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Responding to Your Child’s Report Card

Written By Geoff Nixon . October 11, 2017

Report Card Time

For many, fall means it’s time for the first report card of the school year. Whether it’s recently come home or expected soon, chances are the milestone is accompanied by a fair amount of expectation and emotion for all parties involved. As a child, I remember the anticipation and wanting to rush home and share the information with my parents afterwards. It didn’t occur to me to consider how my classmates or siblings responded to the same event. I wasn’t aware then that how hard you work isn’t always reflected in the grades you receive.

As an adult, I understand that report card time is often very different for a frustrated learner and his or her family. For some, it means finding out if all the time spent tutoring or attending an after school program will equal different results. For others, it’s another opportunity to get recognition for a job well done.

A Memory That Still Inspires

The first low grade I ever received was in a class where I’d felt utterly lost from day one. I was overwhelmed by the abundance of information and couldn’t decide where to begin when it came time to study. I was also too embarrassed to ask for help. I’d dreaded learning my grade, and telling my father even more so.

When the time came, I broke down and, through tears, uttered about how hard I’d tried. I didn’t want my dad to be disappointed or think I didn’t take school seriously. I was a mess. It took me a moment to realize that the sound I heard in reply was my father’s laugh. When I asked why he had responded that way, he said “Michelle, I know. I know how hard you work.”

He then proceeded to list things I wasn’t even aware he’d picked up on, explaining how absurd it would be for him to ever be disappointed in me. He also acknowledged how challenging my classes were. After our conversation, I felt like I could breathe freely for the first time in weeks, and I started  to think more about that class and what I could do differently the next time I felt overwhelmed.

That was the last time I dreaded learning a grade, and the beginning of a new approach to studying, note taking, and utilizing academic resources.

Minimizing Report Card Anxiety

It’s especially difficult for younger students to understand that not grasping something as easily as someone else, doesn’t make you any less intelligent. Or to recognize that not seeing another student have difficulty doesn’t mean that individual doesn’t have challenges. The fear of having this confirmed only adds to the worry and pressure when grades are given. If you have concerns about your child’s report card, talking about the potential content beforehand is one way to help minimize the anxiety you both may be feeling.

Start with areas that have improved or your child seems to be doing well in. Then acknowledge the strategies, interventions, and effort taken to reach goals. Grades don’t tell the whole story. However, they are a tool to help us understand strengths and challenges. Make a plan in advance or agree to discuss one after viewing the actual report card. Either way, follow up with action aimed at yielding different results in the future. Odds are that your child is probably just as eager to see progress as you are.

Remain Proactive

If you’ve already tried tutoring or working directly with your child, then the concern may be broader than assignment content. Talk to teachers about observations and accommodations that may be helpful, such as seat location or visual aids. Other parents can also be great resources. Our children are incredibly unique. The goal to see them be successful, on the other hand, is nearly universal. It may also be time to seek evaluations for learning issues related to processing, vision, or attention, depending on the specific nature of your concerns.

Cognitive training and other outside interventions are also alternatives for addressing issues at their core. It may take time to find the appropriate method, but an unsettling report card makes one thing clear: a change is needed. There is still plenty of time to turn things around before year’s end. Remember, the school year has only just begun.

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