Your mini guide to surviving report card season
When every teacher’s favorite time of year comes around – *eyeroll* – it’s tempting to melt into one of two states of minds: debilitating procrastination or ball of pent-up stress. But who wants to spend the last few weeks of semester this way? Not us! Here are our seven favorite tips for keeping your sanity during report writing season.
1. Start early
Yes, it’s a no brainer but does bear repeating: writing your reports will inevitably take longer than you imagine. You already know you’ll regret leaving them to the last minute – so commit to starting well in advance. But don’t just write them early: get into the report card mindset as soon as school starts by taking mini notes on your students. This will help you formulate what you may want to say about each learner – which will be particularly helpful if you teach several subjects, have dozens of students (hello secondary school teachers!), or are required to submit preliminary first term reports before you know them well.
2. Set a time limit
Block off writing time in your diary as if it were a doctor’s appointment. Then sit down, write, and importantly, stop. Why? Because life goes on outside class and you deserve to eat well, go for a walk, play with your kids, get your hair cut, and see your friends! Combined with starting early, setting and sticking to time limits means you’ll be less likely to find yourself still typing, eyes bloodshot with exhaustion, at 3 am – only to go to class mere hours later.
3. Be specific
Start your reports with a specific comment about each student. Instead of “Kate has had a good semester,” mention a particularly good assignment she completed, moment in the academic year when she came out of her shell, or a specific way that she helped another student. This will be appreciated, whether your reports are for your students’ parents or for your learners themselves.
4. Avoid jargon
Be kind to your reader! Remember, the purpose of a report card is to communicate progress and challenges. While codes, jargon, technical terms, and overly academic phrases may be all in a day’s work for you, they could be meaningless to your student or their parents. If it helps, picture a loved non-teacher friend in your mind and imagine you are helping them understand.
5. Don’t waffle
Similarly, when it comes to report cards, more is not necessarily better. Word limits are there for a reason, so if your school has one, use it. (And if they don’t, take the initiative and set yourself one!) Having a word limit forces you to choose what you say wisely, and encourages you to write clearly and concisely. The awesome side effect? It reduces the time you’ll spend at your desk.
6. Invest in the following semester
Work intelligently this semester and reap the benefits in the next. Your school may help by having standard comments to choose between. But if they don’t, create your own system. Here’s how: complete the report cards for one class, then divide them into three progress groups: excellent, good with room for improvement, and cause for concern. Then, extract comments from each and break them into relevant categories (such as “attitude,” “communication skills,” “contributions in class,” “organization” or others your institution requires). These comments can be used as a base for next semester’s report cards.
7. And finally, be kind to yourself
Think of this in two parts: Creating a pleasant work space and enlisting the help of others. Part one – make your writing space a positive place to be: clear your desk, turn off your phone, fluff up your couch cushions, put on music (if it helps), make yourself the perfect cup of tea, light scented candles, open the windows, work outside, or go to a coffee shop. And part two – enlist the troops: make sure your loved ones understand this is an intense time of year for a teacher: have your partner cook dinner, decide on a code word which means “bring me another coffee, stat!”, call a colleague for mutual pep talks, ask a friend to mind your child, or have your partner whisk them away for a movie and pizza night. And, of course, plan a treat – a weekend away, date night, long brunch, hike, or massage – for when your reports have been handed in.