When writing cumulative and progress appraisals or reports, remember that you are writing about someone else’s child. You are summing up someone loved by their parent(s) or wards.
Know that you are profiling someone whose acceptance into another school may depend on what you write. Remember you are writing on someone you’ve only known for a small fraction of their lives.
Therefore, if you feel pensive about writing reports, you are not alone. It is a time consuming and stressful task for teachers and departmental leads. There is no doubt that it is an emotionally intense experience that in many ways mirrors your own mentorship effectiveness.
To write a good report, a teacher must do a serious evaluation of the staff’s or student’s work, his performances and then synthesize her observations into information that is useful to the subject, his parents and relevant others.
Some teachers feel that the purpose of a report is to provide a snapshot of a student’s academic and social skills. Others view it more seriously and realise that whilst writing the report, they are capturing a snippet in someone’s history for the parent, for the school, and for the next teacher (college or institution) who might need it.
The following points are tips that you may find useful for writing your next report:
Do not write narratives, keep your writing brief.
You need to know what information to collect for a report card. Start from day one of the students in your class to get to know them and collect all round data on them. You will usually not be the only one imputing into their lives, keep an eye on what other relevant teachers know of their performances, attitudes and behavior.
Gain clarity from: your head-teacher, principal or administrator, model reports and from other relevant teachers. Check your school’s assessment philosophy; peruse models of excellent reports written by other teachers in a similar class or subject area.
Know precisely what you are assessing. Is it progress in comparison to the student’s previous work or is it an evaluation of his work in comparison to his class or dormitory mates? Are you grading effort, ability, regression or degeneration? Each of these states has ‘politically correct’ ways of feeding back in writing.
Get organized! Get the school’s academic calendar and start early to collect the tools you’d use to make your evaluation such as test results, students’ self-assessment, other teachers’ appraisals and your own impressions. Other sources to help you comment objectively are recorded students’ involvements and contribution to extra-curricular activities and house performances.
Set up an assessment system early. This is critical to successfully writing your comments. You cannot afford to assess on the spot as this is likely to be guess work, un-substantiated statements and damaging to students’ characters.
Choose your words carefully. You cannot sum up a human being in a box that’s only a couple of inches wide and deep! It is important to write judiciously whether or not you’re writing sparingly.
Be proactive; do not wait for report card time to deliver any bad news. Most parents would appreciate knowing the situation – good, bad or ugly, early. That way, they cooperate with you to shape their child early and so are prepared emotionally to read the report card.
Communicating well with parents before and after the report card is very important. Parent-Teachers’ conferences can help to facilitate this. Establish a professional rapport with parents on these occasions.
Create a personalised or individualized ‘Progress Tracking Record System’. This would embody any concerns you have about the student, your target behaviors, ways you would support the student to achieve them and time scales in which you propose to achieve changes in student behavior.
Intimate your head-teacher, the student and the parents of this ‘care-planning’ effort and obtain their consent to use this tool. This record should be accessible to the student and should be kept confidential.
Omoru writes from the UK