I’ve still got my senior school reports. All handwritten on uniquely shaped, decent quality paper in blue fountain-pen ink, and bound with an embossed cardboard cover. Presentation matters.
But so does content. The headmaster ticked words like “conscientious” and “hard-working”, and it meant something to know that he’d read every word.
In an age of technology, how easy it is to just select from banks of stock phrases or sentences – even if we’ve composed them ourselves. But to do that is to sanitize the student (and the teacher) from the report itself.
I’m fairly embarrassed now that at one time I was able to get away with a report that simply read “Larke by name: lark by nature”, which expressed in a kernel the student’s whole approach for the year. But that’s still better than the “Daniel has done x and y this year to a z standard” techno-babble garbage churned out. Do parents who are not teachers know how to translate report-speak? Have they realised that what is sometimes meant by a positively couched phrase is actually anything but praise?
A good report should be a well-considered appraisal of a period’s work. No two students are exactly alike, and whilst we might use the same turn of phrase, we should make every effort to personalise them as much as possible.
And, up until the very last summative statement, there should always be encouraging feed forward.