It’s Progress Report Time!

This is my first November out of the classroom in 10 years and yet with the majority of my friends as teachers, I still find myself somehow feeling the anxiety that comes with this time of year. Not only have they been feverishly working to complete progress reports, they know that with reports come Parent-Teacher interviews. This can be an incredibly stressful time for teachers, students and parents.

The first thing that used to bring a great deal of anxiety at this time of year was often wondering whether or not I had gotten to know the strengths and needs of my students well enough to write a report. I found myself thinking that parents would surely expect me to know everything about their child by this point of the year and yet I found that in every day, there was something new to learn. While I found that there was sometimes stress placed upon me by parents to know everything about their child, a lot of the stress and anxiety I felt at this time of year was my own doing. In retrospect, there were a few things that I could have done differently to ease some of the pressure although I am fully aware that it wouldn’t be eliminated completely.

Plan ahead when writing reports. I know that anyone who knows me well is laughing right at this precise moment. Throughout my career, I have been that teacher who has left reports until the very end. All-nighters have been pulled trying to make sure that I could cram every last letter into the reports. I’ve always been one who needs some of the stress of a close deadline in order to get things done. Many times this strategy worked but I notice that as I get older, planning my time seems to be a more effective. I find that when I give myself deadlines to achieve different parts of a task, they become more manageable and I end up achieving greater results. I know that the deadline is fast approaching – if it hasn’t already – perhaps consider breaking up the task of writing reports into smaller components and working through them at your own pace. Is writing a few reports a day manageable or could writing a specific comment each day for all students be easier? Either way, take some time to consider and plan what would make the task more simple for yourself and ultimately more meaningful as you document the progress of your students.

Take time to do something fun with friends. I’m all for working hard and playing hard. My struggle is finding the balance between both. Lucky enough I have great friends and family who notice and try to help. When the crunch is one, I often don’t think that I have time to spare. However, it’s amazing how much more focused and in the moment I become when I actually take some time to stop and connect with someone and have a good laugh. I’m learning more and more that during times of stress, I need to make the time to stop, laugh and enjoy the company of others. Mental health is an important part of our general health and well-being. We know that reports won’t go away and neither will the stress of them but consider what is in your wellness tool-kit that might help as you go through the stressful time. For me it’s laughter with people and I need to make sure that I take the time – even if it’s only for an hour – to do just that.

Consider student-led interviews. The question that is heard the most by teachers in the month of November is, “How is my child doing?”. Every parent wants to know and every teacher feels as though they are just scratching the surface in understanding who the child really is. Over the years, I’ve had colleagues share about student-led interviews. I’ve done them at the end of the first term but wonder about their effectiveness for the progress report. What if we continued in our role as facilitator in these interviews and prepared our students ahead of time to share what they have been learning over the course of the year? Imagine how powerful it could be to get students sharing about the first 2 months and how they have worked to build the classroom community as well as how they are growing as learners. It would certainly allow for students to take the time to reflect on the past couple of months and it could be a great way for them to start setting goals and to discuss how parents might be able to support them in their goals at home. What if we asked students to use the following sentence starters to garner how they are feeling about school as an authentic opportunity for student voice?

  1. So far I’ve learned…
  2. I’m really excited about…
  3. I feel successful…
  4. I need some help with…
  5. I’m most proud of…
  6. I would like to improve…

I wonder if starting off the first set of interviews in this way would reduce the stress teachers felt and would empower students to start thinking about their strengths and advocating for their own needs. It certainly wouldn’t be easy as teachers work to prepare students but I think this could be a really effective start to the relationship between home and school. I can’t help but think that using the 10 to 15 minutes to actually hear from students about their own progress might be a fantastic insight into their true progress.

As I mentioned before, it’s my first November outside of the classroom in a long time and yet I can’t help reflecting on my own practice and thinking about what I might do differently if I was in the classroom at this time. Here’s hoping that my thoughts in hindsight might help another teacher who is currently experiencing some of the stresses of Progress Report time.

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Updated: October 30, 2018 — 6:30 pm

The Author

Arianna Lambert

I’m an Education Lead at Future Design School. I work with educators throughout North America, creating exceptional learning experiences that develop Future-Ready skills in students. I’m currently on leave from the Toronto District School Board where I was a 2018 recipient of a TDSB Excellence Award for #tdsbEd, Twitter chats for educators. Through conversations on trends in Education from STEAM to Mindfulness, it has become an online community of educators dedicated to improving their practice to ensure greater student success, well-being and achievement.

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