Writing reports is undeniably one of most teachers’ least favourite party games; they are time-consuming, laborious and painstaking. They are also an important part of your job, so the simple answer to any grumbles must be - ‘tough’.
Reports are a legal requirement on the school, and an important organ of home/school communication. But they can also be seen as an opportunity to create a relationship between you and the family, and let them know about things that concern or delight you, and communicate ways forward in all cases.
Under no circumstances use the report card as an opportunity to settle scores with children; it’s deeply unprofessional, and a little pathetic for an adult to act this way. If the behaviour’s been bad, then it can be said in an unemotional and businesslike way. Besides, if the behaviour has been bad, then the parent should know about it already.
So when you write reports, see it as a chance to say things that are thoughtful, helpful and honest. Write professionally, because that’s what you are, or what you’re trying to convey. Don’t whine, or bitch or snip. Don’t gush either; unless a child is the Platonic ideal of dedication, manners, compassion and wisdom, there is always room for improvement, and the most talented children don’t benefit from empty praise that gives them no direction about how to progress. Of course, you can use it as an opportunity to let the parents know if they’ve been great, but don’t forget the ways forward.
Some schools use comment banks: IT-led responses to the reports that can be generated quickly from a database of pre-written sentences. This is faster, and removes the need for the reports to be spell checked; it also loses a degree of personalization. Other schools ask their teachers to write personal comments, which can make the report individual, but takes longer and is more prone to mistakes.
Such schools usually have a style guide, which will range from a light touch to draconian restrictions. Whatever your school does, follow it. Resist the temptation to cut and paste enormously, as it shows that you either aren’t aware of the pupil’s individual circumstances, or that you don’t care. Of course, it might also indicate you’re enormously busy, which you undoubtedly are, but such admin tasks are still your responsibility, so until robots write them for us, we’re stuck with them.
Get some time and space, get your head down and get them done.
This is an excerpt from Tom Bennett’s excellent book Not Quite a Teacher, published by Continuum. The book is a practical teacher training manual, interspersed with funny stories from Tom's own teacher training experiences.
Read more on report writing
Useful report writing advice and resources
Levelled report writing statement bank - Word document of report writing statements for early years
Comments for report writing - Another selection of statements for early years
Report writing - how do you stay sane? - Tips on how to handle the report writing process from the TES forums
Common report writing mistakes - Teachers on the primary forums share some of their report writing boo-boos
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