As we wrap up the first quarter of the school year, and begin the tedious task of filling out our student's report cards, all teachers hit that moment when they open the "Comments" box and have to come up with a way to tell Mom and Dad that their precious little Johnny (or Janey) is either not performing quite up to academic snuff, or perhaps could use some serious behavior modification. That is when the age-old dilemma sets in - exactly how HONEST do I want to be? There is a fine line between acknowledging the seriousness of a child's problems and being hauled into the administrator's office to face a firestorm of parental ire. So, this post is especially for all of you newer teachers who may not be quite sure exactly where that line falls. Here are the top ten comments that you NEVER, EVER want to use on a student's report card!
10. "Dumber than a box of rocks!" OK, this is just clearly out of bounds, even if, in the heat of being told that Genghis Khan killed John F. Kennedy, you might want to say it. And, you can't pretty it up by substituting "a bag of hammers" or "a bowl of potato salad."
9. "Obnoxious little twerp!" Again, you may occasionally feel this way, but really, ya JUST CAN'T SAY IT!!! (And, again, substituting other words for "twerp" doesn't make it acceptable. Instead, focus on what needs improving: "Johnny needs to learn not to put boogers in Suzie's hair!" or something like that.)
8. "This student should go far. Australia would be a good start!" OK, this one begins in an acceptable fashion, but the second half spoils it. Jut think that part.
7. "Did you drop him on his head as a baby?" First of all, if the parent actually DID do this, they probably feel incredibly guilty and bringing it up is not a good idea! And, if they didn't, they will resent both what it says about their parenting AND their child's abilities. This one will get you hauled before the principal for sure.
6. "Have you considered home schooling your child? You're really missing out not seeing him every day." Nice try. The kid is in your classroom so the parents can A. Work to earn a living, and B. Not have to deal with the stuff that made you ask this question!
5. "I hear that XYZ School down the road is much better equipped than we are to deal with Janey's unique learning style." OK, this is classic buck passing, and parents will see through it in a minute! Not only that, your administrator will NOT appreciate your trying to reduce enrollment, and XYZ School probably has a little Janey of their own that they will lob in your direction in a heartbeat if you send them yours!
4. "Are you SURE Johnny is related to his older sister?" Yeah, we all have those families where the big brother/sister is one of those overachievers that make us feel like Mr. Chips, but then their younger sibling makes you contemplate the joys of early retirement, or maybe even homelessness. Again, parents resent the implication. Just snag one of his fingernail clippings and send it off for a DNA test if you really want to know!
3. "Perhaps Johnny needs a new hobby to work off some of that energy - maybe alligator wrestling or cliff diving in Sri Lanka?" Chances are they've already got him doing a few of those things; if not, they're not going to sign him up just because you suggested it!
2. "This semester, Janey has reached rock bottom and appears to be renting a jackhammer to dig even further." OK, this is a bit more acceptable than some of the above, but you might want to dress it up a little bit. No parent likes to be told their kid has dug a hole they have no hope of climbing out of!
AND THE NUMBER ONE REPORT CARD COMMENT YOU SHOULD NEVER, EVER USE:
1. "Theoretically speaking, of course, how much would you miss him, really?"
Some things are better thought than spoken.