As we move into the season of ending trimesters, distributing report cards and conferencing with parents, I wanted to share my weekly communication with families on this topic.
Can you believe that it is already December and the first term of our school year is over? The teachers and I look forward to welcoming you to Parent Conferences this Thursday and Friday.
The distribution of report cards can be a big day in the life of our students. For many students, this brings a great deal of anxiety as children are concerned about how parents/guardians will react when they open the envelope. Growing up, I remember this same feeling. My parents’ mantra was “It is not the grade that counts as long as you try your best!” No matter how many times they said that though, I was still nervous handing that report card to my mom when I did not receive straight As or get top marks on effort and conduct.
I want to share with you a portion of an email sent home regarding report cards from a colleague of mine who is a 4th grade teacher in another school. She writes,
“There has been much anxiety over the report cards coming up in our morning meeting discussion sharing comments such as “If I don’t get top marks, my mom is taking away my ipod” or “My dad said I would be grounded for a month.” Now, some of this is “talk”, but this fear of “bad” grades is real for your nine and ten-year-olds. Your children want to please you. They want to impress you. They want you to be proud.
When I was a child, my dad was a teacher (and he still is—39 years later!). On report card day, he would look through the report card and only point out the things that really made him proud. Then, we went out to eat or for ice cream to celebrate “Cara’s math grade, Jenna’s conduct marks, and Erik’s grades in PE and Art.” He didn’t burst our bubble by pointing out things to improve at that moment of anxiety. He made us feel good for our talents. Then, a few days later, we would have a serious discussion about areas of excellence and areas to improve. But at that moment of truth, as we stood in front of our parents holding our breath and hoping they were happy, he made us feel important, valued, and special. When my own children’s report cards come home, I still remember the way our dad treated us and try to do the same.
When your kids come home this week with their progress reports, hug them, kiss them, tell them you are proud. Hang up the report card. Call the grandparents to share the great news. Head out to celebrate hard work and effort. You’ll gain bonus points as a parent and as you head into the adolescent years, you’ll have the respect and trust of your children.”
Her story is a powerful one and it is clear that her father’s approach had a profound impact on her as a child, as a mother and as a teacher. I encourage you to take time this week to celebrate your child’s strengths and their effort over the last several months. Find a time in the next week, perhaps after conferences, to discuss his/her challenges and areas for needed growth. Ask questions like, what are your goals to improve in this area? How can I help you reach that goal? These are conversations we have in school with your children on a regular basis. I am confident that working together, we can help your child reach his/her goals!
Have a safe and enjoyable week,
Julie A. Vincentsen
Helen Keller Elementary School
“What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all its children.” John Dewey