
• Head out to a family dinner out at your kid’s favourite place
• Take a special shopping trip with some extra pocket money to spend
• Bake a fancy cake together to celebrate
• A sleepover with a couple of friends
• Extra screen time in the school holidays
• A book makes a great present to say well done
Spending time to read the school report with your kids allows them to see firsthand what they are doing right and what they can improve on. It helps them to develop a sense of what the expectations are and how they can meet them.
Reports aside, the end of a semester is a celebration- whether it is the halfway point or the end of year, so make sure to celebrate the achievements of your kids and help them to be ready for a positive start to the semester ahead.
Do you have any rituals around report time?
Image by pan xiaozhen