Sending out a report card, or behavior report, or having a parent/teacher conference is a wonderful way to communicate with parents/guardians about their child’s progress and development. These scenarios may often feel difficult if you have found any issues with a student – be it within an academic space or behavioral. Keep in mind that all communications regarding your students are for their well-being, with the final goal of the student improving or maintaining their status. Yes, it may be intimidating to deliver what you may think of as “bad news” on a report card – but follow these teacher tips for “do’s and don’ts,” and you will find yourself facing these communications with confidence.
DO Be Specific
Ensure that when reporting on a student’s progress, you must have concrete samples before presenting the information. If reporting academic or behavioral difficulties, cite past incident reports and/or some of the student’s class work in order to demonstrate your concerns. Use clear and direct language to convey issues so everyone is on the same page. For example, the statement, “He tends to distract other students,” is far clearer than, “He bothers others.”
DON’T Rely on Memory or Use Judgmental Language
As mentioned above, you must have clear evidence to back up any concerns – be it academic or behavioral. Be certain that the schoolwork you show represents any issues clearly. On that note, remember your language use. The words we use can emit emotions easily, so stay focused on the issue at hand – for example, don’t say “He’s naughty” when discussing behavior. Instead, use the example above, “He tends to distract others.” They both convey the same information.
DO Offer One or Two Areas That Need Improvement
Even if you have several concerns about areas that a student may need to improve, focus on one or the main areas that need the most improvement. Many academic and behavior problems go hand in hand, so put some real thought into which one or two areas to discuss with parents/guardians.
DON’T Offer More Than One or Two Goals For Improvement
After choosing one or two areas of improvement, follow with one or two goals on how the student can improve. Again, be very direct and thoughtful about how the student can improve. In the example of the student that tends to distract others, a good goal to work on would be, “Let’s work on understanding why he does this.” Don’t overwhelm yourself with several little goals – one or two main ideas are best.
DO Paraphrase Classroom Activity
Those not in the education space may not be familiar with how curriculums or Individualized Education Plans are written or designed. Use easy-to-understand terms to convey classroom activities, such as, “Our classroom has a dramatic play area where students can explore different roles such as firefighter or doctor.”
DON’T Use Jargon
Remember, not all parents are on the same level when it comes to their understanding of educational jargon. Use clear language when speaking about a student, making sure the parent/guardian gets what you are stating. Not everyone knows what IEP stands for – assume this sort of ideology when speaking to everyone.
DO Save Student Work and Take Proper Notes
As mentioned above, having clear examples of student work is vital when conveying information to parents/guardians, good or bad. Keeping an organized file of different types of homework, projects, and notes on each student will help in the ongoing evaluation process.
DON’T Wing It
This could be the most important on this list. Put real thought into what you write on report cards or say in conferences. Remember the overall goal of student improvement and clear and open communication with everyone involved. This will ensure success for the student and confidence in your reporting skills.