‘Tis the Season of Report Cards: Praising Effort & Setting Goals

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. 
Good evening,

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


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jessica Scarpa (@J_Scarpa35)
    Feb 08, 2012 @ 16:11:21

    I can relate to this story. My parents also said that as long as I was doing my best they would be happy, but I knew that really meant we want you to have the best grades possible. I have always been an A/B student and stayed out of trouble. I clearly remember getting a B in conduct because I was talking too much during class; my parents did not like this at all! However, both my sister and I were rewarded for our good grades. We would go to Krispy Kreme or maybe get a dollar for every good grade. This motivated me to keep my grades up. In fact, I have only made one C in my school career and it was last semester in my sophomore year of college. I was sad about the grade, but when I think about it, I did all that I could and that is what mattered. I think it is a great thing when people reward there children for the good they do instead of harping on the bad stuff. I really enjoyed this post. Brought back old memories 🙂


  2. Ashley Modozie
    Mar 06, 2012 @ 03:57:56

    Hello Principal Vincentsen,

    My name is Ashley Modozie. I am enrolled in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. This class helps to inform students majoring in education how to increase students knowledge on the current advances of technology. As a result, I was assigned to read your blog post!

    I think that the example you sent to the parents was amazing. My parents have never tried that technique with me, but I am sure that I would have enjoyed it. I think it is important that we continue to encourage children and uplift them. The positive words from an adult can really make a difference in one’s childhood.

    I enjoyed reading your blog!


  3. courtney muse
    Apr 29, 2012 @ 22:21:31

    This teacher has offered some amazing advice to parents. Report card days are some of the most important days in a students education career. And Its all up to the parent’s reaction to these cards that may make or break a student educational success.

    Thanks for the ideas and inspirations,
    Courtney Muse


  4. Brelyn Searcy
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 15:05:10

    My parents also did this when I was younger. I did not always make all A’s, and even when I didn’t my mom would ask me if I tried my hardest and if I truly did they were proud of me and not disappointed at all. My dad would take me out on a date and my mom would give me money to go buy what ever I wanted. I got $10 for every A and $5 for every B, I didn’t get anything for C’s but I don’t think I ever had one. My mom would praise me for a few days and then a few days later she would ask me how she could help me practice and get better at what I had received a B in. The praise helped my confidence and the help from my mom helped me with my coming to her and asking her for help because I knew she would not judge me for not knowing something. My parents were the biggest impact on my grades, and I believe that for every child in school. A parent that takes the time to help their children learn and get better grades will boost their child’s confidence and create a trust within their relationship between parents and child.


  5. Anna Kern
    Sep 11, 2013 @ 15:48:06

    Hi Principal Vincentsen!

    Insightful post. I agree that it is important for parents to be positive and supportive with regard to students’ grades. I hope more teachers and parents begin to share this viewpoint. The most constructive way to improve a child’s performance is by showing them love and encouragement!

    Anna Kern


  6. Douglas R Jarvis Jr
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 07:04:41

    I really enjoyed this concept. Fear is not a great motivator. However, I believe that encouragement and support will always go a long way to help a child grow.


  7. Jamie Grierson
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 23:23:17

    I remember my parents always telling me just to do the best I could and that would be good enough for them. I normally made all A’s and B’s, but on rare occasions I would have a C. My dad would always tell me that I needed to get the grade up, but it was just because he knew I could do better than that. Every year when it got time for report cards to come out, many students would get nervous. I was never really that nervous about it because I tried really hard throughout the school year to keep my grades up. I wanted to not only make my parents proud, but I wanted to do it for myself too. I think it is a great idea for parents to show their children how proud they are of them no matter what. Parents should always encourage their children to do their best.


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