It’s report time again, which means the long nights and deep frustrations have arrived. Many will think I’m strange, but when I first started in teaching, I was looking forward to writing reports. I saw it as an opportunity to inform the parents about how well I know their child. Communication with parents has always been very high up my priority list, and I saw reports as the centrepiece of good quality communication.
But since I became a teacher the rules for report writing has changed, and we are all worse of as a result.
The Government has legislated that reports all feature the same grading system and the same essential sections. Two such mandatory inclusions include a list of skills in every area that the students need improvement in and what the school will do to address these needs.
Sounds good, right?
Wrong. Schools across Australia are so terrified that if the teacher doesn’t end up addressing the needs of the students as promised in the reports, then it will open them up to litigation. So schools have quickly searched for a loophole, a strategy designed to be seen to guarantee things to parents without actually guaranteed anything.
And out of that think tank came every teachers new buzz word – ‘encourage’.
“The school will encourage Max to underline key words when reading worded questions.”
“The school will encourage Rita to use rubrics before planning a piece of writing.”
So in the end, the school is offering no actual response to the child’s needs, just some “airy fairy” words that don’t actually mean anything.
And then there’s the “education” words that don’t make any sense to most parents. Because many teachers are expected to leave out hard truths like, “Max doesn’t behave in class” and “Rita doesn’t apply enough effort”, teachers have employed words that the average parent wouldn’t understand.
For example, teachers love using words that start with “meta” like “metacognitive”, “metalanguage” and “metabolic steroids” (OK, maybe not the last one). As the custom is to spare the school of angry or dissatisfied parents, teachers have become great at writing reports high on words and low on substance.
It’s actually harder and more tiresome than it sounds.