Monday, August 6, 2018

I got an N on my report card

During the last week of school, I was away for three of those four days. I had a good reason; I was supervising the Grade 8 students on their grad trip to Albion Hills. It can be challenging to plan a decent lesson for students to undertake with a supply teacher for these "dying days" of school, but I had a risky but useful task. The job of the students was to team up and write a report card - on me. With me away, I felt like they would be more honest about their opinions. I had a wonderful supply teacher, who went over the learning skills and what they meant, explained how teachers cannot decide on grades without having evidence to back up their claims, and helped the students take this task seriously. After all, on the Annual Learning Plan, there is a section where educators can include student and parent feedback on their teaching. This would be an authentic way to gather some thoughts directly from the students.

When I returned from the trip to the Etobicoke Outdoor Education Centre, I found a huge pile of report cards for me to read. Guess what? I didn't need to worry about the students being frank. Two of the seven classes that were given this activity to do did not have as much time as the other groups did, so the occasional teacher did it as a group activity and recorded the whole-class answers.

In case you can't read it clearly, those are "S"s for Organization. If you aren't familiar with the Ontario elementary report card, Learning Skills are given an E for Excellent, G for Good, S for Satisfactory, and N for Needs Improvement.

With some of the other classes, in which they wrote the report cards in small groups, some of the results were even ... harsher. Some groups tried to lessen the blow by giving me Term 1 and Term 2 results and showing some improvement (e.g. I got an N in Term 1 and a S in Term 2). This example I've scanned and replicated here had quite a bit of detail and evidence. I blocked out the "teachers' names" (I loved how many took a creative writing approach to the upper section of the report card), but read this report.

I came home to my family and cried, "I got a N on my report card for organization!"

"This somehow surprises you?" was my sarcastic son's reply

 Now, I have to give the students credit. These marks did not appear out of nowhere. They gave rationales. They provided examples. What I found interesting about this exercise was how they conceptualized "organization" and made it synonymous with "tidy". Have we inadvertently created this idea - equating a clean desk with a good grade? It doesn't say that on the report card description of organization. It seems to be more about time management and completing work. Many student "evaluators" also felt that it was my responsibility (as opposed to a shared responsibility) to maintain order in the school library. Having said that, I realize that keeping things orderly is not one of my strengths and is something to which I should devote more time and effort. We didn't get a chance to go over the report card results with my "teachers". I wonder what next steps, if any, I should take ... both to improve my organizational skills, and to expand student ideas of organization. If you are reading this and have any ideas, please share them in the blog comments or via Facebook or Twitter.


  1. This is awesome, and I know darned well I would get N's for organization, too (and at times, they would be well-deserved). I do think we need to help students see that skill as more than a tidy desk - what's your time-management like? Do you know where the resources are that you need? Are things handed back in a timely fashion? When someone asks for a resource, do you know where to find it? (I'd still get an N) . I really appreciate the questions that this produced for you. Focus on the positive, too, because there's lots of it here.

    1. Gosh darn it Lisa, when you mentioned "things handed back in a timely fashion", you totally nailed me on one of the "areas of growth" that I'm constantly wrestling with! And the finding the resource is also still an N (or S) area for me - this is why I am currently purging my shelves in my office of my personal books and rearranging them so I can find things quicker. (I also find praying to Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost things, when I'm really desperate, seems to work!)